by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(11 December 2019) Two Russian, two American, one French and one Canadian couple qualified for the Grand Prix Final 2019. The level was as high as during the Grand Prix Series, even if the spectators in the Olympic rink from 2006 in Torino saw several smaller mistakes in the Rhythm Dance.
The Technical Panel with the Controller Shawn Rettstatt from USA and the Technical Specialist Francesca Fermi from Italy was very strict with the levels. In the parallel step sequence for example, all six couples received only a level 2, which seems strange because these are the best couples in the world and they had better levels at their two Grand Prix. The competition was a complete triumph of the Ice Academy of Montreal (IAM) because there was a complete sweep from there, winning all three medals.
Four-time World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France, who have been training in the IAM since the summer of 2014, confirmed their superiority with their victory in Torino, gaining 219.85 points. In the Rhythm Dance, however, they were in the lead by only one point after Papadakis stumbled in the Midline Step Sequence, which cost four or five points. The Finnstep sequence (level 3) was excellent, the Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence (level 3) as well, the twizzles were outstanding and their Stationary Lift (both level 4) was outstanding and received six GOEs of +5. Their components had an average of 9.6, with three 10.0 from the French judge. They skated to two disco pieces and a Blues from the musical „Fame“ and played actors in the 1980ies and 90ies who keep fit with Aerobic wearing the typical costumes of that time.
Papadakis commented: “We were very happy we’re here because last year we weren’t. The performance itself was good especially seeing as we’re pretty tired after the Grand Prix season. I did a couple of mistakes but it happens sometimes and we accept it and we’re happy that everything went well and the crowd were so into it with us. We only had a week after Japan. We’re French so we don’t really have this culture of musicals. For me people singing in a movie is just plain weird. I think it was cool to find something that was different from everybody else. We’re not really attracted to the more classical musicals. We wanted to do something fun and different and that’s why we thought of Fame which we love.“
Cizeron added: “All of our programs are always very physical. I think it also represents our life. We do a lot of workouts and that’s probably what we would look like in the Eighties. Our job is to make it look easy which takes a lot of time and a lot of training. But this program is a lot of cardio. It’s almost like a work-out and a program combined – which was the idea but we didn’t realize how tough it would be when we had the idea.“
They chose a free dance to rhythmical words from Forest Blakk and later underlined the words by music of him and of Islandic composer Olafur Arnalds with the title “I Will Find You“. No ice dance couple has ever danced to something similar. It is a story of two people beyond life who try to find each other. They had very good levels and used a lot of mimikry. The execution of all elements was outstanding, everything look easy and effortless and GOEs of +5 dominated. The Stationary Lift even had GOEs of +5 from all nine judges. If a +6 existed, they would be the only ones in the world to get it. Their components were around 9.9, with 23 times (out of 45) a perfect 10.0.
Cizeron said: “We felt amazing tonight. We’re just really proud of ourselves and our team. Regarding the programs, I don’t know how close we are to perfect, but I’m sure there are always things to improve. Our coach will probably go back to watch the details and have lots of comments on it.”
Papadakis added: “It was a really cool competition. We were stressed because it’s a very stressful event. It’s the only time other than Worlds when we are against the top teams and we’re not as ready as we usually are for Worlds. We managed to do a very clean performance technically and we connected with each other and the public a lot and of course the result is very pleasing. We had the idea of skating to the spoken word in the summer. So when we found this music we didn’t actually understand everything at the beginning but just the rhythm of the words. And then we read it and listened to it over and over again and we got really attached to the poem.“
Madison Chock & Evan Bates won the silver medal with 210.68 points after being third in the Rhythm Dance. Dancing to “Too Darn Hot“ from „Kiss me, Kate“, their first element was an outstanding Straight Line Lift. The other elements were very good as well and their components around 9.2. After being injured last season, Bates explained: "It feels great to be at this event. It’s such a prestigious event, arguably the most prestigious of the whole season in a non-Olympic year, and it’s just wonderful to be here among the best in the world. We’ve had a great season thus far and we got a season’s best in the short. We’ll have to look at the protocols to see where we can get some more points. We had back to back Grand Prix, France and China which felt great at the time but then we got home and oh! The jet lag was tough."
Their “Egyptian Snake Dance“ was another highlight of the competition and very popular. Throughout the four minutes to three middle-Eastern themed music pieces, Chock, who is very flexible and used a lot of characteristic arm movements played a snake winding herself around Bates, turning into a dancer and dominating him.
Each time they perform this dance it looks better and more polished. Six of their elements had at last one GOEs of +5, everything was excellent and their components were around 9.5. They got a standing ovation from the public which was dominated by young Japanese women. Chock said: “I think it went very well. I was so present and enjoyed the skate so much. I think it’s the creativity and ingenuity of the choreography that makes the program stand out.“
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue came third with 207.93 points after being second in the Rhythm Dance. There, Hubbell played Marilyn Monroe using her two songs “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” and “Let’s Be Bad”. All five elements were very good, the Straight Line Lift getting the highest GOEs. The components were around 9.4. Hubbell commented: “It was overall a really good performance. The last four weeks we’ve been repackaging our Rhythm Dance a bit as you saw with the costumes and we’ve been working hard specifically on the free dance. There have been nine element changes, the order of the elements and the musicality.
I think once you get to the Grand Prix Final there’s such a curated group of skaters it’s always going to be really close. My favorite icon is Marilyn Monroe and Romain (Haguenauer, coach) said that’s it. It was a tough panel and not everyone got the levels they were hoping for.”
In their free dance, they used several pieces from “A Star Is Born” as their music. Most elements and passages were excellent. The choreo steps had three GOEs of +5 and the components were around 9.3. Hubbell said: “Luckily I have a very strong partner who kept me up during my little almost-slip before the twizzles. It’s a testament to how precise we’ve been training that I can slip a little bit, have a little moment where I catch my blade right before a twizzle sequence, and we can still do our twizzles.”
Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin finished on fourth position with 204.88 points and beat their national rivals which was a bit of a surprise. In the Rhythm Dance to “Diamonds Are Girls Best Friends“ and “Your Song“ from Moulin Rouge, all their elements were successful, but the levels in both dances were not very high. Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier are fifth with 203.50 points. In the Rhythm Dance they skated to the vintage musical „Mack and Mabel“ with five good elements. They were disappointed with the scores. In their free dance to “Both Sides Now“ by Joni Mitchell, all elements were very good and the components around 9.2 and they moved from sixth to fifth place.
The 2019 World silver medalists Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov ended up on sixth place, earning 203.39 points after being fourth in the Rhythm Dance. There, Katsalapov stumbled a little bit during the twizzles, but he was not punished a lot. In their free dance, most elements were very good. The Technical Jury and the judges had also given excellent points to their last choreo steps with one knee on the ice. But the jury finally decided to have seen a fall, which is very doubtful. They were so disappointed that they refused any comment