2023 World Figure Skating Championships
USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates electrified an already-frenzied crowd, taking the lead after the Rhythm Dance in Saitama, Japan. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy are currently in second place, followed by Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates
Skating last, Chock and Bates electrified an already-frenzied crowd in Saitama with their technically demanding Samba/Rhumba routine to a remix of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” The three-time World medalists earned many high positive grades of execution (GOE) for all their elements, in particular, the level-four twizzles and midline steps. The pattern steps were graded a level three, while the curve lift was graded a level four. They earned a new personal best 91.94—just under a point current off the world record score set by France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at this event last year.
“We feel great!” said Bates. “We skated as best we possibly could today. It was so much fun! The Japanese audience was giving us so much love. We were very delighted to give a great performance for them today. We’re thrilled with the score as well. It’s always nice when you come off the ice feeling like you’ve skated well, and then you see a score that reflects the feeling that you had inside.”
“It was an incredible energy in the arena today,” Chock added. “Looking around and seeing all the thousands and thousands of fans that came out to support us and cheer us on was just breathtaking and magical. It was such an honor to perform in front of that audience! They really propelled us through the program and gave us so much energy. It was incredibly fun!”
Bates also gave a shout out to the Italians for getting a level four on the pattern steps.
“This element is not like a quad in singles or it’s not an element that is incredibly difficult,” he said. “In fact, sharing the turns between the woman and the man is a little bit easier and more fun. From year to year, there’s a little bit of experimentation with rules, and we’ve gotten used to that over the years. So just stay open-minded and wait around for the meeting that’s coming up very shortly to see what the rules will be next season.”
Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri
Guignard and Fabbri sizzled in their smooth Samba/Rhumba dance to “This Is,” “I’m Crying” and “Pantera en Libertad.” The newly-crowned European champions showcased level-four twizzles, a new straightline lift, and rare level-four pattern steps, all of which were rewarded multitudes of GOEs. Fabbri received a level four for his midline steps, while Guignard’s were graded a level three. They earned new personal best of 88.21 going into the free dance.
“We feel fabulous!” said Fabbri. “We wouldn’t have expected such a high score at the end of this season, that’s why we are very happy! We know that we have skated very well today.”
“We have also skated very good at the European Championships,” said Guignard, “but we didn’t receive such a high score, that’s why we were very surprised. Finally, we have received this score! We have worked so hard on this to make it work, that’s why we’re happy that we finally (reached it). Better than never, so we are very happy!”
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier
Gilles and Poirier showed lots of personality in their upbeat and characteristic Cha Cha/Rhumba routine, which featured strong level-four twizzles. The rotational lift was also graded a level four, while the midlines steps were a level three and the pattern steps a level two. Although they placed third (87.34), the 2021 World bronze medalists had the second highest program component scores of the field.
“I feel like there is just something different about us this year,” said Gilles. “Like we are doing everything together, and we feel united every step of the way. Even when things get a little bit sticky, it doesn’t throw us anymore, and it doesn’t shake us. I am so proud of what we accomplished today with being a little bit nerve-racking not having two competitions under our belt, missing out on that. But we never stopped believing in ourselves, and it just feels nice and gives us the confidence to go into tomorrow and feel ready.”
“I think we are really proud of how we skated today,” said Poirier. “It was so nice to be able to perform in front of the crowd in Saitama today! It was so full, there was so much energy. These are the moments we dream of when we train, and the moments that we train for. We were really happy with that performance. We felt present, we felt united in what we were doing, and that’s the feeling we want to leave the ice with every time we perform.”
The team had to withdraw from both Canadian Nationals and the Four Continents as Gilles was recovering from an appendectomy following the Grand Prix Final.
“Surgery is no linear line,” said Gilles of her recovery. “It has highs and lows, lots of valleys. But then again, I was really lucky to have an incredible medical team behind me. My amazing partner and coaches supported me every step of the way, and gave me the confidence to come in and know it’s going be okay. Tomorrow will be better, and you can always make little milestones. I feel happy, confident, and I feel better, and that’s always a positive.”
Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson
Fear and Gibson of Great Britain fanned the flames with their sassy performance to a Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez-inspired routine. The twizzles and rotational lift were graded a level four, while the midline and pattern steps were graded a level three. The 2023 European silver medalists finished fourth with a new personal best score of 86.56.
