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2016 European Championships

Ice Dance World Champions Papadakis and Cizeron are Back

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany
Photos by Robin Ritoss

(31 January 2016) The 2015 ice dance world champion Gabriella Papadakis will certainly never forget August 28, 2015 in her life. This was the day when she and Guillaume Cizeron fell hard in practice in Montreal. She hit her head so heavily that she had a serious concussion which prevented her from practice and doing competitions for almost three months (see recent article on this website). After French Nationals in December the European Championship 2016 was their first international competition since their phenomenal victory at Worlds 2015 in Shanghai. In Bratislava they were second in the short dance, but won the short dance and overall with182.71 points. These are three more points than at Europeans 2015 and five hundredth more than the Canadian Grand Prix Final winners Weaver Poje had in December 2015 in Barcelona.

Both the short and the free dance of Papadakis & Cizeron had more speed and a better flow than at French Nationals. Their short dance to a waltz and a march from “Charm” by Abel Korzeniowski was dynamic and got a level 4 for four elements and a level 3 for the second Ravensburger part. The +2 dominated for the GOE, the partial step sequence and the rotational list even got a few +3. Their components were around 8.9. Papadakis said: “I feel very good, but it’s been very hard. We were late in preparation for the season. So now being here and at our best is very special. The program was very clean.” Cizeron added: “This year we try to bring a little bit more of that feeling from last year’s free dance into the short dance, the same flow, the same interpretation. It’s a pretty hard exercise because we have to learn a lot of elements in a short period of time like the pattern of the Waltz dance. I think maybe the Waltz fits us better than the Paso Doble from last year.”

For their free dance, the French used “Rain in your Black Eyes” by Ezio Bosso and “Build a Home” by the Cinematic Orchestra. Both pieces are a more abstract music than the Mozart piano concerto from last year. Six of the seven level elements were awarded a level 4, only the circular step sequence a level 3 by the technical panel which was lead by controller Alla Shekhovtseva from Russia, the wife of former longtime federation general director Valentin Piseev. There were almost as many +3 as +2 for the GOE and the components had an average of 9.3, with one 10.0 for interpretation. They performed with almost the same magic as last year and in a similar style and got a standing ovation which is very rare at competitions in Europe and not as common as in North America. Coach Romain Haguenauer said: “This season we want to build on the last season and keep the style which made them so successful. But we cannot do this every year. Therefore next year, we will try a different style.”

After their competition, Papadakis said: “We are very proud that we did a great, great job in this free dance and that we did even better than we have ever done in practice. It was a really magical moment.” Cizeron added: “I think for us the program is not that abstract. We can relate it to many experiences that we have had together on the ice. Of course we are using impressions and images that are a little bit more abstract than last year but it’s still talking about feelings and a connection and our life, so it’s still very concrete for us.”

Like last year, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte from Italy won the silver medal, this time with 178.01 points. But they were clearly better than last year when they had 171 points. In the short dance to a waltz and a polka of the operette “The Merry Widow” by Franz Lehar they were even 1.6 points ahead of Papadakis & Cizeron mainly because their partial step sequence had a level 4, the base of which is 1.5 points higher than a level 3. Their flow was excellent as well and the components were around 9.0. Cappellini commented: “We tried to improve the short dance a lot. We changed the second part of the dance in December, therefore it is not as well trained as the rest of it.”

The title which they gave to their free dance is Dolce Vita. But they do not use music from this soundtrack, but from three other Italian classical films of composer Nino Rota. They reflect this “dolce vita” lifestyle of the 1960ies and 1970ies in Italy: “Amarcord”, “The Nights of Cabiria” and “Oto e Mezzo”. The students of Paola Mezzadri in Milan came back to their nice and friendly style from two and more years ago after being less successful with the dramatic style last year which was too much away from their friendly nature. Only four of the seven elements had a level 4, the other three a level 3. One lift was longer than six seconds. Therefore they were only third in the free dance, but it was enough to keep the second overall place. Cappellini, who in private life is married to pair skater Ondrej Hotarek since last summer, commented: “I think we are very proud of the career that we are having. It’s something that we have always dreamed about. It’s great to be at this level, to be at the top of the sport. We certainly left a few technical points on the table today.”

