Ice Network

Papadakis, Cizeron try to keep things in perspective

Two-time world champions anticipate having 'special' Olympic experience
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Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron cannot wait to make their Olympic debut next month in PyeongChang. -Getty Images

Two-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are vying for a fourth straight European title in Moscow this week. They took the time to answer icenetwork's questions about their Olympic preparation and their approach to the sport.

Icenetwork: What do these European championships mean to you?

Cizeron: They really come as a central point in our preparation for the Olympics, just in the middle between Christmas and the (Olympic) Games. It's a very important milestone for us. We don't feel huge pressure in terms of competition here, but we do feel it in terms of performance. Also, we made several small changes (to our programs) after Christmas, and these championships will help us test and validate them.

Icenetwork: Did you make many changes?

Cizeron: Only details, although they may make a huge difference. You know, turning a hand upward instead of downward at the end of a move (he makes the motion) can completely change the movement we envisioned at first.

Papadakis: Also, it's great for us to have Europeans just two weeks before we head to PyeongChang. That forced us to be ready earlier. The Christmas break is always difficult to handle. It's not long enough to rest, but it's always too long in terms of cardio. It always requires a lot of effort to come back to the point where we were before the break. Usually, we come back after New Year's; this year, with Europeans running one week earlier, we came back right after Christmas so we could be ready on time. After this event, we will work a lot to keep and increase our level, of course, but we will also have the energy we need to make the final adjustments before the Games.

Icenetwork: Each of your performances seems to be unique, as if you were willing to share a special moment with the audience.

Cizeron: That's true. We want to share a special moment first between us, and then with our team and the judges, and with the audience. Without an audience, what we're doing has no meaning. We dance not only to deliver a performance and win a medal but also to share emotions. The messages we transmit are equally important. And judges are also an audience. They love the sport even more than you can imagine, you know!

Papadakis: That doesn't come easily, though. It takes a lot of work. It requires (you) to always look for the performance in an otherwise pure and light endeavor. We try to do what we do in the best possible way, and to add a touch of emotion, and maybe philosophy as well. Yet we need to be clear about what is important and what is not. Sometimes in practice I miss a choctaw and I feel like I have no future (she laughs). In fact, I have to shift my frame of mind back toward what is essential. The way you place your foot on a blade of iron on a frozen piece of ice won't save the world and won't change your life and your relationships. We're not country leaders trying to save the Arctic Ocean.

Icenetwork: Yet the way you deliver your performances may change the minds of those who are watching you -- even country leaders?

Papadakis: That may be. We create our pieces to give a window into people's lives. We do this with the utmost seriousness and rigor. We do want to lend a perspective to the space we occupy in the universe, for our lives and for other people's lives. It's a peculiar feeling, you know: At first, when we started, we thought we were doing this just for the two of us, for the sake of our own quest. Little by little, we've come to understand that people were actually seeing the same thing. When you are clear with your intentions and your own feelings, then the audience sees them as well. That connection can go very deep.

Icenetwork: What role does music play in your approach?

Cizeron: We let the music guide us. Music directs our movement. We just try to feel it and integrate it. We really listen to a lot of music, and try to grasp what it has to tell us, and where it meets our own vision. This year, our music (the first and third movements of Ludwig von Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata") is a whole, so the message can be even clearer and completely independent from ourselves. We simply try to propose a personal interpretation of the music, while still remaining loyal to it. But music doesn't need us, really! Choreography allows one to listen to a piece of music in a different way. It allows one to watch the music, in a way.

Papadakis: That's why we try to understand it, so that our interpretation is not placed onto the music but rather is inspired by it. We work with the music; we try to not just use it. We collaborate with it; we are collaborating with Ludwig von Beethoven...can you believe it? (She laughs.)

Cizeron: The more we listen to that piece of music, the more we know it, and the more we can understand its details -- especially when you're not a musician yourself, like me. A lot still escapes us, but the more we go, the more we learn how to tame it and to play with it and its nuances.

Icenetwork: One season ago, you told icenetwork that you needed to learn how to deal with adversity. How did you do this?

Papadakis: In reality, we've always had to deal with adversity. Last year, we found ourselves confronted with a competition between two teams. Before last year, competition was so much more spread out among a larger number of competitors. It was easier to deal with adversity then, as it was much easier to concentrate on ourselves. When adversity is focused on one person or team, then you may trap yourself into focusing on that one person or team. That's what we experienced last year. In reality, you have no choice: You skate for yourself. You can't control your competitors. Thinking of them just raises doubt in you and makes you feel unsure of yourself. Adversity, in fact, is just the way we perceive ourselves, in comparison to others.

Cizeron: That also makes you progress. That's the goal of competition -- to make you go over the difficulties, stress, injuries. That's what we're doing every day.

Icenetwork: How are you approaching the Olympic Games now?

Papadakis: Well, the Games are a different competition for us, since we've never done them before. It will be our first time! We don't know what to expect, really. We really want to win there, and to take advantage of the experience. We want to devote ourselves completely, and to remain concentrated and focused throughout.

Cizeron: The Games must be quite a special experience, based on what we hear from other teams. It should be cool! The good thing is that we know how to handle a competition at the worldwide level. We're going there as professionals of our sport, although not of the Olympics themselves, since we've never been there before. We will have to manage our energy and focus our attention on what matters most, and do those things at the right moment. I hope we are capable of doing that. We have a top-notch team to help get us there.

Icenetwork: Do you think these Games will be your last ones?

Cizeron: No, these won't necessarily be our last Games (smiles). We're not on our way to stopping there, even though we haven't decided anything firm as of yet. We have always lived in our sport with short-term goals as well as longer-term goals. These goals don't go for the next 10 years, but…

Papadakis: But we haven't started this season as if it were to be the last one. We still have long-term goals!

Special thanks to Perrine Denise for her contributions to this interview.