Ice Network

Papadakis, Cizeron claim gold medal on home ice

French duo outscores field by nearly 20 points; Americans claim silver
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Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron acknowledge the crowd following their free dance at 2016 Trophée de France. -Getty Images

Many wondered if Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron could maintain their standard this season, especially with such a cerebral free dance. The answer came in the Paris leg of the Grand Prix, and it was an extreme positive.

The two-time reigning world champions amassed 115.24 points for their free dance and 193.50 points overall, earning the top spot in the dance category at 2016 Trophée de France. The French duo finished 18.92 points ahead of runners-up Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States and 22.72 points ahead of Canadian bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

Papadakis and Cizeron's three lifts were rated Level 4, as were their twizzles and spin, and their two step sequences were rated Level 3. Most impressive, however, was the fact they were awarded the highest Grades of Execution (GOEs), with a 2.99 GOE for their final diagonal step sequence and a 2.36 GOE for their circular steps. Their components were also well above 9.00.

They opened their dance with a straight line lift and followed it with a violent staccato, which emphasized the disconnection between the dancers' upper and lower bodies through their ample twizzles and circular step sequence. The music then became even more intense and invasive. Their next piece included a circular lift, which led to a combination spin.

About 2 1/2 minutes after their program started, a gentle piano aroused from the preceding chaotic pieces. Papadakis and Cizeron then playfully went to their rotational lift in an appeased atmosphere. Their third part, "Happiness Does Not Wait," did not leave them, or their spectators, until their diagonal step sequence. In less than four minutes, the duo went through the ages of life and sold their routine with great professionalism.

Winning was certainly a sweet present for Cizeron, who turned 22 years old Saturday.

"I didn't realize it was my birthday until the crowd started singing, as focused as I was on the program," he acknowledged afterward, laughing. "When we ended the program, we felt the energy and it was a great feeling for us, as we were quite anxious to see how the crowd reacted. The audience really did get into the program."

"We had a hard summer, as the program was difficult to build and we had hard decisions to make, so tonight we're really happy," Papadakis concluded.

Hubbell and Donohue performed their free program just ahead of the French. They also took the judges and audience on a journey, with their showcase of love, as they danced to "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," "Can't Help Falling in Love" and "Earned It." Their elements were rated at the exact same levels as the French, garnering 107.81 points for their free dance and 174.58 points overall.

"This was the fourth competition of the season for us," Hubbell explained. "The beginning of the season was a bit rough, but we worked together and really feel a momentum now, which we hope takes us to the Grand Prix Final."

The music they built emphasized their long and deep edges in a tender rendering of the depth of human love as transmitted by Ingrid Michaelson's piece. Love has always been a popular theme in Paris, and the audience went from one emotional high to another, as they unveiled the wealth of their journey.

"We feel very connected to this music," Hubbell admitted. "The middle song is my favorite. Before skating, I just opened my heart...you know, everybody loves love."

Gilles and Poirier skated first in the final group and delivered their classical and pure Argentine Tango to "Con Buena Onda," which was well received by those in attendance. Their steps were very soft and subtle, far from the dramatic effects the tango may be given at times. They also managed to fully integrate their elements into the spirit of the genre.

"The music naturally led us into that direction," Gilles said. "We wanted our twizzles to be visible, as they are one of our strong points, and the music placed them there."

Their three lifts, twizzles and spin were rated Level 4, with their step sequences earning Level 3 and 2, respectively.

"We're very proud, as we didn't let the little mistakes disturb us," Gilles said.

"Tango involves a lot of interplay where you are perpendicular to your partner. Our challenge there was to find how we could create the illusion of skating perpendicular without running into one another," said Poirier, who was pleased with the performance.

Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin danced to the music from the Slumdog Millionnaire soundtrack in an original Bollywood set up. They did an incredible job in setting the scene on the ice but lost points on their levels. Their PCS, however, was the second best of the night (52.99). They also surpassed their season's best with 98.68 points for their free dance and 167.40 points overall to take fourth place.

Israel's Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko skated a classical dance to The Nutcracker, and earned fifth place, collecting 95.16 points for their free and 158.86 overall.