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2017 Internationaux de France - Free Dance

Grenoble, France

By Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron

(20 November 2017)  The Ice Dance event had the highest level of the four disciplines of the French Grand Prix in Grenoble. Like in the short dance, there were no falls at all and almost no serious mistakes.  It was obvious that the 2015 and 2016 World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France would win easily under normal circumstances. But in Grenoble they beat their own world record from the Cup of China two weeks before and collected 201.98 overall points.

In their free program to the classical piano piece of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata their special magic sparkle shone as strong as the in the Mozart free program of 2015 which was the main reason for their brake-through to the top. Especially Cizeron is so flexible that they can perform elements which nobody else can do. All nine elements were perfectly executed and had almost only GOEs of +3. No less than 21 of the 45 components were a perfect 10.0 and no component was lower than 9.50.

The "Torvill and Dean of the 21st century,“ as some people call them, are one of two hot candidates for gold and silver at the Grand Prix Final and the Olympic Games, the other one being Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir who won two other Grand Prix. Both teams train in the same ice dance school in Montreal with Patrice Lauzon, Marie-France Dubreuil and Romain Haguenauer. Jayne Torvill, by the way, had come as a spectator from her home in Britain to Grenoble to see her successors. Dean had worked with the French team in the summer on choreography. Cizeron said, “We are very happy with our scores. We had a very clean program, We are very happy with the improvements we’ve made. The scores give us confidence, but not necessarily in relation to other competitors because it is difficult to compare different events.”

Madison Chock & Evan Bates from Igor Shpilband’s school in Novi, Michigan, won the silver medal with 181.98 points, more clearly than expected. In their stylish free dance in good speed to "Imagine“ by John Lennon, four of the seven level elements had a level 4. The lifts were excellent and the two step sequences had a level 3. Bates stumbled a bit on the twizzle sequence, which therefore also had a level 3 and GOEs with an average of only 0. All other elements had mainly GOEs of +2 and the components were around 9.1 with nine 9.5 as highest ones.

Chock commented, “We felt great skating this evening, This is one of our favorite programs that we ever had. Every time we perform it, it is definitely something special for us. We know it has a lot of room to grow and we did leave some points on the table, technically. We’re going home and really work on our elements and keep growing this program because it can be something really, really special for us.” With two second places Chock and Bates also reached the Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan, in December.

The bronze medal for Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin from Russia, winning 177.24 overall points, was a bit unexpected. But in the free program to different versions of the "Liebestraum“, all their elements had good levels and they interpreted the music well. Their trademark element is a twizzle sequence with one part in squatting position. Nobody else does that. Their components were around 8.8 and this was their second bronze medal after the first one at the Cup of Russia. “We were pleased when our coaches told us that we skated with our soul, which means a lot to us,“ Stepanova said.

When there are winners there are also losers. This time Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje did not only lose a medal, but probably also a spot in the Grand Prix Final and finished fourth, earning 176.97 points. Weaver skated in pain because the week before she broke a rib in practice and did not know until the last minute if they would come to Grenoble at all. In their free program they skated to "Je suis malade“ which has a double meaning in English. It may mean: "I am sick“, but also "I am mad for you“. They interpreted the music well, but a bit more hesitantly as if they were really a bit sick. But their levels were generally very good and the GOEs reached mainly +2, those for the lifts even often +3. But at the end 0.27 points were missing for the bronze medal. Later they wrote that this had been the most difficult competition in their career together which has lasted already 13 years.

Charlčne Guignard & Marco Fabbri from Italy finished on fifth place, winning 171.01 points. They skated their flawless free program to the third Exogenesis Symphony by the British pop group Muse. Five elements had a level 4, the two step sequences a level 3 and their components were around 8.3.

French dancers Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron from the Shpilband school, who mainly train with his French assistant Fabian Bourzat, moved up from eighth to sixth place with overall 155.55 points. They also skated to "Je suis malade“, but less expressive than the Canadians. They have a good chance of getting a spot at the Olympic Games as France’s second dance team because their national rivals Marie-Jade Lauriault, who is Canadian and skates with French dancer Romain Le Gac, is still waiting for French citizenship in spite of being married to him.

Maybe because of home advantage, Abachkina & Thauron went ahead of their training mates, the U.S. team of Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit. Normally the Americans are stronger in expression and they made no mistake either and had the same levels as the French, but a bit lower components which is a bit strange. The Americans‘ highlight is a risky curve lift which always causes huge applause and got at least one GOE of +3.

Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev from Poland finished eighth with 147.77 points. They did not make any mistakes but had less speed than the top couples. Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd from Russia just moved up from Juniors and are ninth with 145.85 points. The third French couple Lorenza Alessandrini & Pierre Souquet, who trains in Lyon with Olivier Schoenfelder, placed tenth and last with 134.28 points, but even they made no mistakes.