Home Figure Skating News Gilles and Poirier dance to Grand Prix Final gold

Gilles and Poirier dance to Grand Prix Final gold

by Paula Slater
Iana Saveleva

2022-23 Grand Prix Final Free Dance

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada perform their Free Dance at the 2022-23 Grand Prix Final in Torino, Italy.

2022-23 Grand Prix Final: Free Dance

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada danced their way to Grand Prix Final gold  in Torino, Italy, on Saturday. USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates pocketed their fourth silver medal in their sixth appearance at this event, while Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy maintained third for the bronze.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (CAN)

Gilles and Poirier turned in a poignant, yet technically difficult, performance to music from the Evita soundtrack. The 2021 World bronze medalists earned a multitude of high grades of execution (GOE) throughout, while receiving level four for the twizzles, lifts, and dance spin. The one-foot steps were graded a level two for Gilles and three for Poirier, while they both received a level two on the circular steps. The 2021 World bronze medalist earned 129.71 for first place in the free dance and overall (215.64).

“I think we’re really proud of our performance today,” said Poirier. “It was such a joy to do our free dance today. We really brought the crowd with us. I think we’re just ecstatic to have this victory here with our team, our coaches, and with our teammates (Nadia Bashynska/Peter Beaumont) who won the Junior Final, as well. It’s a really special moment for us!”

Gilles said they felt “great” from start to finish and that it was the “most present” they felt all season.

“I think going out for the first time in Skate Canada, it (was) fresh and new,” she said of the free dance. “We don’t really know how it’s going to show the audience. And then, having to repeat it in Espoo, I think we were a little bit nervous trying to compete against how we did at Skate Canada. We didn’t compete against any of the times we did it before, we just let it skate today. I think it topped the other programs, because we just fell in love with the moment and the feeling, and it was wonderful.”

The Canadian champions haven’t looked too far into the future regarding the new Olympic cycle.

“We know it is the first step in the new quad,” said Gilles. “I think we’re just taking it year by year right now again, just focusing on each competition, each step forward. I think that really is what’s helping us this season, is not looking too far in advance and just being in the present.”

“We said all along, our goal for this season for us is to really recapture our joy of skating,” added Poirier. “It was really stressful during the Olympics heading into that, and feeling the pressure, but I think we got soaked into that a lot. So of course, we want to win. We want to be the best in the world. But more than that, we want to feel really proud of the work that we’ve done and feel like we’re enjoying every performance we do. So far, I think that goal has been very successful. I think we’re looking forward to continuing to do that in front of more audiences as the season continues.”

Gilles pointed out that one of the things they love about competition is skating for the fans in the audience—something all skaters were lacking during the pandemic.

“I think we really missed that last year,” she said. “We really missed feeding off the energy people give us. So, being here in Torino and having a full crowd, its the biggest crowd we’ve had all season. Being able to tell the story and enjoy skating for them is something that we will always remember. We’re just so thankful for them to come back and enjoy the sport that we all love.”

Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)

Chock and Bates were fluid in their innovative routine to the ethereal music of “Souffrance” and “Les Tectoniques.” The 2022 World bronze medalists also earned high GOEs for all elements, particularly on their level-four straightline-rotational lift. The team also received a level four on the dance spin and twizzles, while the one-foot steps were graded a level three. However,  the diagonal steps were graded only a level one. Nevertheless, they scored a new season’s best of 126.45 for second place in the free dance. Their total score was 211.94, enough to keep them in second place overall with five points to spare.

“It was everything we hoped it would be,” said Chock. “I think for where we have been, and the amount of work we’ve put in since Skate America and NHK,  we pushed and evolved that program in a short amount of time. We are so pleased with how we performed today. We had a great time connecting with each other, and it felt like we were present in every moment.”

Bates admitted to feeling very tired and gave everything they could in the amount of time they had.

“We knew it was gonna be a fight,” he said. “We just dug deep and put it all out. That’s why I was tired towards the end, but I’m really proud with how did we did.”

In the free dance, Chock represents the spirit of fire, while Bates is the spirit of air.

“It’s like a whirlwind,” explained Bates, “just like the fire can be this season. We really embraced the change finding this narrative in the first piece of music in between our two grand prixes. It’s something totally new for us, but we felt like we really have found the direction for this free dance. Like Maddi said, contemporary free dance. Something that is so suitable, especially for Madison’s character on the ice—fire , sparkling, majestic, beautiful, wild and exotic. For me, wind playing her support, her frame—the person who hopefully allows her to shine and hopefully be her best self. We felt that these characters suit us in who we are off the ice, and I think we are really looking forward to pushing the program and see what will it become.”

It was noted that Chock had a costume change for this performance.

“This is my third free dance costume this season,” she said. “A bit unusual, but not unheard of. As we kept evolving the story, and the mood kept changing. The costume we had for NHK, once we kept evolving, it wasn’t the right fit anymore. So we decided to go into a more contemporary-modern dance direction.”

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (ITA)

Guignard and Fabbri brought their home crowd to their feet with their unique routine to “My Love Will Never Die” that was highlighted by creative lifts and fast footwork. The two-time European bronze medalists stayed in character throughout, producing level-four lifts. The twizzles were graded a level three for her and four for him, while the one-foot steps were a level three and two. However, the dance spin only garnered a level two. The team from Milan placed third in the free dance and overall (122.29/206.84).

