Cappellini, Lanotte win dance by razor-thin marginItalians snip Weaver, Poje by 0.02 points for gold; French take bronze
In a virtual three-way dead heat, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy edged Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje by 0.02 points for the ice dance gold medal at the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships. France's Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat settled for bronze, finishing 0.06 points out of first.
In another scoring twist, the Italians -- who led by half a point after the short dance -- had just the fourth-best free dance. Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov won the free dance, but a missed twizzle sequence in their short dance kept the Olympic bronze medalists off the podium.
Skating to the overture from The Barber of Seville, the Italians' opening twizzles were excellent, gaining +3 grades of execution (GOEs) from five judges. After a good circular step sequence, their next highlights were the combination and rotational lifts. Six of their elements rated Level 4, with the two step sequences earning Level 3.
Cappellini and Lanotte's conservative yet crowd-pleasing and fast style gained a partial standing ovation from the crowd. Their components averaged 9.3, with two perfect 10s for performance. They earned 105.73 for their free dance and ended with 175.43 points.
"We have no words; we are shocked," Cappellini said. "It was such a long season, and we were at the end of our energy because we entered more competitions than anyone else. We are honored to have skated so well."
"There is no limit on improving, but I guess we are the best version of Anna and Luca we can be," Lanotte said. "We will see what we can still improve and what the future will bring."
Weaver and Poje, who placed seventh at the Sochi Olympics, won silver with 175.71 points. The difference between the Canadians and Italians was less than one GOE, from one judge. They were third in the free dance, earning 106.21 points.
The Canadians, who train in Detroit under a team headed by Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova, performed to an Astor Piazzola tango medley, with "Maria de Buenos Aires" as the central piece. Their interpretation was very convincing, sometimes sultry, sometimes macho-like. Their components averaged 9.2, with two 10s for performance and interpretation.
"I can't believe that we skated that way, let alone achieved the podium finish at worlds," Weaver said. "It is so emotional, and I think it's opening a new door for our future. We have learned that it does not pay off to hold back.
"Skating last was difficult, but we were prepared for it," she added.
With Weaver and Poje's silver medal, plus Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier's eighth-place finish, Canada gains three ice dance spots for the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships.
Péchalat and Bourzat placed second in the free dance with 107.17 points to win their second world bronze medal with 175.37 points. The French team interpreted the story of "The Little Prince and his Rose" to different pieces of music and were the most innovative couple of the evening.
They had the highest technical score of the field, with seven Level 4's and one Level 3, and mostly +2 GOEs.
"Our performance went by so fast," Péchalat said. "I did not feel tired at all. We now can skate with more emotions than at the beginning of the season, [because] all of the movements are automatic and everything is much easier. We are in the story and physically fit."
The skaters, who are retiring from competition, talked about their respective futures.
"I have been working for six months with Igor [Shpilband] and Adrienne [Lenda], and love it so much that I will work with them next season," Bourzat said. "I have learned a lot from them as a skater, and I have a lot to learn from them as a coach. I will stay in Detroit."
Péchalat has different plans.
"I will return to France," she said. "I will try to enjoy a normal life and maybe later be a judge or technical specialist or something like that. [I want to] keep a foot in the ice skating world but not every day as a coach."
Ilinykh and Katsapolov skated the best free dance of the competition (108.71 points), gaining the highest components (averaging around 9.5) and more +3 GOEs than any other couple. But after being four points behind in the short dance, they were one point away from a medal and ended up fourth with a score of 174.38.
Saitama has been abuzz all week about reports in the Russian press that the young skaters will split after this event, despite their bronze medal in Sochi.
"First of all, we need to relax a little," Katsalapov said. "We need to have a couple of weeks of vacation and will talk with our coaches afterward."
Despite the absence of Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the fifth- and sixth-place finishes of the two best American teams here secured three U.S. ice dance spots for next season's worlds in Shanghai.
U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who train under Shpilband, skated a fast, clean program to music from Les Misérables, gaining five Level 4 and three Level 3 elements. Their opening lift combination was outstanding.
"We were so excited for this performance; everything we have done this season led up to the Olympics and the world championships," Chock said. "We couldn't be happier to be in Tokyo and to put out two great skates to finish it off."
"We consider ourselves a team that is pushing upward, and we wanted to contend here," Bates said. "For this week, we skated well, and it's something to build on for next season and for the future.
"Now that we've experienced the world stage and the Olympic stage together, we can have confidence in ourselves," he continued. "The importance of this event wasn't lost on us."
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who train with Marina Zoueva's group in Canton, Mich., performed their free dance to a Michael Jackson medley and placed sixth with 158.57 points. They, too, had a clean program, with a twizzle sequence and rotational lift as highlights.
"This has been a strong competition for us overall," Maia said. "We feel like we really upped our game since the Olympics and the early part of the season. Putting out two solid programs at this point of the season will really help us as we continue forward."
"We were aggressive and attacked every practice and every performance to make the most of the opportunity [and] to show people what they can look forward to from us for the coming years," Alex said.
He went on to confirm that he and his younger sister plan to continue competing and training under Zoueva.
"Next year starts right away for us," he said. "We have a great team of coaches around us; we really trust Marina. I know we are going to come up with some great stuff over the next four years."
The Detroit-based Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton, fifth at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, moved up one spot from the short dance and placed 17th in their worlds debut. The students of Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova performed an entertaining Bollywood medley.
"The free dance is a lot of fun to do," Eaton said. "It's hitting me now that that's the last time we'll do it. It took us a long time to learn, and it was a new type of movement for us. It's sad to see it go, but we are excited for what next season has in store."