Golden Skate

Papadakis and Cizeron dance to third European title

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France perform their free dance at the 2017 European Figure Skating Championships.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France danced to their third consecutive European title on Sunday, but it didn’t come too easy for them. The French ranked third in the short dance and overtook Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy and Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev with a mesmerizing free dance.

The Italians and Russians settled for silver and bronze, respectively, and the podium was exactly the same as last year. There was discussion about what happened in the short dance, when the result was revised hours later and the original winners, Cappellini and Lanotte, were relegated to second place, while Bobrova and Soloviev found themselves in first place.

“It definitely affected us,” Cappellini said. “We can consider the difficulty of the situation that the ISU and the Technical Panel found themselves in. We believe that decision was made with interest of fairness of the sport. We supported it 100 percent and complied. We didn’t really flinch.”

Apparently, Cappellini and Lanotte performed an extra little lift in their short dance, which is considered an illegal element, and this cost the team a one point-deduction. Since less than a point separated the two teams, this deduction was enough to make them switch places. The dancers had to exchange the medals and redraw the starting order for the last three teams in the free dance. The Technical Panel revised the result hours after the competition.

“It was very surprising and quite unsettling,” Cappellini said. “Of course, the moment of the exchange of the small medals was very strange. We have had such a good day and we were very happy. And then, the next day, we had to readjust. We told ourselves, ok it happened, let’s imagine we were second in the short dance. We wanted to bounce back and not let it be an excuse to be more stressed. We tried to move past it as quickly as possible.”

“When our team leader called us, we were really surprised,” said Soloviev. “It was a strange feeling that we had to exchange the medals. We are very grateful for everyone who reacted with understanding. We have never experienced anything like that in our career.”

Papadakis and Cizeron were third, mainly as their side by side footwork was rated a level two. Papadakis admitted that she made little mistakes. The Panel seemed strict as several teams received low levels for their step sequences, but in the free dance, the reigning World Champions once more triumphed. They had great flow in their dance to “Stillness” and “Happiness Does Not Wait” and made their intricate footwork, lifts and spin look easy. This time, their levels were strong again and they had a level four for everything except the two step sequences (level three). The French won the free dance clearly and moved up to first at 189.67 points.

“We had such a good feeling on ice this afternoon,” Cizeron shared. “The audience was incredible, really, really warm. It felt so good to be supported and we felt like we could deliver 100 percent with our program adding this magical moment and connection that we have. It just felt really good.”

The crowd also loved Cappellini and Lanotte’s cute “Charlie Chaplin” program. The Italians had the same levels as the winners and accumulated 186.64 points. Cappellini was a bit shaky on the twizzles, but the element still earned a level four.

“At the moment, we are just relieved that it’s over,” said Cappellini. “It was indeed a long and difficult week for us. I am happy we came through despite the little mistake in the beginning.”

Bobrova and Soloviev gave it all they had in their dance to “Prelude No. 20” by Frederic Chopin and a modern version of “Four Seasons.” Nevertheless, the Russian champions slipped to third as their circular footwork was rated a level two, however, they were just 0.08 points behind Cappellini and Lanotte at 186.56 points.

“We are pleased with the championship,” said Soloviev. “Everything worked out. We gave 100 percent. Today I would say it was the best performance of the season. Now we’ll take a short break and have a look on what we can improve or add.”

“We really like Chopin, but it was difficult to find a second piece of music that goes with it,” Bobrova shared. “Then we found the “Four Seasons” that we also like very much. Not everyone might approve of our choice, but for us it was good. It’s important that we like it to transmit the emotions to the spectators and today we have been able to do this.”

Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko of Israel came fourth (169.29) after two solid performances, quite an improvement of their 10th-place finish a year ago.

“Honestly, last year we did not show a good performance as we made a couple of mistakes in the free program,” Tobias explained. “So, we wanted to improve and hoped for a better result. We normally do not think about the placement too much, because you never know what happens in the event. But the good scores in the short program is a good position to build up on in the free skate. We tried to use it as much as possible.”

Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin were considered medal contenders, but they lost precious points in the short dance for low levels and ranked sixth. The national silver medalists moved up one spot (166.93) with their passionate Tango free dance.

“We don’t know why the levels for the twizzles and footwork were not so good,” said Stepanova. “We really felt that the second step sequence was even better than the first one (they earned a level one). As for the first, I felt like I didn’t it quite right. We also still don’t quite understand the levels in the short dance.”

“Maybe they’re looking at things a bit different here,” she continued. “In fact, each specialist has a different view. Obviously, you always want to be at the top. Each result motivates you to work hard, even when you’re winning, you don’t want to stop. A real athlete always wants to improve.”

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy somewhat surprisingly sat in fourth place after the short dance, but their dreams of coming as close as possible to the podium shattered when they took a bad fall on a curve lift in their “Swan Lake” free dance. They finished in sixth place overall (163.68).

“Of course, we are disappointed because we were in really good shape and this big mistake was expensive,” noted Guignard. “Our goal was to skate well in order to stay in the fourth place. Except for the fall, our skate was pretty good though.”

Her partner was devastated and did not come to the mixed zone.

“I am ok,” said Guignard regarding the fall. “I do only feel a bit of pain in my knee, but it’s not dramatic. I don’t really know what happened. We entered the lift well and felt that we had the good position, and then suddenly we fell. That wasn’t because we weren’t well prepared, it was just bad luck. That never happened before. Despite this little shock, we tried to get back into it. Anyway, the music goes on and we didn’t want to lose further points.”

A little disappointing was the tenth-place finish for Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia. They, too, had a few low levels in the short dance and a wobbly lift in the free dance. The most costly mistake came when Katsalapov omitted most of the twizzle series in the “Tango Ballet” free dance.

“There was a big mistake in the lift at the beginning,” acknowledged Katsalapov, adding that they were not injured. “I cannot remember if we ever had a problem with this specific lift at practice. Then, a big mistake on twizzles. So we lost lots of points. It is a pity. At competitions, we need to show good skating, as good as we do it at the practice. Everything was really good at training. That is why it is tough to comment today’s mistakes.”

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