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev are the new Russian champions. They had to sit out last season after his knee injury. The students of Alexander Zhulin came back for their Grand Prix some months ago and won the bronze medal in Bratislava, earning 176.50 points. In the short dance, they interpreted the famous Masquerade Waltz by Khachaturian and a march from Romeo and Juliet by Prokoviev with dynamic steps. Three elements had a level 4, the twizzles and the partial step sequence a level 3. Soloviev said: “I am surprised that we got a level 3 on the twizzles because I thought they were fine. But I am very pleased that we managed to raise the components. Winning Russian Nationals gave us more confidence in ourselves and some new energy.”

The free dance to the dramatic soundtrack of “Anna Karenina” was very successful for them. Six of the seven level elements had a level 4. And the +2 dominated for the GOE. Therefore they had two more total points in the free dance than the Italians. Bobrova explained: “I would say that we really wanted to return from the injury but it wasn’t simple. We realized that we needed to enjoy skating, to enjoy holding each other’s hand, to enjoy looking into each other’s eyes.” Soloviev added: “To be honest skating today was extremely difficult. We were nervous and worried. I felt every single movement of mine and every single movement of Katia’s. I was so concentrated on everything and that helped to keep me together.”

The second Russian couple Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov train in Canton, Michigan near Detroit under Marina Zoueva. They finished fourth in both parts and overall, earning 172.65 total points. In the short dance to three pieces of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake they just had .38 points less than Bobrova & Soloviev. Their free dance music was the song “Io Ci Saro” performed by Andrea Bocelli. Five elements had a level 4, the two step sequences a level 3. Their components were a bit lower and one lift was too long.

The third Russian team Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (he is the son of Andrei Bukin, the 1988 Olympic champion with Natalia Bestemianova) finished fifth, winning165.55 points. Therefore all three Russian couples are in the top five, which is a strong team result. They are coached by Alexander Svinin and Irina Zhuk in Moscow. Their short dance music was chosen to the soundtrack “The Stunt Man”. Four of the five elements had a level 4. The free dance to Freddie Mercury’s “Rakhmaninov’s Revenge”, was good as well, but again, one lift was too long. Bukin commented. “It was harder both physically and emotionally to skate today. Probably the day off in between the competition led to this feeling. I think we will finish the season after Europeans as Russia has only two spots at Worlds.”

Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland from Britain were the best of the four couples of coach Igor Shpilband. They had had bad luck last year when they had to withdraw from both European and world championship due to illness and switched from coach Evgeni Platov in New Jersey (who meanwhile moved to Florida) to the Shpilband school last June. Their short dance looked a bit new. Coomes explained: “We did nationals in early December and skated really well. But at our review meeting the judges said it was nice but not memorable and it didn’t have the Penny and Nick factor. So Igor chose some more music and we set to work.” They kept the free program to music of the British pop group “Muse” which was very well performed and allowed them to move up from eighth to sixth place.

Charlčne Guignard & Marco Fabbri finished on seventh place and were a bit disappointed. They have been Italy’s second team for year and train with Barbara Fusar Poli in Milan. Shpilband’s second best team are Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko who skate for Israel and finished tenth, lower than expected, but they made small mistakes. Tobias is American and has already skated for Georgia and Lithuania for some years with different partners. Tkachenko is Russian, but got Israeli citizenship. Cortney Mansour & Michal Ceska from the Czech Republic are in Shpilband’s group only since November and finished 13th. The German champions Kavita Lorenz & Panagiotis Polizoakis, who ended up 14th, train in Novi since last spring. Polizoakis had been a single skater before and learned the ice dance elements within a few months. Shpilband’s fifth European team Thea Rabe & Tim Koleto, who competed for Norway, split in December. Koleto wrote on Facebook that Rabe is very ill, but Shpilband said that Rabe did not want to skate with Koleto any more who left Novi.