Virtue, Moir hold off French for third world titleWorld-record free lands Papadakis, Cizeron second; Shibutanis win bronze
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have taken control of the ice dance field once again by claiming the gold medal at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championship in Helsinki. Some eight years after their historic Olympic title, the Canadians regained their place atop the world podium, setting a new world-record event score in the process.
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron provided a major challenge, however, winning the free dance by 2.96 points. The French team also raised the world record (for the free dance) they set last season, upping the total from 118.17 points to 119.15.
Team USA's Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani managed to rally to the podium after their fifth-place finish in the short dance. Their teammates, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, as well as Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, experienced mishaps on the "terror" element of ice dance -- the twizzles. They dropped to seventh and ninth place, respectively.
Virtue and Moir received Level 4's for each one of their elements, with the exception being their circular step sequence, which was rated Level 3 due to a near fall by Moir. Their program, set to "Pilgrims on a Long Journey," the soundtrack composed by Canadian singer Cœur de Pirate, emphasized their fighting spirit, speed, and incredible energy. Their near-fall (it bore no deduction from the judges) penalized their components, which nonetheless ranged from 9.61 to 9.79 points.
"We're thrilled!" Moir offered. "Coming away with the title is a huge accomplishment. Our goal was not to defend, but to create a moment. Of course, stumbling made it more difficult. But I popped back pretty fast and we could achieve what we wanted to."
"Of course, it's not the way we wanted to win," added Virtue.
The significant gap they set in the short program allowed them to hang onto the top spot, even if they had to sweat it out a bit.
Papadakis and Cizeron once again delivered magic. Skating after the Shibutanis and right before Virtue and Moir, they received the highest scores of the evening, especially for their elements. All but one of them, the circular sequence, were rated Level 4, and they received high Grades of Execution (GOEs) in the process. They topped their season's best by 3.91 points, and their previous world record by 0.98 points.
"We were very disappointed with the score we got yesterday," Papadakis explained. "This morning we woke up, and we took the time to remember why we were skating. It's not a matter of scores, but a matter of creating an emotion and connecting with the audience."
The emotion was palpable in the arena as they unveiled the history of humankind during their program, from the original chaos, life continuing to grow and the pursuit of happiness. They even increased the tension between themselves through their steps and moves, thus emphasizing the control they had over their combined balance, as great modern dancers do so well.
"At the beginning of the season, we wanted something hard to do," said Cizeron. "We knew it would be hard for the audience to understand as it was difficult for us to comprehend in the beginning as well. All the work we put in during the season to make the audience understand our purpose helped us grow. The program has matured within us, and it has matured in the audience as well. This has been our biggest accomplishment so far."
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani also delivered a surreal free dance. Their "Evolution" program showed the team flying over the ice as no other did, underlying the softness of their music while moving from one edge to the next. They managed to remain connected to the audience and involved them with each one of their steps. Their twizzles were particularly impressive as well, and they received Level 4 grading for their spin, three lifts and twizzles. They were also awarded Level 3 for their two step sequences, like most of their direct competitors.
"We're very proud of what we accomplished this week," Maia Shibutani offered. "This whole season was a transformative one for us. The results have been very encouraging, from last year to this year -- with the goal to be the very best team we can be in February of 2018."
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje offered a rather slow, yet strong, rendition of Joaquín Rodrigo's "Aranjuez Concerto." The Canadians amassed 109.97 points, 1.03 above their previous season's best, and good for a fourth-place finish in the final standings.
"We leave these championships with great performances," Poje said. "We haven't performed this way in two years, being so relaxed and in the moment, and this is what next season will be built on."
Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev rose from eighth after the short dance to place fifth overall, with what turned out to be the third best free dance of the night. They offered an emotional interpretation of their "Angel and Life" free dance, set to Frédéric Chopin's Prelude N. 20 and Antonio Vivaldi's "Winter." Their two step sequences received Level 3, and their additional elements were tabbed with Level 4's. They amassed 110.52 points for their free and 184.06 points in total.
Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte delighted the audience with their Chaplin routine. It was light, emotional, entertaining, and skated with their usual class. Their elements were rated Level 4, with the lone exception being their two step sequences. They received a standing ovation from the crowd, and 110.03 points for their free program. Their overall total, 183.73 points, was enough to help them land a top six finish.
Chock and Bates skated with their usual stamina to David Bowie and Freddy Mercury's "Under Pressure," but they missed their twizzles, which cost them three levels. They received 105.79 points for their free dance, and 182.04 points overall, which dropped them from fourth after the short program to seventh overall.
Hubbell and Donohue endured the worst of days, mainly due to a heavy fall by Donohue. They earned zero points for their twizzles, and lost two levels on their following diagonal sequence. In a weird twist, however, their free dance started with strength. The Americans opened their routine in third place, with both their rotational and straight-line lifts receiving Level 4 as well as their circular step sequence, one of the few teams to reach that level.
Unfortunately for the talented team, their fall kicked them away from a podium spot, dropping them to a distant ninth overall, a disappointing finish that was far from their best.