Golden Skate

Papadakis and Cizeron break record again; claim fourth European title

Figure Skating News

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France set a new record for both the Free Dance and Total Score in Ice Dance at the 2018 European Figure Skating Championships.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France won their fourth consecutive European title in Moscow with 203.16 points in total. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev rose up from fourth place to win their third silver medal (187.13), while teammates Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin slipped to third for their second bronze medal (184.86).

The French had only one technical issue in two programs: in the short dance, Papadakis checked one of the twizzles in the series and the element was downgraded level to level three.

“There’s not much to explain,” she said afterwards. “I wasn’t sure if it was visible after we skated. It’s not something I do often. I practice my twizzles a lot during the week, so I am a little bit frustrated about that, but silly mistakes like that are easy to work on.”

However, the team, who trains in Montreal, left no points behind in the free dance: the only element not to get the maximum fourth level was the midline step sequence. The two-time World champions scored 121.87 for the dance, a new world record, more than one point higher than their previous record (120.58) set at 2017 Internationaux de France. Their overall score is also the world’s highest: their previous best set at the 2017-18 ISU Grand Prix Final in Nagoya was 202.16.

“We had great feeling about our skate today,” said Cizeron. “The public was warm and helpful. It has been a hard week, and we felt that the public really helped us go through it. We are happy with our score; we believe it is a good base for improvement. We still have a few things to improve, but we felt really good about today.”

“It’s our fourth gold medal at Europeans,” acknowledged Papadakis, “but even though the color is the same, it’s always a different story. The first time it was a surprise, this year it was it something we have been working towards for. It is different every time. Every time, there are different goals and successes. I think it will always be different each year.”

The two-time World champions are still undecided about their participation in the team tournament at the Olympics.

“It’s something we never did,” explained Papadakis. “It was a new event in Sochi, but we weren’t there; we don’t know how it’s going to happen. We are focusing on the individual competition right now and we’ll see how it will go.”

Another challenge for all the Olympians is the schedule: figure skating events will take place in early morning local time.

“I think jet lag will help,” joked Cizeron. “I guess we’ll start practicing more often in the morning. It’s not like we really have a choice; we can’t really ask them to change the schedule. Someone has to compete in the morning and this time it’s us.”

Bobrova and Soloviev unexpectedly found themselves in fourth place after the short dance, but were able to recover and produce a strong free dance.

“We were angry at ourselves after the short dance,” said Soloviev. “I think it helped us to focus during the free dance today. All the way through the free dance training session and competition, we had that extra motivation which worked well for us in the end.”

“We were upset about the rhumba, though” added Bobrova, referring to the pattern dance element. “We worked really hard on it and it still received level three.”

“We kind of didn’t expect it,” elaborated her partner. “Personally, we thought that we skated well. Not perfectly or outstandingly, but well, but technical specialists did not like the rhumba. Maybe the final part was not quite as explosively emotional as it should have been, but it’s good that it happened at Europeans. We will work on it to prevent it from happening in the future. We will work on the short dance, but we will not neglect the free dance.”

The students of Alexander Zhulin were not entirely satisfied with the free dance either, despite receiving their personal best score of 112.70 for their performance.

“Emotionally, we felt that the dance was better at nationals,” said Soloviev. “Technically, it was good except for a small issue with the second lift, which was not as clean as we wanted it to be. We are happy with the performance overall, though. We are happy with our scores and we would like to once again thank the public for their incredible support.”

The 2018 Russian Champions were not upset to be behind their teammates going into the free dance.

“It is great to have such a strong competition as home,” explained Soloviev. “It motivates as a lot. It keeps us going, knowing that we had to be at our best, because there are others who are improving from one competition to the next. It keeps pushing us forward.”

The team who deputed at the international senior level in 2007 and 2008 season said that they are not making any definite statements about their future, but they feel that they are ready to take a break after the Olympic season.

