Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov edged out Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron by a mere 0.14 points after the Free Dance in Graz, Austria, to win their first European title on Saturday. Teammates Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin also rose one spot to capture their third bronze medal at this event.
Sinitsina and Katsalapov delivered a effortless, yet technically difficult routine to “I Giorni: Andante” and “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” which featured strong level 4 twizzles and level 3 serpentine steps. She earned a level 4 on the one-foot steps, while a he a level 3, and all lifts and the dance spin were graded a level 4. In the end, the 2019 World silver medalists were rewarded with a new personal best of 131.69. With a total score of 220.42, they were able to dethrone the five-time consecutive and defending champions.
“We gave all we had there,” said Sinitsina, adding that they had made some changes in the program. “Of course we want to improve and show the program from the very beginning to the end full force. Of course we did the best now, but we want that diamond to shine.”
Katsalapov said on their day off while practicing, their focus was not on winning a medal, but to show the program the way they have been training and to skate clean.
“I think we did that today and we are so happy,” he said. “I can’t say we expected to be sitting in the middle (press conference between two teams). To get anywhere near Gabriella (Papadakis) and Guillaume (Cizeron) seemed impossible for all the skaters, but we are all athletes and everyone works and improves every day.”
“Today we were watching their performance and maybe it was not as clean as they could have done it,” he added. “They still have a huge potential, but so do we and the others. Perhaps one time things will not work for one or the other and the judges will mark that way.”
“Yes, we did it today, but we are not going to rest, we are going to improve, we have goals, goals for the practices,” he continued. “We really want to be the leaders.”
Papadakis and Cizeron gave a spellbinding performance with their modern routine, however she only earned a level 2 on the one-foot steps while he a level 3. All other elements were graded a level 4 except for the circular steps (level 3) which received high grades of execution (GOE).
The judges held the ice dancers and entire arena suspense for what seemed like eternity while deliberating over the scores. In the end, they scored 131.50 points for a second-place finish in the free dance, slipping to second overall (220.28).
“We know that when we have to wait a long time for the results, it is not a good sign,” said Papadakis. “Of course we are disappointed, but we still had a good competition we are still proud of.”
“We felt we had made mistakes during the program, so we kind of already knew the final result,” added Cizeron. “Of course we are disappointed with our results, but happy with our performance. Every moment on this ice is unique. We always were surprised to win and now for once, we are surprised to not be in the first place.”
“We knew the competition was very close and we knew we didn’t have room for mistakes and we made them,” admitted Papadakis. “We were happy with the performance and with how we dealt with the competition and the stress. It’s our seventh Europeans and we won five of them, which is huge. We are already very proud, and especially proud of how we did this week. We can’t always win and we accept it. It’s a lesson for us that we probably needed. We can’t wait to work and improve for the Worlds.”
Cizeron didn’t feel that skating after the winners was a disadvantage.
“We usually, as soon as we step on the ice, it’s just each other,” he explained. “It doesn’t really matter what happens before or after. We just try to enjoy being on the ice and that’s what we did today despite the mistakes. Victoria and Nikita had a really great performance and so it’s just the way the sport goes.”
Stepanova and Bukin laid it all out in their performance to “Primavera” and “Cry Me a River” to score a new personal best of 127.64. The two-time European bronze medalists delivered excellent level 4 twizzles and lifts, however, she was graded a level 2 on the one-foot steps, while he a level 4. The diagonal steps were graded a level 3 with many positive GOEs, and the team finished third overall with a total score of 211.29.
“I don’t know how to answer whether we expected this result,” said Stepanova. “We were second last season and yes, it’s hard to answer. We had a good performance today. The coaches are happy and the crowd supported us, which was really nice.”
“We didn’t think about that,” she responded when asked whether they felt their season’s best would be enough to get on the podium. “We were not calculating, but we are improving from one competition to the next, hence, we try to gain more and more points every time.”
Skating to “Space Oddity,” Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri delivered level 4 lifts, twizzles and dance spin, however the diagonal steps were only graded a level 1. They placed fourth (120.92) in the free dance and slipped to fourth overall (205.58).
Fabbri said the didn’t know what took place before they skated in regards to the long wait.
“We stayed focused and talked to each other a bit, and somehow we succeeded to keep our focus,” he explained. “But still, it was hard to skate after this long wait, because you need to keep the right intensity in your muscles for a long time. This somehow interrupted our routine—in terms of being nervous and also physically. If you keep the tension in your legs for too long, you feel tired much earlier, but it’s ok, it’s part of the sport.”
“In the first half of the season, we couldn’t perform really well, so we want to keep up the good work and be more ready for the World Championships,” he added.
Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson moved up to fifth overall (192.34) after placing fifth (118.08) in the free dance. Their “Madonna” routine featured level 4 twizzles and lifts and good level 3 one-foot work, but the midline steps were graded a level 2.
“The crowd really kept us going, especially when clapping towards the end and it gave us that little push,” said Fear. “It was so uplifting!
“We just love to entertain,” she said when asked what sets them apart from other teams. “I know, that’s the thing with the dance couples, but we love to pick the crowd-pleasers.”
“We are really happy with our free dance today,” added Gibson. “We skated one of the best this season. We just love to bring joy with our skating.”
“Next, we have the World championship in Montreal, which is so exciting for us because that’s where we train,” said Fear. “It really feels like our second home and we are so proud to compete there.”
Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia maintained sixth place overall (188.03) after their performance which was highlighted by level 4 twizzles and strong level 3 diagonal steps. The team also earned a new personal best of 112.93 for their engaging routine to “Survivor.”
“I think we did not bad,” said Zagorski. “I think that we both feel that we didn’t deliver as much as we would have liked to on the short dance, so today we really wanted to please ourselves and I think we pretty much did that. There were a few small mistakes, but overall we are pretty happy. Point-wise we lost one place, which is a bit unfortunate, but we tried our best today hopefully we can improve on that for the next competition.”
Spain’s Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin maintained seventh place (185.84), while teammates Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz moved up one spot to eighth (183.12).
Natalia Kaliszek and Maksym Spodyriev of Poland (180.26) and Ukraine’s Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin (179.94) rounded out the top 10.