by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(10 December 2017) The senior dance competition had the highest level of all competitions at the Grand Prix Final 2017 in Nagoya. All six dance couples gave an excellent performance in their free dance, and like in many other dance competitions there ware no falls at all. A harsh and close fight could be expected between the 2015 and 2016 World champions from France and the 2017 World Champions from Canada because these two couples had by far the highest points in the Grand Prix series in this season.
Gold medalists are Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France, winning 202.16 points, which is their third world record within five weeks. Their free dance to the classical version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is as magic as their Mozart program three years ago. They fly over the ice and seem to have beaten all the physical laws of gravity. Cizeron is so flexible that they can do moves which other ice dancers cannot do. Everything looks so effortless but if you can skate you know how difficult it is. Sixty-seven of their eighty-one GOEs were +3, and fourteen of them +2. Their components had an average of 9.87, with 23 of their 45 components being a perfect 10.0. Five elements had a level 4, the two step sequences a level 3 and the two choreographic elements never get a level, but had almost only GOEs of +3. The whole dance was a perfect piece of art or modern ballet, if you like. They proved to be the "Torvill and Dean of the 21st century“.
Papadakis commented, "We are happy to have won this competition. It was a good practice for the Olympic Games that are coming up in few months. It was a very good performance and there was a lot of pressure here with the top six teams competing. We’re very happy that we were able to deal with this pressure. Skating is not a popular sport in France and we don't live in France but every time we go back we feel that there is support and we are very grateful for that. And we think that we do contribute to the popularity of the sport in France.“ Cizeron added, "This is also the first time for us to win the Grand Prix Final, so it is one more thing off our list. It was not perfect yet, there are still some things that we can improve in both programs, technically and also to make it more consistent.“
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir & Canada, who train in the same Montreal school as the winners, won the silver medal with 199.86 points. They also performed an absolute world class program, but in a completely different style. Their music were two pieces from the famous "Moulin Rouge“ soundtrack, but they used mainly parts that have not been heard a hundred times on the ice. They had the same levels as the winners, danced in higher speed and according to the Tango rythm, with more sudden and abrupt movements, daring lifts, but a bit less magic than the French. 55 (instead of 67) of the 81 GOEs were +3, they had 15 (instead of 23) times 10.0 and the components had an average of 9.78.
"We are on track towards the Olympics“, Virtue explained. "We had an extememly successful season so far. That's testament to the team of people around us with our on and off ice coaches, they have put a spectacular plan in place and as athletes it's been rewarding to really follow that. We just have to continue taking care of the details, making little tweaks to make sure that the programs are at our best for February.
Moir added, "To be honest it was a funny program for us, we had a great feeling between the two of us but we made a couple little uncharacteristic glitches that we don't even make in training that often, but I guess that's why we train. We still feel like we captured the moment, had a lot of fun out there, we were able to move the program, better than we were at both of the Grand Prix. We don't like not winning, but we believe on our training so we will stick to the plan, we really believe in our training. These programs are pretty demanding, they are tough but we are on the way to where we want to be.“
The distance between third and sixth place was only three points. Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani from Canton, Michigan, won the bronze medal with 188.00 points in spite of being only sixth in the free program. They interpreted music by Coldplay and called their program "Paradise“. Five of their elements had a level 4, one step sequence a level 3 and the diagonal step sequence a level 2. The spins and lifts were highlights of their program, but Alex‘ twizzle sequence was a bit shaky. Their components were around 9.3, with many 9.5 as highest ones.
Alex Shibutani said, "Today was not the performance that we wanted to have unfortunately. We feel pretty good this week overall and there was a lot of stuff to make progress, but I just had issues on the twizzles this week, which is uncharacteristic. We know what we need to work on. I’m not too worried about it. You need to do your best every time and have a clean strong program. I wasn't able to deliver that I know what we are capable of, we both do. It’s just disappointing right now we have time before the US Championships. I really love the audience and I wish we could have performed it better today but we are very forward focused and we have set very high goals for this season." Maia added, "I think its completely understandable the way we feel because we work very hard and as an athlete you go out there and do your best.“
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue finished fourth, earning 187.40 points. They had chosen two very modern pieces of music, "Across the Sky“ by Rag’n Bone Man and "Caught Out in the Rain“ by Beth Hart and had components of around 9.2. Their elements had mainly GOEs of +2, with the twizzle sequence and the first two lifts as highlights with many +3.
Hubbell explained, "We had a small mistake on the last rotational lift, we saved it the best we could. We just lost some footing on those quick rotations it really throws you off, so thank god for our experience and our many many run-throughs, we could save it. But the rest felt really great and it's always a great response in Japan when you finish no matter how you do they give you so much love and support. We were really looking forward to competing here at the Grand Prix Final and it's the first time that we're competing with the same panel of judges against our American opponents so it's going to be really great to get the feedback from the panel here.“
Donohue added, "Our performance was 99.8% fantastic. The next thing for us is Nationals and our only goal is to be national champion. So that is the only thing we are focused on right now, to go back and doing everything we can to get our PCS in the high nine's and make sure all the levels are set. We will go back and clean everything up, just give it that little magical finishing touch.“
Madison Chock & Evan Bates are on sixth place with 187.15 points with the third best free dance to the evergreen music "Imagine“ by the Beatles. They had the same levels as the two top teams and 36 GOEs of +3 and their components had an average of 9.3 with some 9.75 as highest ones.
Bates said, "We're really, really happy with our performance today. It was certainly the best free dance that we've put on this season. We've been working hard to convey a lot of emotions in this program because it feels like really important, the piece that we're skating to, the message, we were trying to do something special and we really relating to it seriously, so we were working very hard to put right emotions in this program. I think that we still have what to improve like our technical score for both of the programs. We got used to quite tough competition in the US Nationals. For us it is very motivating to work really hard, it's a good healthy competition for us.“
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte from Italy finished sixth with 185.23 points. They skated to the soundtrack of the Italian film "La Vita è Bella“ (Life is beautiful). They had the same elements as the top couples and mainly GOEs of +2. Their components were around 9.2. Cappellini explained, "We are extremely happy with the result today. It was our season’s best. We skated the best we could. We made a step forward at this Grand Prix Final. I thought this was a good competition to do. Less to lose, and great preparation for the Olympics. We definitely want to keep improving for the points, and we go home and will get prepared for the Olympics.“ Lanotte added, "I gave everything into the skate today. We are emotionally connected with Japan. The Japanese crowd is the best in the world. We also have a personal connection after touring with Fantasy on Ice.“