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Best in France! Papadakis, Cizeron claim dance title

French oust Gilles, Poirier for Bompard gold; Americans take bronze
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French dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron put themselves on the map when they won Cup of China earlier this season, and in Bordeaux, they proved that victory was anything but a fluke. Dancing their Mozart routine with incredible synchronicity, the hometown favorites amassed a personal-best 166.66 points and earned a much-deserved spot in the Grand Prix Final. -Getty Images

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron confirmed their Cup of China victory by winning the Trophée Eric Bompard in Bordeaux on Saturday. Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier landed second, 9.08 points behind. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of Team USA pulled into third.

This free dance night was again an "each one gets first" at one's turn, as the ranking did not change between the start and the end of the event.

Incidentally, all three teams did also keep their placement at their first Grand Prix.

Papadakis and Cizeron displayed those incredibly long and deep edges which have become their trademark, and that newly found connection they have started building between them as they skated. Unlike some others, they do not connect from a person to another person. Their dance is like the connection of one soul to the other, with bodies, edges and steps expressing an image that would be ideal for both. They amassed 102.60 for the free dance (the only team to pass the 100-point bar), their new season's best, and 166.66 overall. Their components were mostly above 8.5 points.

Performing to the "Adagio" from Mozart's "Concerto No. 23," Papadakis and Cizeron earned Level 4's for all their elements except their two step sequences, which earned Level 3's.

"We, for sure, were not ready to receive that much attention that early," Cizeron said in his usual unassuming way. "What has surprised the most was the improvement from last year. We have updated our own expectations accordingly. We are starting to believe that it is possible.

"Of course, that will add a lot of pressure on our shoulders, as we will be more favorited to win from now on," he continued. "We need to keep a cold head and not let ourselves be overtaken by the pressure of success."

The audience applauded them right from the start of their program and gave them a standing ovation.

"Many were expecting us to be the successors to Nathalie [Péchalat] and Fabian [Bourzat]," Cizeron commented afterward. "The audience was crazy!"

Gilles and Poirier delivered a well-packaged and lively routine to the soundtrack of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

"We are really happy about our first silver medal at a Grand Prix," Gilles said.

They earned four Level 3's and three Level 4's for their elements. Their twizzles were particularly clear and clean, and well in the mood of their program. They earned 95.68 points for their free dance, a new season's best, and 157.58 points overall.

"This is mission accomplished for us," Poirier said afterward. "For this time of the season, we are on the right track."

Even more so, since their two second places should secure them a place in the Grand Prix Final.

"That was also a box to tick on our agenda," he added.

Hubbell and Donohue did not have the grand party they had imagined, although their rendition of The Great Gatsby was superb and well-received.

Their routine earned them 91.92 points, a new season's best, and 152.11 points overall. Four of their elements earned them Level 4's, but their curve lift was rated only a Level 2.

"We made a big mistake there," Hubbell conceded afterward. "There are so many stages in making a lift like this, and you easily lose a lot of time, unfortunately. In the scope of human vision, it's a very small mistake, but that's what the rules request.

"Our goal here was to make it to the Grand Prix Final," she admitted. "So, it was difficult when, just a few seconds into our program, this took us off the scope."

"That was hard," Donohue agreed. "But we were trained to forget about it and to move to the next step. It's just very hard in the moment."

The rest of their routine was widely acclaimed by the French crowd. They entered onto the ice with their elegant black outfits sparkling with glamorous golden embroideries. They started with a combination spin, where they went from one direction to the reverse, as if they were taking us to a different world. That is exactly what they did. They followed with deep and long edges, which allowed the crowd to appreciate their classy body lines and mastery of their sport. At that time of their routine, they were skating close to one another, as you do when you come with your partner to a party.

Then their program took us to Champagne time, with the bubbling excitement of encountering new people throughout an evening, when guests start building things together -- like an intricate straight line lift. Finally came the hour of the late-timers, dancing until the end of the night, in those times when nerves hold it for you and push you to the most fun eccentricities.

"Part of the program improved since Skate Canada," Hubbell said at the press conference. "But, our mistake at the beginning cost us a lot. We are racing against time at the moment. We hope we will have the talent and energy to progress faster than others."

Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz, the first dancers to have represented Spain in ice dancing at the Olympics, delivered a sensitive rendition of their "Love is beautiful" free dance. She in red and he in black, they skated at a rather slow pace, in connection with the pace and emotion of their music. Their final curve lift, just at the end of their routine, was a thrill for the audience, who for once was seeing it from the right angle. They kept their fourth-place position overall with 88.46 points for the free and 146.10 total points.