Virtue, Moir set new world record en route to goldCanadians earn first Grand Prix Final title; Shibutani siblings take bronze
Olympic gold and silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir said their major goal during their comeback would be to qualify for the 2016 Grand Prix Final. Not only did they qualify, but the Canadians won it in a decisive manner by amassing 197.22 points to set a new world record in dance. They beat two-time reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who racked up 192.81 points while performing in front of the home crowd in Marseille, and Americans Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who secured 189.60 points.
Virtue and Moir's program, which was set to "Pilgrims on a Long Journey," suited the team's fighting spirit, speed and high level of energy. Their three lifts, spin and twizzles were rated Level 4, and their entrance into the twizzles was exquisite, as was their energy. Their two step sequences received a Level 3, with each of their components receiving the top grades of the field. They added 116.72 points to their tally and topped their season's best by 0.35 points.
"It was a great week for both of us," Virtue said. "We knew competition was tough."
"We never won the Grand Prix Final gold medal, and by the way, people kept reminding us this week," Moir added. "In fact, it's just nice to be in the mix. Ice dancing has come up quite a way, so that makes it a lot harder for us."
Papadakis and Cizeron delivered an emotional rendering of their three-part program. Their three lifts were rated Level 4, as was their spin. Their two step sequences and twizzles were rated Level 3, with components ranging from 9.36 for transitions to 9.79 for performance. They amassed 114.95 points in total, which solidified the silver medal.
"We had a great feeling on the ice, and we managed to be present on the ice at every moment," Cizeron said. "We knew that we wouldn't win anyway, so we wanted to reach another moment of grace. We are facing stronger adversity now, so this season is going to be a learning experience for us."
Their program may have been more magical than that of the Canadians, but Virtue and Moir's performance was more effective.
The Shibutanis' three lifts, spin and twizzles were rated Level 4, which matched the levels of Virtue and Moir. Their diagonal step sequence, however, was rated Level 2, but the Americans remained pleased upon earning their first Grand Prix Final medal.
"That was a great Grand Prix season for us, and it's a great way to end it," Maia Shibutani offered.
The Shibutanis danced to a piece called "Evolution" for their free, an interesting mix of Arvo Pärt's "Mirror in Mirror" and a composition Alex Shibutani arranged himself. "Ownership" was the word Alex Shibutani used to describe their free dance, and the smoothness which is so characteristic of their skating has given them a new and powerful presence on the ice.
Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev offered a delightful dance interpretation of Frédéric Chopin's "Prelude No. 20" and Antonio Vivaldi's "Winter," as played by prodigy violinist Nigel Kennedy.
"It's just the story of a lady who is not happy with her life," their coach, Sasha Zhulin, explained. "When Vivaldi's music starts, the lady is happy again and wants to live. This dance is modern, not so dramatic for once, but I think it's creative and interesting for the audience. Ice dance is to be made of interesting steps and music decisions, so if your music is flat, your routine will be easier to skate. But I wouldn't like to see 25 programs with comfortable music in a row, especially if they are the same musically and choreographically."
Their twizzles, spin and two lifts were rated Level 4, and their two step sequences received a Level 3. With their rotational lift also registering a Level 3 grade, the team garnered 107.91 points for their free and 181.95 overall to place fourth.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were pleased with their short dance performance and looked to follow with a crisp free dance. Their three lifts and spin were rated Level 4, but Hubbell made a slight error on her twizzles, which set them back a bit.
"That is a shame," she said. "We left a level there (they were rated Level 3), and probably some GOEs there, but it's a learning experience."
The Americans danced to "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," "Can't Help Falling in Love" and "Earned It," emphasizing their long and passionate edges throughout.
"You need to be in the right mood to skate such a program," Hubbell offered.
"We need to be connected to that moment in time," Donohue added. "You can't just find the feeling; otherwise you lose it."
Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the third team from the United States, remain in sixth place with 179.32 points. Their intricate free routine to "Under Pressure" by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury received instant applause from the audience. Their spin, twizzles and three lifts were rated Level 4, but their components were significantly lower, ranging from 8.86 points (for transitions) to 9.18 (for interpretation).
The team was the only one to skate such a whirlwind of edge changes and arm movements, to emphasize the amplitude of their edges. Their curve lift was particularly impressive, as they seemed never to lock themselves into a stationary position.