Golden Skate

Papadakis and Cizeron take NHK Trophy gold with record scores

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron

France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron perform their Free Dance at 2019 NHK Trophy.

France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron took the gold in Ice Dance in their second appearance at NHK Trophy with record scores on Saturday in Sapporo, Japan. Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, who also are competing in their second NHK Trophy, earned the silver, while Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy won their second consecutive Grand Prix (GP) bronze this season.

Papadakis and Cizeron were rewarded with more than 20 “10s” in their program components by the judges and racked up many high positive grades of execution (GOE) in all elements in their innovative routine to music by Olafur Arnalds and Forest Blakk in which they interpret the poem “Find You”. The 2018 Olympic silver medalists earned a level 4 on nearly all elements, including the twizzles, lifts, and one-foot steps. Only the circular steps were graded a level 3, but was very good. The team earned a new record score of 136.58 for the Free Dance and a total record score of 226.61.

With two GP wins, the 2019 World medalists have solidified their spot to the Final, where they won gold in 2017, later in December.

“We’re really happy with our performance today,” said Cizeron. “We had a great feeling on the ice. We’ve been working a lot since Grenoble in France, and we are happy with our improvements. We are really starting to impersonate all of the characters of the programs. As we go deeper into the season, we want to get more into the performances, and we still have room to grow until the Final. We are excited to go back to Montreal and keep working on those two programs.”

“We have just one week until the Grand Prix Final; we need to go back to Canada, then back to Europe,” added Papadakis. “We need to rest and keep the level where we are now; we’ve done it before. The Grand Prix season is always a little tough for that. We didn’t go to the Final last year, so we are excited this year.”

Performing to “Primavera” and “Cry Me a River”, Stepanova and Bukin put out a very good performance which featured level 4 twizzles, a dance spin, and difficult lifts. The one-foot steps were graded a 4 for her and 3 for him, while the diagonal steps were a level 3. The 2019 European silver medalists earned a new season’s best of 124.74 for the Free Dance and personal best total score of 208.81 for a ticket to the Final.

“We are very happy that we were able to come to Japan,” said Stepanova. “There are still some things we need to work on when we are back in Russia. We appreciate the Japanese for welcoming us with much hospitality. Once we are back in Russia, we will review all of the mistakes that we made and be prepared to put on a flawless performance.”

In their “Space Oddity” routine, Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri had a good start with a level 4 stationary lift and twizzles, however, Guignard’s knee touched the ice coming out of the rotational lift which resulted in a one-point deduction for a fall. Nevertheless, the 2019 European bronze medalists went on to show a good level 4 curve lift and dance spin, while earning positive grades of execution on all other elements. They finished fourth in the free dance 115.93, however, with a total score of 198.06, were able to maintain third overall.

“We are disappointed with the performance of today,” admitted Fabbri. “We made a big mistake on the lift. We didn’t have  a lot of time to work on the free dance, because we changed the rhythm dance.”

Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson engaged the audience with their routine to music by Madonna, producing level 4 twizzles and lifts. The one-step footwork was graded a level 3 for both ice dancers, while the midline steps were a level 2. All elements received positive GOEs and the 2019 Skate Canada bronze medalists finished third in the free dance (116.92) and fourth overall (193.01).

China’s Wang Shiyue and Liu Xinyu of China placed fifth overall (183.11), followed by USA’s Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko (182.26) and Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko of Russia (178.08).