2019 NHK Trophy
2018 Olympic silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France took the lead in the Rhythm Dance as the final Grand Prix (GP) event of season kicked off in Sapporo, Japan, on Friday. Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are currently in second, followed by Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri.
Papadakis and Cizeron delivered a clever and engaging disco routine to music from Fame, displaying level 4 twizzles and Finnsteps in which all four key points were met. The 2019 World champions earned many +4 and +5 grades of execution (GOE) for their level 4 pattern steps and level 3 midline steps, as well as their ending stationary lift, and scored a new personal best of 90.03—a new record score for the Rhythm Dance.
“We are very happy with our performance today,” said Papadakis. “It’s much better than what we did in France. The audience was really supportive, and we’re excited for tomorrow. Last year’s tango was really hard, but this year, our steps are much shorter. If you don’t start well, you don’t finish well, so that is the main challenge. It’s the first time we are doing a pattern dance that we did in the past—we did it our first senior year, so it’s fun to reinvent it and see how we can do it better. We have our coach harassing us each day to see if we can get a level 4.”
“It’s very fun to work on two programs that are completely different,” added Cizeron. “It was a challenge to us to work on that rhythm dance, because it’s out of our comfort zone. In the free dance, we wanted to go a little further, and it’s fun to have completely different moves and different energy to work on. We have a lot of room for improvement in the future, so that is really exciting too.”
Stepanova and Bukin showed commitment in their showy routine to selections from Moulin Rouge which featured level 4 twizzles from both ice dancers, as well as a good level 4 Finnstep in which they met all four key points. The 2019 European silver medalists received a level 4 (her) and 3 (him) on the pattern steps and racked up many high GOEs on their level 3 midline steps and curve lift to earn a personal best of 84.07.
“Today, we think our performance went quite well, better than our previous performance,” said Stepanova. “We really love and respect the French team. They have very good techniques, and their speed is also very good, so we need to bring everything that we have in order to compete successfully against them. In the earlier part of the season, we skipped over the practice of the Finnstep, but between the first and second Grand Prix, we were able to practice the pattern dance more, and we are happy with how we performed the pattern dance today.”
Guignard and Fabbri ditched their original routine and opted to skate to music from Grease. The 2019 European bronze medalists showed level 4 twizzles and Finnsteps (all key points met), as well as a level 4 stationary lift which earned many +4 GOEs. The pattern steps were graded a level 4 (her) and 3 (him), while the midline steps were a level 3, and the team was awarded a new personal best of 82.13.
“It was a new rhythm dance for us,” noted Fabbri. “We decided to change it after the first Grand Prix, and we are quite satisfied. We were thinking about changing the rhythm dance since the first Challenger, but then we wanted to work on it more to see if it would work better. I had an injury, so that slowed down our preparation. My hand is recovering from my injury. We wanted to change it now, before Europeans. We wanted something more understandable for the audience as well, because the old program had unrecognizable music.”
“This is one of the most challenging dances we’ve skated because of the timing and rhythm,” he added. “We are working on improving our physical conditions, not in the run through, but in normal practices. We need to work on being perfectly on time.”
Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson came in fourth (76.09) after their performance to a Blues Brothers medley which featured level 4 Finnsteps (all key points met) and a level 4 rotational lift.
USA’s Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko are close behind in fifth with 75.25 after their routine to “Too Darn Hot,” which was highlighted by level 4 twizzles and rotational lift.