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2016 World Championships

Papadakis & Cizeron Defend Their World Title with Another Magical Program

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(1 April 2016)  The level of the free dance at the World Championships in Boston was very high, because the majority of the teams made no mistake at all and got good or even excellent levels. A bit more than in previous years, at this World Championships they could perform their best free dance of the season. Seven of the top nine teams in the free got a level 4 for all their elements. Maybe that the technical jury with the controller Hilary Selby (Britain), the specialist Ayako Higashino (Japan) and the assistant Andrzej Dostatni (Poland, but lives in the USA) was more generous than at other competitions or all couples managed to show their best. The big ice dance schools had four or five couples competing here.

The victory of Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France with 194.46 total points is no surprise, but the way they competed and integrated their elements into the program, was outstanding. They and especially Cizeron have a magic artistic impression which cannot be compared with any other present couple. Therefore it is correct to call them the “Torvill and Dean of the 21st century”. Their Mozart program from last year has become legendary, but this year’s free dance program to “Rain in your eyes” by Ezio Bosso and “Build a Home” by the Cinematic Orchestra is as brilliant and has improved in flow since the European championships. Their elements were better than those of the other top couples with a +3. So, to be fair, you would need to invent a GOE of +4 to compare them with other couples, but this does not exist. Their components had an average level of 9.8, with 19 times 10.0. Seven of the nine judges gave a 10.0 for interpretation. Their two main coaches ion Montreal are Romain Haguenauer and Marie-France Dubreuil.

Cizeron said: “We are just speechless now. We didn’t feel too much pressure. After the Short Dance, half of the job was already done. We had really good energy and a good feeling out there on the ice tonight.” Papadakis added: “We didn’t expect these high marks at all. We were really able to give our very best tonight. It took us a moment at the end of our program to realize what we have achieved, and I still can’t believe it. I just want to catch this moment and enjoy it. It was such a special moment, such an incredible feeling. The crowd was awesome. I want to congratulate both other dance teams for skating so well. It was really an honor to compete against you. I had six stiches ten days ago, I took Guillaume’s blade in my knee. That was an accident, nothing really bad, though. I was back on the ice three days later.”

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani of Canton, Michigan, finished second with 188.43 points and therefore won their second medal at Worlds after being surprising third in 2011.Dancing to “Fix you” by Coldplay, the elements of the students of Marina Zoueva were also rewarded with many GOEs of +3, all of them were excellent. Their components had an average of 9.4, with three 10.0 from the same judge as highest ones. The judges confirmed the result of U.S. Nationals and Four Continents Championships in this season and put them as the U.S team number one. The main reason might be that this season they have a fresher and less conservative free program.

“Alex and I are incredibly proud of this season”, Maia explained. ”We’ve been working so hard and to have two moments like this in front of a home audience, you really can’t ask for anything more. They were supporting us every single step out there and I knew I could really trust Alex and that was the perfect way for us to end our season. Those were our best performances.” Alex Shibutani added: “Our career has definitely been unique, starting off the senior ranks the way we did winning the bronze at 2011 Worlds. It was very exciting and I wouldn’t change anything of that experience. We never thought about there being such a gap in between medals. It’s always been about making steady progress and doing everything we can to make it happen. Every team has a unique situation. For us it’s been 12 years of partnership, 21 years of friendship, growing up together and I think we really believed in each other every step of the way. Going forward, it’s great to see diversity, especially in figure skating where there’s a combination of artistry and athleticism. You want to see as many different points of view out there and it makes the competition more interesting and diverse and I think we can continue to provide that. We’re putting more of ourselves into the choreography and we are a much bigger part of the creative process. Maia and I know what we want to say on the ice.”

Madison Chock & Evan Bates from Novi (USA) won the bronze medal with 185.77 points after being second last year. The music of the free dance of the students of Igor Shpilband was taken from the second Piano Concerto by Sergej Rakhmaninov. The program had an excellent flow and was one big work of art. Especially their presentation has improved in the last one or two years. The components were around 9.4 and they got one 10.0 for interpretation.

Chock commented: “We are very happy with how we skated today. It’s been a long, hard season for us and we’re so happy that we could put out our best Free Dance at World Championships. It’s a great testimony to our coaches, they are absolutely incredible, they push us to the very limit we can possibly be pushed. I think the good result of all three U.S. teams has brought Ice Dance to a new level in the United States.”

Bates added: “Last year was the first time that we have ever been in the medal contention at World Championships and we didn’t really know how to handle it very well. Today, we did skate our best Free Dance. Coming here with medal expectations, I think we’ve grown a lot last year and we still have room to grow. This summer will mark five years since we started skating together and we accomplished a great deal, winning two world medals, the national title, making the Olympic team. We had a break through last month training this program, we will perform it one more time during the Challenge Cup. This piece of music was presented to us by our coach Igor, at that time we were a bit naïve and thought “Yes, it’s great, we like it”. Then we realized not many ice dancers have skated to this music before and started realizing why, it is so demanding. It took us a very long time to get the stamina, to craft the material, and that didn’t happen in the first half of the season. Tonight was the best skate of the season.”