“I’m so happy right now!” said Fear. “It was everything we wanted! We wanted to put out our best rhythm dance of the season. We did exactly what we trained, and regardless of where we are and all the pressure that comes with that, we delivered. I’m really proud of us. We’ve competed a lot this season, and this was the longest chunk of time we had at home to just train. We really wanted to make the most of that and gain momentum coming into Worlds.”
“We were building on our consistency,” said Gibson regarding their time after Europeans. “Trying to get our skating skills into our performances and really just working on the quality of the GOE of everything, and that really paid off here today. The way the crowd went today, I think the free skate will be insane. I’m so excited!”
Gilles added that she was sad that the free dance would be their last performance of the season.
“Even at every practice, the crowd has been amazing,” she said. “The fact that there are so many people here that came to watch us, it means so much, and it really makes a difference for the skaters.”
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen
Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen delivered a brilliant performance to music by Gloria Estefan, picking up a level four for both the twizzles and stationary lift. The pattern and midline steps were graded a level three. The 2023 Four Continents silver medalists scored 85.59 for a close fifth behind the Brits.
“It was great, I mean we’re very happy about what we delivered,” said Fournier Beaudry. “We had so much fun. I don’t know what more to say.”
“The crowd is just amazing,” said Soerensen. “Getting standing ovations, show dances are always fun! Seeing all the Canadian flags…just really grateful to be here! And for the most skate good today!”
The team is excited to show the people in Japan their free dance.
“Our free dance is a program that’s really, really special to us, something that’s close to the style of dance we really like to perform out there,” said Soerensen. “We’re just really excited to skate tomorrow!”
“It’s going to be very different from today,” added Fournier Beaudry, “a little bit more character…” Soerensen finished her sentence: “a little bit more tension, a little bit more drama.”
Fournier Beaudry sustained an medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear a week prior to the Four Continents, but they were careful and managed to compete.
“I have very good support from my physio and Skate Canada really helped me to communicate everything with all of my team members,” said Fournier Beaudry. “My injury is getting better and better every day. I’ll be fully recovered by the end of the season.”
Caroline Green and Michael Parsons
USA’s Green and Parsons put out a smooth Samba/Rhumba, earning a level four on the their twizzles and curve lift. The pattern and midline steps were graded a level two, however, all elements received positive GOEs, and the 2022 Four Continents Champions scored a new season’s best 78.74.
“I feel like I’m living like a dream right now,” said Parsons. “This is my first Worlds, it’s in Japan, and we just skated the best we possibly could. I’m so happy what Caroline has done, what we’ve done, with our coaches. Now it’s just ‘buckle up, get ready for tomorrow.’ I’m really, really proud with how we skated today!”
“I think it’s the first competition where we really felt that trust and faith in our training,” said Green. “Getting a late start to our season, things were constantly changing. This is kind of a reward for that.”
Parsons said they changed approximately 75 percent of the entire rhythm dance.
“It probably looks similar, but probably everything is different,” he said. “We did all of our changes after Four Continents. We came in here with a little chip on our shoulder because we knew we could do better. We could have done four more of those skates today. It felt amazing! That was definitely our best skate of the season.”
Rounding out the top 10
Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius
Lithuania’s Reed and Ambrulevicius are currently in a very close seventh with 78.70 points. Their spicy routine featured level four twizzles and rotational lift, level two midline steps, and level three pattern steps.
“We feel good!” said Ambruvelicius. “We’re happy and enjoyed ourselves a lot, especially with this crowd, until the end. It was fun. It was harder because it was hot, a lot of people, a long week, but the crowd gave us a lot of good energy. I feel that we left it on a good note. It’s the last time we skated it, so we wanted to enjoy it as much as we can.”
Reed agreed. “The heat though is tough. I mean, it was a long trip for everyone, but the crowd makes it so worth it. The energy they give is top notch.”
The team made a lot of changes to the rhythm dance after Europeans.
“To come out with this and to know that it really worked for us, we’re really proud of this program,” said Reed. “It was a lot of fun to build and a lot of fun to perform throughout the year. It was a good challenge.”
Finland’s Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis finished eighth (76.97), followed closely by Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler (76.56) of the Czech Republic, and USA’s Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko (75.24).