Saturday, 23/6/2018 | : : UTC-7
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Cup of China: FRENCH ICE DANCERS UPSET WORLD CHAMPIONS

Gabriella Papadakis+Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) were the surprise gold medalists. The team trains in Montreal, Canada with Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and their former Lyon, France coach, Romain Haguenauer.

During the summer, the 2013 Junior World silver medalists, their coaches, and choreographer studied in Madrid, Spain with famous Flamenco dancer, Antonio Najarro. The Director of the National Ballet Theatre of Spain has choreographed for many figure skaters.

“We immersed ourselves in the culture and mood of our dance,’ said Papadakis in a recent interview.

The team placed 3rd in the Short Dance, with a season’s best (62.12) and earned a Level4 for the Paso Doble element, rewarding all their extra pre-season dance preparation.

“We’ve improved a lot from the beginning of the season,” noted Cizeron. “We’ve been working on our technique, and it paid off,” added Papadakis.

The following day, the French team soared into first place with a free contemporary program set to Adagio from Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 choreographed by Dubreuil. Their flowing transitions and lifts ignited emotion and intensity as they portrayed two characters experiencing changes in their love for each other.

“We had to go through intense work to develop our interpretation and give the program its emotional strength,” said Papadakis. “We work to make sure each movement has a meaning and can be visible from every part of the rink.”

The program earned Level4 for two lifts, the twizzles and a spin.  The choreographic spinning movement was awarded the highest Grand Prix GOE score – +1.44 – so far this season.

“Coming in our goal was third place, so winning this Grand Prix is a nice surprise for us.  We performed well yesterday and today, but it is totally unexpected,” Cizeron told the press after the victory ceremony.

The 160.12 total score was also a personal best.

Maia Shibutani+Alex Shibutani (USA) placed 1st in the Short Dance with Level4 twizzles and rotational lift.

The Michigan siblings fell to 2nd in the free program and won silver. The choice of performing to two classical Strauss waltzes was a major deviation from the Michael Jackson medley used in the Olympic year.

The twizzles, straight line and curve lifts earned Level4, but the marks (92.16) were not enough to bypass the young French team.

“As far as how the program compared to Skate America (96.19) we noticed a couple of things that could have been done a little bit better.  We attacked the program in some different ways. We’ll have a look at the protocols; I think we missed some levels,” said Alex.

Anna Cappellini+Luca Lanotte (ITA) slipped from 2nd to 3rd in the free program to Danse Macabre. The dark characters portrayed in the opening moments fell apart and faded away after Lanotte took a spill during a transition.

“The fall was very tough because it was very unexpected.  It was unsettling for the rest of the program,” noted Cappellini.

The reining World champions did earn Level4 for the twizzles and lifts, but the unsteady spins were Level1.

“These things can happen.  We are not depressed about it.  It is a sport. You win some; you lose some,” commented Cappellini.

Elena Ilinykh+Ruslan Zhiganshin (RUS) became a new team after both their partners chose to skate together. Ilinykh was the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist with Nikita Katsalapov, and Zhiganshin won the 2012 Junior Worlds with Victoria Sinitsina.

The new duo claimed 4th place in both the short dance and free program. Their twizzles and two lifts earned Level4. Unfortunately both lifts received deductions for extended time.

The team chose to close with the less valued (0.30) choreographed dance lift instead of the moving spin (0.60) and earned 0.90 points.

The Cup of China Ice Dancers will next compete at the following:

Paradakis+Cizeron – Trophee Bompard

Cappellini+Lanotte –Trophee Bompard

Ilinykh+Zhiganshin – Rostelecom Cup

Paul+Islam – Trophee Bompard

UPDATE…

The Sibutanis qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, Spain with two silver medals and 26 points.

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