Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (197.22) defeated France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (192.81) for the second time this year to win the first Grand Prix Final title of their illustrious career with a new record score. USA’s Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani won the bronze (189.60).
The Canadians had to overcome a minor setback when their music had to be restarted.
“I just did not want to start yet,” joked Moir at the press conference when asked about the problem.
“The music skipped a bit at the beginning after it started,” explained Virtue. “It’s happened in practice before, so we’re used to having to reset. We took the time to focus. It didn’t affect the performance.”
“It’s difficult for us as we start facing not each other, but the other way,” added Moir.
After the second start, their “Pilgrims on a Long Journey” and “Latch” free dance unfolded smoothly and flawlessly, ending up the same way it started with a low rotational lift. The team earned excellent grades of execution on all elements and picked up nine perfect 10.0 scores in the program component scores, most of them for performance and timing/interpretation.
“It’s been a great week for the two of us,” said Virtue at the press conference. “We’ve been very pleased with all the practices and performances. It’s a steep competition, we knew had to perform our best. We knew that we needed to come in with clear objectives and we wanted to raise the level even more to culminate the full (Grand Prix) series, and I am really pleased with that. I think we really attacked both programs and we have to be proud of that.”
“Our goal this year was to make the Grand Prix Final and be in the mix,” added Moir. “It’s nice to win this title and to be in this group of such talented athletes. The state of ice dance has come quite a ways and that was not something we expected. This makes it not easier, but harder for us. Our work has become more complicated by a factor of 10. We have to go back and stick to our plans.”
The team, who has won every major title except for the Grand Prix Final, was also happy to settle that score.
“It is so funny, because it is probably one of our favorite events,” said Moir. “It’s such an intimate competition and a great way to finish off the fall. For us to get this title is really huge. It wasn’t really an objective for this week, so it kind of makes it the frosting on the cake.”
Papadakis and Cizeron’s free dance to “Stillness,” “Oddudua” and “Happiness does not Wait” was equally impressive and fluid with seamlessly incorporated lifts. Their opening straightline lift was particularly impressive as it matched the rhythm of their music and received +3 as a grade of execution across the board. While the team picked up seven perfect 10.0 program component scores, their twizzle sequence was graded a level three.
“We like to say it is a mix of different energies,” explained Cizeron about their free dance. “It is the story of life. It is about how we live moments, the ups and downs. There are moments of stillness, moments of chaos, a lot of love, a lot of fear. It tries to show what we have to deal with every day.”
“We wanted something different this year,” added Papadakis. “We wanted to try something and stay authentic to ourselves. It was what was obvious for us, to do something more difficult. It expresses what we feel and what we’ve been through. We were excited about the idea, [but] maybe the people will be shocked. The piece is beautiful, it expresses a lot.”
“We are really pleased with our performance today,” the French concluded. “It was a great feeling on the ice. We were present for every moment and are grateful to be here and share this moment with the audience and each other.”
Shibutani and Shibutani also delivered a strong performance to “Mirror In Mirror,” but the students of Marina Zueva only received level two for their diagonal step sequence.
”We’re really proud of our performance here today,” said Maia. “It’s been a great competition for us. We’ve made great improvements since our Grand Prix and we’re looking forward to nationals knowing we did our best here.”
“Everything is trending upwards for us,” added Alex. ”We’re working hard to up the level. We’ve got a nice momentum going. This was a great competition with these teams. We know people say ‘you’ve been at four Grand Prix (Finals), when are you going to win a medal?’ but the medal was not in our mind. We’re just looking to continue to make progress towards the Olympics.”
Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev finished fourth with 181.95 points. The students of Alexander Zhulin received level three for their rotational lift and were very upset about this fact.
“The skate was not good,” said Bobrova. “We didn’t manage to do everything that we know we can. We’re especially disappointed with the lift, which just didn’t work properly. We know that it’s complicated, but it’s just such a shame because last time it worked fine. I think everyone will have noticed it because it is our signature lift.”
USA’s Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue edged out teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates for the fifth place finish.
“Last year, the Grand Prix Final was a new experience for us,” said Hubbell. “It is such a big event and very competitive. Even just being here is a great accomplishment. We’re happy that we will get a better placement this time and can also challenge the other competitors from our own country. This gives us more confidence going into the nationals.”
Chock and Bates improved on their poor performance in the short dance and skated the most upbeat free dance of the night to “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury to finish fourth in the free. However, their low score from the short kept them in last place.
“The title of our dance was very appropriate for us today,” said Bates. “We felt pressure for ourselves to skate well and to leave Marseille with a great feeling, because apart from yesterday, we’ve had a great week here. We’ve had some really good practices and there’s been a lot of positivity about our material and how we are looking on the ice together. Now we can leave happy.”