“We do need a break,” said Soloviev. “Maybe we will be motivated to come back afterwards. We simply do not know yet.”

“I spoke to Tessa (Virtue),” shared Bobrova, “and to Margarita Drobiazko. They both came back, and they told me how excited and overwhelmed they were to be back on the ice. I do love skating, I do love performing for public, but I think we might need a break to start missing skating that much.”

“Maybe they will introduce new rules and we would love to come back just to test it,” she added.

“For me it’s more the issues of finally being able to do what I want,” said Soloviev. “I am a big fan of extreme sports, for example, things like fast driving. I would love to try a parachute jump, but it is completely out of the question right now for obvious reasons. I would like to have a freedom to do things like that, but we are very grateful for all the opportunities we had in sports, for all the impressions and experience it gave us.”

Stepanova and Bukin improved their personal bests in all segments of the competition and overall despite a couple of lower levels in the free dance. Their opening straight-line lift was graded a level three and the diagonal step sequence received level two.

“It has been incredible to look at our coaches after the performance and see how pleased they are with us,” said Stepanova.

“We have just looked at our marks and our first lift got a level 3,” she added. “We’re not sure why. They should all be a level 4, so it is quite strange. We need to have another look at it.”

“We will have a look at our exact marks once we’re home,” agreed Bukin. “We will work on our little mistakes and fix them. We are happy, but all athletes always want more, so we will keep on working even harder.”

Overall, the 2015 European Championships bronze medalists were happy with how they skated in Moscow.

“It was not our best, but it was good,” said Bukin. “This is not just a local competition, it is the European Championships! So, to be in the top three is very cool, but we approach all competitions in the same way. This is of course a very important competition, but we don’t change our preparation. We like to be fun and relaxed when we go on the ice. We have a joke and make sure we are relaxed. Today there was such a fantastic atmosphere we couldn’t wait to go on the ice.”

“We want to say thank you to everyone, it was great to perform here,” added Stepanova. “The public was incredible. It is crazy how much they supported us. We are unbelievably happy.”

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte were third after the short dance, but slipped to fourth place overall (180.65) after a mistake on the synchronized twizzles which were graded a level 2 and a deduction for an extended lift (opening).

The 2014 European Champions were understandably disappointed with the outcome.

“Unfortunately, it was definitely the worst competition of the season,” said Cappellini. “We made a mistake at the beginning of the program which doesn’t help the concentration for the rest of it. Now we focus on the Olympics, so we’re going to go home and review what we’ve done. Sometimes the tough competitions teach you the most.”

“We are definitely just going to work as hard as humanly possible before the Olympics,” said the 30-year-old about their immediate plans. “That was the plan and that still is the plan. We are still a little hungry. We want more and expect more from ourselves. We want to get higher scores and better results.”

Teammates Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri finished fifth in the overall standings (177.75).

“It was really good, maybe not our best because at the end we were a bit tired,” said Fabbri. “The end section could have been better, but really we couldn’t ask for more. Our main focus is the Olympics, so our preparation for Europeans was really short. But that means we will just be getting better from here, so we will be ready for the Olympics.”

Tiffany Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia rose up to the sixth place overall with a very strong performance to “Exogenesis” and “Ruled by Secrecy” by The Muse at their European Championships debut (168.45).

“If I can say so, it was our best free skate of the season,” said Zagorski. “I can’t stop smiling. It was so great. We skated strongly right to the end. It was better than yesterday. We were worried about it, but Jonathan spoke to me, he calmed me down and told me we are skating together.”

“We sat down after the short dance and really focused and collected ourselves,” added Guerreiro. “The support in the arena was class. I can’t remember such a feeling. We had no expectations or hopes for the result or even our marks, because it is our first time here. We are just so happy. Now our only plan is to relax!”

