Ice Network

Papadakis, Cizeron recreate magic to retain title

Cappellini, Lanotte win second European silver; Bobrova, Soloviev third
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After missing the first half of the season while she recovered from a concussion, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron's return to international competition went swimmingly. The French team won its second consecutive European title, rallying from second after the short dance to first overall with a competition total of 182.71 points. -Getty Images

Many questioned whether Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron could repeat the feat they accomplished at the European championships a year ago, with a new free dance. They answered with an emphatic "Yes!" by performing a perfect routine Saturday night in Bratislava, Slovakia, to win their second straight European gold medal.

The French duo topped the free dance by more than 10 points with a segment total of 111.97, besting Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia, who finished second in the free and third overall. Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who came into the day in first place, won silver.

In a completely different style, as contemporary and abstract as their 2015 program was classical, Papadakis and Cizeron achieved their goal of delivering the same magic they portrayed a year before. 

Dancing to "Rain, in Your Black Eyes" by Ezio Bosso and "To Build a Home" by the Cinematic Orchestra, Papadakis and Cizeron managed a skate that was both soft and powerful, all while performing in the silence of their pure edges. With the exception of their straight line lift, all of their elements were rated Level 4, even their diagonal step sequence. (They were only one of two teams, along with Bobrova and Soloviev, to reach that level for the element.) They also received superior components, all above nine points, with a special 9.43 points for interpretation.

Where did the French team take their spectators this time? "When we skate, we are in our bubble," Papadakis has said many times. But what laid in their bubble this time?

"This theme is certainly more abstract than last year's," Cizeron said. "But when we dance, we can always rely on the many experiences we have together on the ice. We use impressions and images. Our dance still deals with feelings, and connection and our life. So, in fact, this is very concrete for us."

Whatever their bubble holds, one thing is certain: "There is a huge potential,".said Marie-France Dubreuil, who coaches the team in Montréal.

Dancing to music from the La dolce vita soundtrack, Italy's Cappellini and Lanotte were true to their country's style. Exuberant and brilliant, and yet fully controlled, their dance immediately grasped the audience's attention and applause. Their program was magical -- as magical as a movie. One wonders how they completed all these effects.

Cappellini and Lanotte also garnered superior components, all above 9.0 points, up to par with Papadakis and Cizeron's efforts. But they lost a few points on their levels, as their two step sequences and straight line lift were rated Level 3.

"Today wasn't our biggest performance," Cappellini admitted. "We skated first in the group, and I guess we were still feeling the ice. We left a few technical points on the board today. The technical side lacked a bit. There are so many details in a program. We'll work on that in the weeks to come. But we connected very well with the crowd, who really supported us."

Bobrova and Soloviev held onto their third-place standing from short dance, giving an emotional and completely polished rendering of Anna Karenina, one of the most famous themes of Russian literature. Bobrova and Soloviev's elements all rated Level 4, with the exception of their circular lift.

They earned 107.79 points for the free dance, a new season's best, and 176.50 points overall.

"We're very happy to be here," Soloviev said.

"There were nerves before that free dance, but we knew we were able to support one another," Bobrova added.

"We had never won a bronze before at Europeans. Hopefully, the future will be gold!" Soloviev said.

Russia's Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov displayed a powerful dance to "Io ci sarò." Katsalapov and Sinitsina launched themselves into their opening twizzles with so much energy that he lost some of his balance. That did not hinder the level of their dance, however. Their two step sequences rated Level 3. They held onto their fourth-place standing from the short behind a free dance total of 104.32 points, good for 172.65 overall.

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia took fifth place in the event. Their three lifts and spin were rated Level 4. They danced with speed and charisma to "Rachmaninov's Revenge" by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé. Just like Papadakis and Cizeron, they have developed a unique ability to dance both up and down, as well as close to the ice and back to standing positions. That was most impressive during their twizzles, but was also visible also in their spins and lifts. They scored 98.90 points for their free dance, a new season's best, to come away with 165.56 points overall.

Britain's Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland finished in sixth place, with 98.49 points for their free dance, a new season's best, and 162.75 points overall. They created a dramatic and inspired routine to "Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1" and "Butterflies and Hurricanes" by Muse, and displayed quite innovative -- and impressive -- lifts, especially on the rotational element. All of their elements were rated Level 4, with the exception of their curve lift.