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2015 European Championships

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron from France are the New European Ice Dance Champions

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(28 January 2015)  The 2015 European Championships are taking place in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. This is the first time after the year 1912 it is held in this city. Other Swedish cities organized them before: Västeras in 1968, Gothenburg in 1972, 1980 and 1985 and Malmö in 2003. World championships were held in Stockholm eleven times (ladies and men sometimes separately) between 1897 and 1947. Ulrich Salchow, whose name remains eternal in skating because of the jump he created, was Swedish. This time the event takes place in the Southern part of Stockholm in the huge Ericsson Globe Arena which has about 14,000 seats for concerts and 12,000 for skating and is mainly used for ice hockey. Sweden being a monarchy, her Royal Highness the Crown Princess Victoria officially opened the championships. During the ice dance competition, there were only about 1,500 spectators, perhaps because Sweden has not had any ice dance couples for years. Another reason is that very few Japanese or North American fans come to Europeans, which is quite understandable.

After their success in the last few months, it was no big surprise that Gabriella Papadakis (18) and Guillaume Cizeron (20) from France are the new European ice dance champions with 179.97 points. At European championships, the points are given in the same level as at Worlds and not as inflated as at many national competitions. Therefore the points of the winners cannot be compared with the points for Chock & Bates or Weaver & Poje at their national championships. The meteoric rise of this season’s French shooting stars continued. They are only in their second senior season. At their first Junior Grand Prix five years ago they were last and at their first Junior Worlds in 2010 only 22nd.  At last season’s European championships they were 15th and at the World championships in Japan they took the 13th place.

Papadakis & Cizeron had already taken the lead in the short dance with 71.06 points, which could not be expected because in their previous performances their dance was good but not outstanding. But in Stockholm they performed their best short dance ever, with more amplitude and elegance, and interpreted the Spanish character even better. Using the Paso Doble music of Escobilla and the Farruca, a flamenco version, both by Christina Hoyos, their two Paso Doble parts had the levels 4 and 3, the lift and the twizzles level 4 and the step sequence level 3. Most GOE were +2, but three elements had a few +3. The program components reached an average level of 8.8, with some 9.5 as highest points. Later they said that since the Grand Prix Final they worked mainly on the short dance because they know that there was some room for improvement. They obviously were surprised about the result themselves.

Their free dance to the romantic and timeless music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto has been their highlight all season. The slow Adagio Waltz (which Carolina Kostner had used when she became World champion in 2012) and the quicker Rondo are music pieces which also attract many people who otherwise do not like classical music. They performed their program as elegant as ballet dancers, with a lot of softness, wear more or less simple white ballet costumes, but according to ISU rules. They have been dancing a lot off-ice as well. Both are very flexible and can therefore perform unusually difficult position and deep edges, which the judges like. Some observers think that they might become legends of ice dancing like Torvill and Dean one day. They were the only skaters in the first two days of the championships to get a standing ovation, which European spectators do not give as often as North American ones. The program components had an average level of 9.2 with three perfect 10.0 for choreography and interpretation as highest points, the first tens in their career.

In the summer of 2014 their French main coach Romain Haguenauer had moved from Lyon in France to Montreal after having some problems with the co-coach Muriel Zazoui and the rink. He joined the Canadian and international ice dance school of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. Papadakis & Cizeron followed him after thinking their plan over for only a few days. In the Quebec city they have ideal training conditions. Dubreuil, a former student of Haguenauer and World silver medalist in 2006 and 2007, had done the choreography a few weeks before with the couple, so they knew the rink and the training conditions. From month to month and competition top competition they could improve their performance and this development continued in Stockholm. The three lifts, the spin and the twizzle sequence got a level 4, the two step sequences a level 3. There were almost as many +3 in the GOEs than +2.

Later Papadakis said, laughing: “I think my favorite moment of this evening is during the awards when the flag didn’t come up, it was perfect! We started together very young, maybe that is why we are here so early in our career. I think after the Olympic Games there is a new generation coming up, that is why we are here. Since our last competition, we worked a lot on the short dance because it was our weakest point. We worked a lot on key points, on step sequences and interpretation too so we were happy yesterday to have done what we did.” Cizeron added: “My best moment tonight, I think, was the end of the program, the last second when the public started to applaud. That feeling was incredible. This whole season has been a big surprise for us. Our goals were a lot less high than what we did, and I think we just keep being surprised by ourselves. That is a super great feeling. I think our strongest point is starting really young together at nine or ten so we really know each other perfectly on the ice in a couple.”

Last year’s European and World champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte from Italy won the silver medal with 171.52 points, more than eight points behind the winners. They were third in the short dance with 69.63 points, skating to the Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov, but could move up. They had even a higher base value in the short dance than Papadakis & Cizeron because both Paso Doble Parts got a level 4, but their GOEs and components were lower. Their strength had always been a nice skating. Therefore their choice to skate to “Danse macabre” is not ideal. Since their disappointing third place at the Cup of China, they had changed their free dance a lot, but it was still not as good as their last year’s program. Therefore their components were no higher than around 8.6. They had the same levels as of the French couple, but their GOEs were lower. But they said they were very happy because they could show that they are back after China.

The third place of Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin from Russia (160.95 points) is a surprise, but they performed two clean programs: the Paso Doble “Espana Cani” in the short dance and “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles in the free dance. The son of the 1988 Olympic Champion Andrei Bukin (with Natalia Bestemianova) and his partner had almost the same levels as the two top teams, only one step sequence in the free dance got only a level 2. They took profit from a big mistake of their countrymen, Russian champions and Grand Prix finalists Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin. They had been second in the short dance after an excellent performance to the Carmen suite. But they lost a lot of points after missing a straight line lift, because Ilinykh’s blade slipped from his thigh, so he could not lift her. Therefore they were only eighth in the free dance and ended up fourth overall with 159.83 points. Their rotational lift at the beginning of the free dance was excellent, but after their mistake they lacked of emotions a bit and the lasts elements were only good.  

Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz from Spain, who also train with Dubreuil & Lauzon in Montreal, finished fifth with 155.81 points. Their sidelong lift in their short dance, in which he plays a torero, was a highlight. In the free dance, all their elements worked very well. They are the first ice dance couple in the history of Spain and had their best result ever. The Montreal school of Haguenauer, Dubreuil and Lauzon was even more successful because Canadian dancer Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Danish dancer Nikolaj Sörensen, who compete for Denmark and are also from this ice dance school, finished on a surprising ninth place (150.53 points) at their first European championship together. Only the second Spanish ice dance couple Celia Robledo and Luis Fenero who is also coached by Romain Haguenauer was not very successful. They finished 22nd and therefore did not reach the final. 

The Milan dance school of Barbara Fusar Poli had many participants as well: The best were the second Italian couple Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri on the sixth place (154.61 points), others are the young Hungarians Carolina Moscheni and Adam Lukacs on 15th place, the Austrians Barbora Silna and Juri Kurakin on 18th position and the third Italians Misato Komatsubara and Andrea Fabbri on 23rd place.

Bad luck for Britain this year, because both of their couples had to withdraw. Olivia Smart and Joseph Buckland could not perform the short dance because Buckland had a stomach flu the night before. And he seems to have infected his older brother Nicholas because he and Penny Coomes had to withdraw after the short dance in which they were tenth after two small slips.