“Our performance wasn’t perfect,” said Fabbri. “We were feeling hard on our legs. However, we are pretty satisfied about our performance, just a little disappointed about the score. We lost quite a lot of levels between yesterday and today, so we’re going to find out the reason. Honestly, this is one of the lowest scores we ever had, especially compared to our usual one. Our home crowd today was particularly conspicuous. It was a pleasant experience, however we would have liked to obtain better result, but we are happy overall. We were just hoping for something more.”

“Our next goal is the national championships,” said Guignard. “After that, the European Championships, which in our opinion, is our most important competition at the moment.”

“We’re very happy about the fact that Italy is improving, is getting a really good team, not just in ice dance or in singles skating, but overall,” said Fabbri, noting Nikolaj Memola, who won the Junior Men’s event. “We have really good skaters right now. I think this is really important right now for the development of the sport in our country.”

Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson (GBR)

Fear and Gibson maintained a high level of energy throughout their entertaining routine to music by Lady Gaga. All elements received high GOEs, however they received a one-point deduction for an extended lift (back end of their stationary-rotation). All lifts, twizzles and the dance spin garnered a level four while the midline steps were a level two. Fear received a level two on the one-foot steps, while Gibson’s were a level three. The five-time national champions picked up 120.15 points for fourth place in the free dance, and moved up one spot to fourth overall (200.90).

“I think I’m over the moon, personally,” said Fear. “I had the best time out there! It was an experience that I’ll always treasure. I think we skated exactly what we wanted to skate. We just soaked it all in.”

Fear noted the mistake on the extended lift and some low levels on the steps, but feels that what’s exciting for the rest of the season in terms of seeing where they can improve.

“We always learn a lot in each competition,” she said. “I feel like from the last week at nationals, we learned stuff to bring here, and here to move forwards. It just feels so great to know that there’s always little jets we can pick up along the way.”

“I agree,” said Gibson. “Just constantly working and building on the program: the speed, the flow, the projection of them, just turning them bigger and bolder. We  really want to show an improvement for the last half of the season.”

The team will take Christmas break and hope to have a really strong showing at the European Championships in January.

“Later, we’ll be in Tokyo for Worlds,” said Fear. “We’ll just see what happens, but we’re so excited to get to go to Japan again!”

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (USA)

Hawayek and Baker gave a beautiful performance to music by Askjell Solstrand. The 2018 Four Continents Champions earned a level four for all three lifts, the twizzles and dance spin. The one-foot steps were graded a level three for both skaters, while the diagonal steps were a level two. The team scored 118.56 for fifth place in the free dance and overall (198.06).

“We were thrilled with the performance!” said Hawayek. “It was a skate that we felt incredibly present the entire time we performed it. It’s always a learning experience to see that sometimes feelings don’t always add up to scores and vice-versa. Like you can feel like it’s a skate that you hold onto and scores very well, and today, it felt like a really strong performance. We didn’t score as high as we thought we would have, so we’ll definitely continue to build for our next events.”

“We had fairly decent levels in the Free Dance in Finland,” added Baker. “But you know, I think for us, we were really just focusing on energy management. Like try to push our performances, because the amount of emotion that we fully put in, it cannot be done robotically. It is pure and real emotions that we put out there, so it’s really important for us to be sure we come into the event where it’s not just fresh, but like, emotionally fresh as possible.”

The team will spend some time with their family over the holidays before preparing for nationals and the Four Continents.

“Knowing how strong North American Ice Dance is, we’re pushing towards being a part of that,” said Baker. “Training to push for a national title, as well as being top five at Worlds. So, we know being here is the first step to all those. We’re definitely not happy with the score that we got today. We know we can do better, but the performance for today’s purpose, we thought we really maximized in where we’re at right now.”

Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen (CAN)

Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen placed sixth (112.99) in the free dance, and as a result, slipped from fourth to sixth place overall (196.15). The 2022 NHK Trophy Champions gave a magnetic and complex performance which featured level-four twizzles and dance spin with many GOEs. Unfortunately, there was a loss of balance during a change of position on the curve lift, resulting in a two-point deduction for a “fall.” However, the team from Montreal didn’t let that get in the way of their fiery intensity throughout the rest of the performance.

“It’s one of those days,” noted Soerensen. “I couldn’t even be angry when I got off the ice, because I was so happy with what we were able to do. It felt really good out there. I think it’s spur of the moment thing when a mistake happens, when your mind drifts, because you feel so good out there. I think it was a concentration thing, and I’m really proud we were able to come back and do the rest.”

He chalked the mistake on the lift up to “lack of concentration” and said they were not going to read into it too much.

“We are professionals,” added Fournier Beaudry. “We train every day. Whatever mistake can happen, we train for this. Of course, we don’t want those small or big mistakes to happen, but I think in a moment, we just continue and talk to ourselves to do the best performance we can till the end. It’s like everything in life. If we give up, we will not go further, so I think we were good in coming back and continuing.”

The team has four weeks before nationals and will take a break with with family before picking up training.

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