Ice Network

Papadakis, Cizeron break own world mark, win gold

Chock, Bates secure silver; Stepanova, Bukin outlast Canadians for bronze
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron just keep outdoing themselves, and Saturday was no different. The two-time world champions broke their own world records for free dance score and total score, earning marks of 120.58 and 201.98 in those categories, respectively, en route to capturing their third career gold medal at their home Grand Prix. -Getty Images

Watching Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron skate in practice, many believed that the team would set a new world record this week in Grenoble. The French masters fulfilled that prophecy in the free dance Saturday afternoon.

Displaying a deep and moving rendering of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," the two-time world champions broke the world records they set just two weeks ago at Cup of China -- both for free dance score and total score -- en route to winning the gold at the 2017 Internationaux de France.

Team USA's Madison Chock and Evan Bates were second, a distant 20.13 points behind the French. Russia's Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin earned the bronze.

Papadakis and Cizeron floated over the ice, immediately taking their audience on a heavenly journey only they knew about, one made of all the emotions human beings can have: beauty, hope, dreams -- and, yet, also finitude. Their opening twizzles were not only synchronized but bore a meaning, the specific and original tempo of each one signifying a part of the journey. Their trademark curve lift, as Cizeron takes a grand plié spread eagle position to carry his partner, was magical. Their combination spin took them from pure smoothness to fierce temper and energy, as if they were struggling together, along with their audience. At the end of their routine, the judges awarded them a Level 4 for their three lifts, spin and twizzles, as well as for their circular step sequence. Their midline step sequence was rated a Level 3.

Beethoven's music is so powerful, and Papadakis and Cizeron made it visible, almost palpable, in the heart of everyone in attendance. They amassed 120.58 points for the free -- 1.25 more than their previous record, making them the first dancers to crack the 120-point barrier in the free dance -- and increased the overall world record to 201.98 points.

Several skaters received a 10 from a couple of judges for their component scores. Eight out of nine judges awarded a 10 to Papadakis and Cizeron -- for interpretation. For what probably was also the first time in the history of the international judging system, the figure displayed as an average was a perfect 10.

Papadakis danced in night blue, Cizeron in moon white. Their costumes were also part of their creative process, they explained.

"We wanted something very sober, that would not hide our bodies too much and would emphasize our lines and the fluidity of our movements and choreography," Cizeron said. "We felt really good. It feels like home here.

"Well, this is home!" he added.

Chock and Bates drew to skate last of the afternoon, but it was hard to take the ice after the French had left it. They, nonetheless, delivered a strong performance to John Lennon's "Imagine," one that included three Level 4 lifts. Bates had a slight bobble during the second series of twizzles, and that cost the team a level. Both of their step sequences were magnificent and skated at a fast pace, and merited Level 3 grading.

The 2015 world silver medalists garnered 108.30 points for their free program and 181.85 overall.

"When we chose our music, we took into account the fact that more attention would be focused on skating in this Olympic season, and on us. We chose something meaningful to us," Chock explained. "Our message is that the world may not be perfect, but things will get better. Working together as one will make it possible."

"This is one of the favorite programs we ever had," Bates added. "It has also a lot of room for improvement."

"And we feel so honored to qualify for the (Grand Prix) Final!" an ecstatic Chock exclaimed.

Stepanova and Bukin built their free dance theme around love, with music from Love Story as well as the song "Love's Dream" and the classic Liszt work "Liebestraum." They delivered what could be called a "happy romantic" routine, full of original steps and lifts and tricks, flying from one edge to the next.

Stepanova and Bukin radiated on the ice, as if they were alone in the world. That, of course, suited their purpose exactly. This season may be theirs in Russia: They embody the most traditional school of Russian ice dance and, yet, manage to make it live in this era.

"We're happy to be on the podium of a Grand Prix again," Bukin offered. "But we're also happy because our coaches told us that we had skated with our souls today. That was particularly meaningful to us."

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who stumbled in the short dance, rallied to a fourth-place finish thanks to a mesmerizing and passionate free dance to "Je suis malade." The duo brought the audience to its feet, proving that when a skater or team gives its passion and energy to a performance, the audience receives it directly. 

Receiving Level 4's for two of their lifts, their twizzles and their opening circular step sequence, the Canadians amassed 108.03 points for their free -- the third-best score of the evening -- and 176.97 overall.

Italy's Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri skated to a piece often chosen for singles skating rather than dance: "Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3" by Muse. They ended in fifth place.

Team USA's Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit danced to "I Put a Spell on You;" the program as a whole was titled "Desire." Their performance, which featured three Level 4 lifts and two Level 3 step sequences, was by highlighted their great lines and long edges.

They amassed 93.50 points for their free dance, a new season's best, and 154.14 points overall.

"This is our second Grand Prix, and we've seen so much improvement already in just two weeks," Benoit offered. "We hope it will be the same next week in Tallinn (where the team is due to compete), so that we can make an incredibly good impression at nationals."