“Anyways, we are going to prepare for other competitions,” clarified Zagorski. “It’s not like we are going to stop training. We are the alternates for the Olympics, but we would like to have a chance to chill. There is one week left till they announce who is going to the Games, so we have a week to distract ourselves by relaxing and then we will know.”

Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland from Great Britain slipped to seventh place overall (168.42) after a mistake on the combination spin, which was downgraded to level one.

“Not quite the way we wanted it to go,” admitted Coomes afterwards. “I am frustrated because I knew we could do better. We worked so hard to get back to the competition and it makes it look like such a simple mistake, catching blades, we just threw so many points away.”

“We just clashed blades,” she elaborated about the mistake. “It happened at complete balance point, when Nick was in a parallel and I was in layback, so it threw us off balance and it was hard to recover. It has never happened in practice as far as I can remember. It was one just that one time. And when things like that happen for the first time, it just throws you off. So, it took us a few steps to get back in unison together.”

“I love this program so much and we changed it for a reason,” she added. “We wanted to come out and skate it to the best of our ability, of course. I felt that the first part of the program was good, but the second half… maybe a middle section just needs a little bit more work. We have time before the Olympics, so this is what we will do. But now we are very frustrated.”

“It’s a tough thing,” agreed Buckland. “You have been working so hard and then a tiny little thing would be off, and it would cost a lot of points. But now is not the important one, the important one is in three weeks, so we will make some changes in the position.”

Coomes, who sustained a knee injury in the summer of 2016 and underwent two different surgeries, is still wearing braces on her knee and says that the injury still limits her training.

“The one I wear in competition, it is just a gel pad,” explained the 2014 European bronze medalist. “It’s a dance pad, for people who do ballet and the like and do moves on their knees. I wear it is just in case I fall and bang it, there is something soft to protect my knee. Because right now, if I so much as knock on my knee now, it’s very, very painful. It’s no fun.”

“My knee does still bother me,” added the 28-year-old. “I just wish I could stand here and say that everything is fine, but it’s not. It’s something I have to deal with every day and it affects our training, so we have to adapt. Nine times out of ten, I can do things I need to do on the ice, but it is still something I have to look after. I do a lot of maintenance work. If push too much on the ice, I pay for it afterwards. It is a really hard balance: do what you need to do on the ice without overdoing the knee. It has been really mentally challenging. I am used to being able to do whatever I need to do, so it is hard to put limitations on myself, but we get buy.”

Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin from Spain finished eighth (165.03), reaching their goal of finishing in the top 10 to earn two spots for Spain at next year’s championships.

“It felt really good,” said Hurtado. “From the very beginning, from yesterday, we were good. Our main goal was just to concentrate from the very beginning and enjoy it step by step, every move.”

“Usually, we have so much power,” added Khaliavin. “We push so hard…”

“It’s like go-go-go,” chimed in Hurtado.

“Sometimes it affects the elements,” explained Khaliavin. “We have to be really careful. Today we really wanted to incorporate dancing moments into the whole program, but also do all the steps.”

“It’s a really great program,” added Hurtado. “We enjoyed skating it so much.”

“It’s like in every move you are going, there is a story,” added Khaliavin.

“There is some story and some details in the music,” continued Hurtado. “Antonio was amazing to do it, because he uses the music so well. That’s why I think it’s a great program, just to enjoy it.”

As Spain is qualified for only one dance team for the Olympics, the couples had to ensure that they did well in the first half of the season to be selected.

“The most pressure came from ourselves,” said Hurtado, “from our own skating.”

“You can do a lot of perfect run-throughs in practice,” aded Khaliavin. “All of them can be good, but you really only need one, the one you do in competition.”

“We are such a new team that we are still learning how we deal with this issues with the pressure,” add Hurtado. “There was a lot of pressure from the beginning, but we are just learning step by step and competition by competition… by talking with each other and by getting to know ourselves better, as a team, as competitors.”

Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen from Denmark and Poland’s Natalia Kaliszek and Maksym Spodyriev rounded up the top ten.