Papadakis, Cizeron amazed by sudden success

French dance duo excited for JGP Final after wins in France, Austria

After many years of anticipation, French couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are headed to the JGP Final.
After many years of anticipation, French couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are headed to the JGP Final. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(10/15/2012) - They have won their two Junior Grand Prix Series events of the season, in Courchevel, France, and in Linz, Austria. They unsurprisingly took the French Junior Masters by storm last weekend in Paris. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron did not expect to start their season with such a winning strike. How does it feel to win?

Cizeron: Great! It brings us great pride, and people start staring at us with a different look. Last year we came up fourth each time at our JGPs, so we were not favorites to win, really. Still, we have started this season from the bases we had at the end of last season and have a newfound maturity in our skating. We have worked a lot on choreography and interpretation.

Papadakis: We had no idea about how our competitors had improved over the summer. They had always defeated us before. Our first objective was to win in Courchevel. Linz was more difficult, however. We were coming first after the short dance. It's never easy to start a free dance in such a position. Everybody is expecting a lot from you, and you surely don't want to disappoint anyone! Did you notice that you were getting more attention?

Papadakis: Oh, yes! Our relation to the audience has changed, and it is rather surprising. We were not used to having fans. Now, people come and ask for autographs. In a competition, we skate mostly for the judges. But then you realize that some people like what you are doing, although they are not part of the competition itself, except as spectators. In Courchevel, we were surprised to see that some people knew us, when we had never met them before! How and when did you meet?

Papadakis: I do not count the years anymore, it's been so long! We were just skating in the same club, in Clermont-Ferrand. My mom, who was coaching us, suggested that we dance together. We were 9 or 10 years old. Our size and styles matched quite well, so why try for a different match somewhere else?

(Catherine Papadakis, Gabriella's mother, has been the duo's one and only coach until they decided to relocate in Lyon last summer. Catherine was not a newcomer in the field of ice dance, as she coached 2008 world champion Isabelle Delobel, also a native from Clermont-Ferrand, before Delobel joined forces with Olivier Schoenfelder, also in Lyon.) Why relocate to Lyon?

Cizeron: We had to move for my studies. I graduated from high school last June, and I am now doing a preparatory school to work in applied arts. The thing is that I am coming from a scientific background, and there are only two such preparatory schools in France: one in Paris and one in Lyon.

Papadakis: I plan to graduate next June. Usually, one prefers to stay home until graduation. We decided to make the move only in mid-June. It's a huge change for me. It's not so easy to leave the family cocoon and to become independent all at once. It's not easy for my mom either, as she is seeing both her daughter and her homemade couple leave her all at once. How is it in Lyon now?

Cizeron: Great! Changing coaching centers is always a boost. It gives you another perspective and a new dynamic. Also, we have great support from the other dancing teams in Lyon. There is a good emulation there.

Papadakis: We are now training with Muriel Zazoui (who coached Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat to the Olympic gold in 2002, as well as Delobel and Schoenfelder), Romain Haguenauer and Olivier Schoenfelder. We had already worked with them during summer sessions, so we knew them well. They bring us a lot in terms of experience. They can reassure us and tell us about competitions. This helps us feel at ease. How did you choose your programs this season?

Papadakis: We devised them with my mom prior to leaving for Lyon. Actually, we always pick what we prefer. I would not like to skate to something that was not chosen by myself or on a theme that has been created for me by someone else. The matter is really to work on it, present it in competitions and polish it throughout the season.

It's a continuous process. We'll spend the whole season polishing our transitions, among other things.

Our short dance [incorporates] "Mini the Moocher" and "Dirty Boogie." We have framed the compulsory blues into swing and hip hop sequences. Last year, our free dance was swing, so we were used to the spirit of that dance.

For our free dance, we have selected Pink Floyd. We consider it as a complete universe. It's not just a piece of music -- it's Pink Floyd. Contrary to what most people may think, I consider it extremely difficult to skate to the hit of the day. If everybody can hear your music everywhere, it becomes really difficult to interpret it correctly, I think. Would you consider yourself an artist?

Cizeron: That's why I'm doing these applied art studies, actually. I would really love to enter into a design school and make it my own trade.

Papadakis: No, I would not call [myself] an artist. Although ... I love literature, both reading and writing. Also, ice dancing is a sport but it bears a big artistic side to it. Track and field and swimming are pure sports. Ice dancing bears a special additional meaning: that of dancing, finding new movements, of innovating, of finding appealing figures. Have you been to the United States?

Cizeron: Yes, we went there last year to train with Pasquale Camerlengo's team. It was very different, and we improved a lot.

Papadakis: My dad lives in Texas, so I've been there, too. Also, our first Junior Grand Prix took place in in Lake Placid, three years ago. We ended last. The winners were Maia [Shibutani] and Alex Shibutani, and we regarded them as living gods. Now, we are sitting at the spot that was theirs at the time. It feels strange. So at the time when most senior skaters are just starting their competitive seasons, you are already qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final in December?

Papadakis: Yeah! It will be in Sochi, where the next Olympic Games are to be held. So, we will go take our own references there, as some would say. We will go there on a mission! Right now, we have to get ready for Dortmund (2012 NRW Trophy) and Lyon (2013 International Trophy of Lyon), and later on it will be junior worlds. Your ambition?

Both: Win! What do you think makes your partner so special? (asked separately)

Cizeron Err ... What did she say about me? (He laughs.) I don't know ... her physical appearance, the quality of her skating. Our characters complement each other. We are both quite calm, actually. Also, Gabriella brings a real spontaneity and freshness into her dancing. She expresses ice dancing in her own way. Each move is hers, really.

Papadakis: What makes him unique? He is the best! (She laughs.) Also ... We've been skating together for so long that it has created quite a strong bond between us. That bond is special and it makes him unique.