Ice Network

Weaver, Poje dazzle in Barcelona, clinch dance title

Chock, Bates take silver; Bronze for Papadakis, Cizeron; Shibutanis fourth
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After winning both of their Grand Prix assignments (Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy), Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje claimed the dance title in Barcelona behind a 71.34-point free dance, finishing with a final score of 181.14. -Getty Images

Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje padded the already sizable lead they took after the short dance to win their first Grand Prix Final dance title of their career by more than 14 points.

Team USA's Madison Chock and Evan Bates delivered a strong performance and secured a silver medal. The main surprise came from France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who moved up one spot to grab the bronze. Team USA's Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani missed the podium by 3.45 points and had to settle for fourth place. Canada's Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier finished fifth, and Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin placed sixth.

Weaver and Poje amassed 109.8 points for their free dance, a new season's best. Chock and Bates earned 102.3 for 167.09 points overall. The French duo earned 100.91 points for their free dance and 162.39 overall.

Weaver and Poje gave a fabulous rendering of the most joyful of Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. They earned Level 4 for their lifts, twizzles and their spin. Their step sequences were rated Level 3. They received +2 and +3 Grades of Execution (GOE) on the majority of their eight elements, and their component scores were also the best of the field.

"Andrew and I could not be more pleased with our program. It was not only our personal-best score but also a personal-best performance," Weaver said afterward.

Weaver and Poje skated with superlative speed and extraordinary passion, which is quickly becoming their trademark.

"Our speed and power come with our work to skate always with clean edges," Weaver said.

"We work together as one, and that creates the speed," Poje added.

"Actually, it's never fast enough for Anjelika [Krylova] (their coach)" Weaver added, laughing. "The passion can be drawn from our connection. Our best programs have been the ones where we felt the most connected, and when the rest of the world disappears. This is especially the case with this program, the concept of which was formed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, with this idea of a relationship throughout the seasons. The characters of this program have evolved, but now we know exactly what we want to portray."

Chock and Bates qualified for the Final for the first time in their career, arriving as the top-seeded team in Barcelona. Dancing to An American in Paris by George Gershwin, they opened with a spectacular straight line lift. They collected a Level 4 for their three lifts, as well as their twizzles and spin. They also gained a Level 3 and a Level 2 for their two step sequences.

"We're very happy by the way we skated today. We were in sync, we were connected, and the crowd was so supportive," Chock said. "This has been one of our best free dances."

"It's amazing to win a silver medal at our first Final," Bates said. "One year ago, if I had been told that I would achieve this, I would have signed for it right away. It was a new feeling going into this competition. Our short dance was a little bump on the road, but we continued from there. The way we skated tonight shows our resilience; we are a strong team. This will give us a lot of experience."

Mozart's magic operated again in Barcelona, as Papadakis and Cizeron delivered a beautiful and emotional rendering of the "Adagio" from Concerto No. 23.

Papadakis and Cizeron's delicate and ample skating relied on a unique combination of skating skills, with deep and long edges, and dancing skills, with upper-body movements and postures. They seemed to flow to their music. The audience applauded them warmly, as they would have done at the end of a beautiful story.

"We really focused on our program today," Papadakis said. "We still have to improve our twizzles and curve lift, but otherwise we are rather satisfied with our performance."

"We thought it would be possible to gain something today. Anyway, we had nothing to lose, so we gave our best ... and it worked," Cizeron added.

"Creating the magic owes nothing to magic itself," Papadakis said. "It's something you need inside of you that creates it. You need to be one -- one with your partner, one with your music, one with your audience, one with your judges, one with the ice. That's what creates the magic."

The Shibutani siblings delivered a radiant performance of Johann Strauss' world-famous waltzes, "Rosen aus dem Süden" and "The Blue Danube" in their smooth and ceremonial style, as if it were taking place in Vienna. Their free dance was a delight to watch, just like one of those candies you savor from start to end. Their fluid skating managed to integrate all their technical elements into the flow of their dance.

Their twizzles and two of their lifts were rated Level 4, but their rotational lift earned only a Level 2, as did their first step sequence. Their diagonal step sequence was rated Level 3. Their score of 95.04 points ranked sixth in the free, and they had to settle for fourth place overall with 158.94 points.

"We're really pleased with our performance, but sometimes in ice dance you just don't understand the scores, but we struggle and we fight through," Maia Shibutani said while resisting tears.

"We put together two good performances here and we connected with the audience," Alex Shibutani said. "That meant a lot to us, especially when you can't control your scores."

Gilles and Poirier delivered a well-packaged and lively routine to music from A Streetcar Named Desire, the overture from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and "Si tu voi ma mere" and "Dans les rues d'Antibes" by Sidney Bechet. Their elements were all rated Level 4, with the exception of their step sequences, which were rated Level 2 and 3. They earned 95.67 points for their free dance for 158.16 overall, ending in fifth place.

Russia's Ilinykh and Zhiganshin's skated a refined routine to "Appassionata" by Secret Garden and even more passionate "Antony and Cleopatra Theme" by Ferrante and Teicher. It included Level 4 twizzles and lifts, and Level 3 and 2 step sequences. Their score of 96.21 points was fourth in the free skate.

"We were a bit nervous, because we've made quite a few changes in our free dance since the Grand Prix Series," Ilinykh explained. "But we did the lift and the spin well, and finally got the level."