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte moved up from sixth to fourth place with 182.72 points. They danced to three Italian soundtracks which reflect the golden and glamorous times of Italy in the 1960ies and 1970ies. They confirmed their fresh and friendly style, and since Europeans especially the last part was danced more quickly and made possible average components of 9.3.

Lanotte commented: “It’s amazing. We are super pleased with how we skated. Yesterday we were very disappointed. We tried to learn from that. Today we went on the ice thinking “this is not a competition, it is a show. We tried to give it our best shot. I mean when you are in 6th place after the Short Dance, you don’t have anything to lose. We were excited to have beaten our season’s best by six points. I have to say that we were pretty impressed. For one second I thought these cannot be our scores, they got it wrong. We have the Team Challenge Cup in the US in two weeks. After that we will have some rest before starting everything over again.”

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje from Canada finished fifth, earning 182.01 points. The twizzle sequence at the beginning was out of sync and she was slower than him, which cost them some points and two levels. Everything else who very good and they even had slightly higher components than Cappellini/Lanotte. Poje said: “I wanted more from myself in the performance. We connected as a team going in, we really fought for it. I know I did some silly mistakes, but I’m glad that we stayed together and fought to the end. We came in with the mindset that we really didn’t have anything to lose. We only could go out there and perform for ourselves and the people that are with us all the way.”

Weaver commented: “We were so well trained and usually that equals results for us. However, I’m pretty sure that was a personal best for us, it’s hard to say that we are disappointed. I think that reflects, how much work we did. However, we know what we are capable of and we know what could have happened tonight. I think if we can take something from this it is that we’re not ready wind down yet. We’re only getting stronger and stronger and this is just a little bit of a valley and we know that better things are to come for us.”

The third American couple Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue took an excellent sixth place with 176.81 points, skating to “Adagio for Strings” by Daft Punk. They have won a lot in expression after switching coaches last summer and moving to the school of Dubreuil/Lauzon/Haguenauer. Hubbell explained: “A score of 108 for the free dance is a big step up for us. It’s a big moment in our career. The standing ovation in both of our programs really means a lot because it means that the audience got pulled into our story. We’re going for the top of our national podium and by pushing ourselves every day, that’s what’s going to make us progress to the top of the world.” Donohue added: “We‘re going to continue on the path we‘re working on which is connecting to our programs. We‘re going to work on all new lifts, elements, techniques, and we have a fun new compulsory dance next season.”

Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland are seventh, winning 173.17 points with some spectacular lifts and a strong presentation. Last year they could not compete at Worlds due to illness. Coomes commented: “We’re back, maybe (laughs). We had a tough season after being ill last season, we were struggling with our points at the beginning. We watch a lot of Youtube videos from ballet and dance to get some ideas. Our lift specialist and also our choreographer also come up with ideas, and then we just try to incorporate it onto the ice, see what works.”

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier dropped from fifth to eighth place with 173.07 points after an innovative free dance to “She said” by Jorane and “Neverland” by Takenobu. Three of their elements had “only” a level 3 which cost them some place because their rivals had levels 4 everywhere.

The two Russian teams finished ninth and eleventh and therefore Russia will have two and not three spots next year again. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (ninth with 168.97 points) skated with a lot of energy, but a bit sloppy. Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin had a clean performance. They were the only couple to perform the first part of the twizzle sequence not in upright position, but in “shoot the duck”.

The second Italian couple of Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri from the school of Barbara Fusar Poli finished tenth after their best free skate in their career to the soundtrack of Schindler’s List. All their level elements got a level 4 as well. Guignard said: “We are very, very happy because it’s the very first time we achieved this in a very important international competition.” Fabbri added: “Getting such a good score at worlds which is the most important and hardest competition is so unexpected and of course being in the top 10 for the first time, this is already an important result and plus getting such a good score. We discussed skating to this music two years ago, but we did not feel ready at the time to skate to such deep music. We talked about skating to this again this year with our coaches and we felt ready this time. We are so happy we did.”

Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko from Israel finished twelfth at their first World Championships together, which is a bit less than they had hoped for, even if they said they were happy with this World Championships. After the Europeans the students of Igor Shpilband changed the middle section of their free dance. Tobias explained the reason: “The steps in the middle weren’t giving us a chance to breathe.” Several couples ended on lower ranks this year, but showed good potential for the future, especially the new Japanese couple of Kana Muramoto (she is excellent) and Chris Reed, the young German champions Kavita Lorenz and Panagiotis Polizoakis and the Ukrainians Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin.