France has two major medal threats: Brian Joubert in the men's competition, and Delobel and Schoenfelder in ice dancing.
Brian Joubert has been on the men's podium at the last four world championships. No one else can say that, and although a glance at his stats make him seem erratic, I think it's evident that when it gets to the big competition late in the season, Joubert shows up ready to compete. His high point came three years ago when he won the 2007 worlds, and I think Joubert is somewhat shocked that he has lost the last two worlds to skaters who DID NOT EVEN ATTEMPT QUADS ZOMG!!!! Yes, Joubert is the major quad advocate on the scene right now. Others talk about it, but not quite as loudly or as often as Joubert does. It can get annoying, especially when he cannot back it up by...actually cleanly landing his quads.
Joubert followed up his bronze medal performance (after a flawed free skate) at the 2009 worlds by switching coaches. He was a distant fourth at his first Grand Prix event this season, Trophee Eric Bompard, but he won his second event, the NHK Trophy. He suffered a foot injury prior to the Grand Prix final, which required surgery, and he had to withdraw from that event as well as the French nationals. But he made his comeback at the recent European championships, where he seemed primed for the silver (but never the gold) medal until Stephane Lambiel swooped in and stole the spot away. I assume Joubert was not satisfied with his bronze medal.
Although Joubert's choreography is perhaps less interesting or less intricate than some of the other skaters, I do enjoy watching him overall. He always has a lot of speed and energy. However, I can't say it's not glaring when you compare him to some more artistically accomplished skaters.
The Programs: I am not enthralled with either of Joubert's programs. He is using his short program from last season, which has been successful for him. His free skate is just not that great in comparison with some other programs this season.
Latest Performance: There is so much room for improvement. He had numerous sloppy landing in his European championships free skate, he only ended up attempting one quad (HA, if this were Jeremy Abbott or something I would be like BRAVO FOR TRYING THAT ONE QUAD, hee at least I'm self-aware) which he turned out of. It was not an Olympic medal-winning performance in the least.
Strengths: Brian Joubert has some masterful jumping, and although he is not my preferred brand of choreography, he has worked to improve his overall presentation. His program components are often fairly high.
Weaknesses: He has not been consistent in landing jumps. And although he tends to get some high program components scores, his inferiority to say...a Patrick Chan, will be much more pronounced if he does not back himself up technically.
It gives me the creeps when: He wears anything that even resembles mesh.
I think it's awesome when: He skates clean - those ladies in the crowd go wild for this Frenchman.
Outlook: Joubert is always a threat to be on the podium. Despite his erratic skating record, I wouldn't completely count him out even if he erred in the short program, nor would I feel like he was safe after a clean short. After years of complaining about the loss of the quad in men's skating, one wonders if Joubert is happy his quad-happy rivals Plushenko and Lambiel are leading the quad resurgence or concerned, since Joubert may be the odd European out.
Delobel and Schoenfelder
Delobel and Schoenfelder are the French ice dance team most likely to make waves.
This pair hung out around the fourth/fifth slots in the world until they broke through and won the world championships in 2008. They followed that up with very good programs last season, and won both of their Grand Prix events (against some steep competition) as well as the Grand Prix Final. Unfortunately, Delobel suffered a shoulder injury and the pair could not defend its world championship title last year. The injury was such a disruption in momentum - this pair was seemingly unbeatable last season. Then, Delobel became pregnant and the pair was not able to compete in this season's Grand Prix events. Although they could have competed in the recent European championships in Estonia, Delobel and Schoenfelder chose not to do so because they wanted to save the surprise of their free dance for the Olympics. Either they were not ready to compete yet, or they truly think they are good enough not to need a warm-up prior to the biggest figure skating competition they'll ever compete in. They haven't competed since December 2008 and will be debuting their programs for competition at the Olympics.
This pair is great - in addition to the basics they have flair and personality on the ice. They can do playful and dramatic. I really love to watch them skate, but their choice not to skate at the European championships rubbed me the wrong way. Still, the ISU judges love this pair and they may be good enough to debut their programs at the Olympics and be quite successful.
The Programs: Who knows? They will do a can-can for their original dance, which should be so much fun, and they are skating to a french interpretation of The Impossible Dream for their free dance, which could be incredibly cheesy, incredibly emotional, or both. I'm sure both dances will be great.
Latest Performance: They did very well in winning the Grand Prix Final in DECEMBER OF 2008.
Strengths: They are amazing skaters, don't make too many mistakes, and the judges seem to prefer them over the other pairs (as of...last season).
Weaknesses: They haven't competed since DECEMBER OF 2008.
It gives me the creeps when: Olivier dresses up like a dirty old man!
I think it's awesome when: It's rare that I don't think they're awesome - even if I don't prefer them over some other pairs, I think they're very talented.
Outlook: I much prefer them over Domnina and Shabalin, so if it's a choice of one over the other, then I don't mind these two being on top. It's sad that even though this pair hasn't competed since DECEMBER OF 2008, I can still assume that they'll not only be on the medal podium, but possibly win the gold. Even though I haven't seen any of their programs. Ice dancing, you are awesome. If awesome means "not to be trusted."
In addition to the above skaters, be sure to keep an eye out for Pechalat and Bourzat in the ice dancing, and Florent Amodio in men's. Pechalat and Bourzat will likely be in the top eight skaters overall in dance, and Amodio can do some sublime skating...he's worth watching, particularly in the short.