Ice Network

Papadakis, Cizeron showcase brilliance in Moscow

Stepanova, Bukin win crowd, place second; Cappellini, Lanotte sit third
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron were their typical sublime selves Friday, giving a technically proficient (though not flawless) and emotionally invested rendition of their Ed Sheeran short. The three-time reigning European champions earned a mark of 81.29 and will take a lead of almost six points into the free dance. -Getty Images

Prior to taking the ice Friday at the 2018 European Figure Skating Championships, French ice dancer Marie-Jade Lauriault said, "The short dance is really another world. That's a world of too much and exuberance."

Salsa, rumba and samba are really a matter of how to make your body move. A skater's entire body -- particularly the legs, arms, head, shoulders and knees -- need to be in harmony with one another in order to deliver the perfect performance.

France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron excelled in these areas Friday in Moscow, winning the short dance after amassing 81.29 points to finish 5.91 points ahead of Russia's Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, who garnered 75.38 points. The 2014 European champions, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, landed third in the segment after earning 74.76 points of their own.

Skaters and coaches alike often say that it is virtually impossible to evaluate the level of ice dance elements without a precise -- and slow -- replay system, and positioning the levels is an art in itself. The levels a given program achieves during the course of a season increase with the progress the skaters make -- most of the time. According to the technical panel, these levels will vary from one competition to the next, as was the case Friday, where Level 4's were scarcely distributed, especially for the rumba and pattern dance step sequence.

Papadakis and Cizeron delivered a smooth and gliding samba/rumba/samba routine. The audience began to follow the rhythm of their opening samba as soon as the music started playing. The French team practically flew across the rink, their bodies fully anchored into the ice from one precise edge to the next. Their final samba climaxed into a final lift, and a thunderous and long applause greeted the two at the end of their program.

They were the only team to receive a Level 4 for both their rumba and pattern sequence, while their additional step sequences and twizzles were rated only a Level 3. They also received the highest component scores of the event, ranging from 9.61 points for transitions to 9.89 points for interpretation.

"The twizzles are my fault," Papadakis admitted. "It was a really silly mistake."

"We had a lot of fun," Cizeron offered. "We felt really warm here, and the audience was very supportive. We enjoy this program more and more as we are dancing to it. We've been working on every detail that could be worked on. It's actually fun to work and learn all the time. We feel quite confident with both our programs this year."

The French duo used their flexibility and incredible balance on the ice, dissociating every segment of their bodies throughout while embodying the rhythm to which they were skating at every step.

"We've been working on this a lot for Latin (dances), obviously," Papadakis added. "We've been practicing [body dissociation] a lot off ice, but it's hard to do it also on the ice, as we need to be solid on our feet. But I suppose we succeeded, I guess?"

The Muscovite audience has always been a fine connoisseur of ice dance and the tricks that come along with the discipline. The competitors they applauded the most, especially after their routine was over, were also the last to take the ice -- Stepanova and Bukin.

The Russians kept their bodies moving throughout the program, while capturing the hearts of their fans in the process. Their routine was a true crowd-pleaser, especially their final "Samba do Brasil," which rallied the entire audience's energy at once. It was also executed beautifully from a technical perspective. Stepanova and Bukin were the only team to deliver a Level 4 rumba, with their other two step sequences receiving Level 3 grading. Their twizzles and lift were awarded a Level 4.

Given the amount of applause they received, the talented dance unit has clearly become the No. 1 Russian team.

"Being second shouldn't be a surprise," Stepanova said. "No result should ever be a surprise when you work hard for it. We've worked a lot since our Russian nationals. Our coaches told us this was our best skate."

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte opted for an original cha cha/samba dance, which they really managed to blend into one story. The Italians skated with their usual temper and brilliance, receiving Level 3 grading for their rumba and two step sequences, and Level 4 for their lift and twizzles.

"We had this particular music in store for a while," Cappellini noted. "We wanted to dance to something different from the rumba-samba we had already used twice before. It was a lot of fun to build the program the way it is. We worked a lot on our technical elements, but the results didn't improve as much as we had hoped for. So, we'll keep working!"

Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev are known for their tremendous abilities in the short dance, and they approached this dance in a more professional, serious and precise manner. They were the only team other than the French to receive a Level 4 for their pattern sequence. Still, they weren't able catch more than a Level 3 for their rumba. As has been the case recently at this event, Bobrova and Soloviev will battle Cappellini and Lanotte for a podium finish. The Russians amassed 74.43 points for their short dance, 0.33 points behind the Italians.

Italy's Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri set fire to the ice with their final samba and received 71.58 points for their lively and energy-packed short dance, which placed them fifth in the standings.

After battling through multiple injury-riddled seasons, Great Britain's Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland put on a show for their fans. With a unique style, they approached their Rhumba d'Amour-samba routine in a very British way, making each element -- if not step -- a special one, directly corresponding to their music.

"We took a lot of time early in the season to make sure that our music would allow a place for every element," Coomes said.

"We had said once as a joke that we could skate to the piece Jayne [Torvill] and Chris [Dean] skated to back in 1994 and modernize its interpretation," Buckland added. "When the time came, the idea resurfaced and we started working at it."

"Of course, we wanted to be completely respectful of their work, and Chris was very supportive of that project right away," Coomes added. "We're truly honored to perform and skate to this music. This has been one of my favorite pieces of all time. Chris has been texting us throughout the process, and it feels so good to have him on our side."