Ice Network

Papadakis, Cizeron in prime position for Final berth

Gilles, Poirier place second in short dance; Hubbell, Donohue in third
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Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron turned in a 64.06-point short dance in Bordeaux to take the lead in ice dance. -Getty Images

France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won the short dance Friday in Bordeaux, topping both their season and personal-best scores in a 64.06-point short dance. They hold a two-point lead heading into Saturday's free dance over Canada's Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who scored 61.90, also a season's best. Team USA's Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue sit in third with 60.19 points. The four other teams in the competition did not reach the 60-point mark.

Papadakis and Cizeron skated their flamenco and paso doble sequence with their usual contemporary style. Their opening paso doble was awarded a Level 3, as were both of their step sequences and twizzles. Their straight line lift got a Level 4.

"We had a very good performance," Cizeron said. "Even though we made a few errors in our steps, it proves that we can rely on our training methods."

"We felt more pressure here than at Cup of China," Cizeron added.

"In China, we really had nothing to lose," Papadakis said. "Nobody was really expecting us, whereas here there was a possibility for us to finish first. We faced more expectations than we thought here."

As they skate, Papadakis is so flexible in her upper body and intense in her moves, she can roll around Cizeron and her own edges, giving a strong character to their dance.

"Since we were young, we have done a lot of dance on the floor," Cizeron explained. "We have tested many different kinds of dance, and that may explain why we can adjust and adapt ourselves to many different styles."

Gilles and Poirier skated an original routine to a paso doble and a Spanish waltz.

They got a Level 4 for their twizzles and lift, and a Level 2 for their step sequences.

"We are happy to show that we are able to deliver a short dance with no major error," Poirier said laughingly, making reference to the team losing control on their twizzles at Skate Canada.

Gilles wore an interesting cape as part of her costume.

"When we went to work on that dance in Colorado Springs, our teachers were wearing such a cape," Gilles said. "We wanted to keep that concept, but we did have to adapt the cape to ice dancing postures and movements."

Just like Papadakis and Cizeron, Hubbell and Donohue skated to a flamenco and paso doble. Their skate was highly tempered and well-danced. She appeared in a beautiful long dress in dark red, which incidentally is called "Bordeaux" red in French. He wore a classy black outfit. They earned a Level 4 for their twizzles and lift, a Level 3 for their paso doble and partial step sequence, and a Level 2 for their opening no-touch step sequence. Their twizzles were particularly impressive and in sync, given their size and amplitude of movement.

"We skated rather well," Donohue stated after coming off the ice. "I am surprised that our components do not quite match our program." 

"I made a few mistakes here and there," Hubbell added. "Scores may be a reflection on myself. We skated better than in Canada, I think. The short dance is more challenging for me with my recovery, as I have to do a staccato rhythm."

As can be seen, no team gained Level 4s across the board for their dance, and only a 1.6-point margin separates the first-ranked team from the third in the program components score. The French team garnered 32.14 points, the Canadian 30.77 and the American 29.86 points. Hubbell and Donohue's components ranged around 7.5, whereas the French team was awarded around 8.0 points on average. Those differences could have a big impact on the final result.

Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz, the talented Spanish team that trains with Papadakis and Cizeron in Montreal, certainly had the closest encounter with their home culture performing in France. They sit in fourth place heading into the free dance, with 57.64 points.

The main question that follows ice dance around still remains: How do we explain the standings at the end of the session? How does each team know where and how to improve?

None of the three top teams could answer.

"This is a question to ask the judges," Papadakis said.

"They have different eyes; it all depends on the angle," Gilles said.

"It all relies on the technical panel, and it's hard to pinpoint one element more than another," Poirier added.

"The only thing that is sure, is that we all strive to be the best!" Hubbell concluded.

Hopefully, the free dance will offer, if not better answers, at least great medalists and champions.