One year after moving up to the senior ranks, the French ice dance team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron took both the European and World title. As a result, they were the first French team to win the World title since 2008 when Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder won gold in Sweden.
In 2016, they confirmed their position as the top ice dance team in the world by repeating as European and World champions; all this despite missing the first half of the season due to a concussion Papadakis suffered after a fall during training.
At only 21 years old, the French ice dancers have achieved a great deal, however, they are moving forward and getting ready for the upcoming season at their training base in Montreal, Canada, with coaches Romain Haguenauer, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.
“We will skate to a jazzy Blues and a Swing, but not to Hip Hop,” Cizeron said, regarding the short dance. “For the free dance we chose something completely different from last year. It is a program with contrasts, but we haven’t finalized the storyline yet. We searched for the music for a long time and we want to move forward boldly and create a piece of art.”
“The Blues suits us very well because we can express it very well,” Papadakis added. “We also like the Swing rhythm.”
The ice dancers plan to announce their music choice on the day of their first competition. “We want to surprise the spectators and then they should see the programs right away,” Cizeron explained.
The first outing of the world champions will be the national “French Masters” competition in October. At press time it was not clear when and where the competition would take place as the ice rink in Tours, France, where it should be held, had to be shut down for repairs.
Following their second world title in April, the French dancers took part in the French tour and became very popular.
“We got a lot of feedback,” Papadakis shared. “A lot of people in France know us now, which became obvious during the French tour. Brian Joubert is still a star because he was also world champion. It is a bit of a question of the generation. The older spectators really like Joubert because they have known him for a long time, while we are more the stars for the younger fans.”
In spite of their success, the two-time world champions remain grounded. “Gravity holds us on earth,” Cizeron commented with a laugh.
“We are still doing the same competitions and we still have the same coaches,” added Papadakis. “Our life is not different from two or three years ago.”
Papadakis’ injury and the uncertainty of when they could compete again, made the past season difficult for the team.
“It was a difficult season, not only because of Gabriella’s problems,” Cizeron admitted. “It was also more difficult because it is harder and more stressful to defend a title than winning it for the first time. However, I believe that eventually it made us stronger and we are more aware of our skating.”
“I had other injuries before that were equally painful, therefore it wasn’t something so different for me,” Papadakis explained. “Obviously I am now a bit more careful, but something like this can happen anytime on the ice. Sometimes I am still thinking about it and sometimes I have slight headaches, but it is not a major problem.”
In April, Papadakis suffered from a light form of mononucleosis which forced the team to withdraw from the team challenge competition in Spokane, USA. Since then, she has completely recovered.
The two-time European and World champions are now training in their large group in Montreal, and have prominent training mates now as Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir returned to competitive skating. The French say it is not a problem for them at all.
“There are no stars. All of us are just athletes that share the ice. We get along with them very well, as with the other couples in our group,” Cizeron said of Virtue and Moir. “They are not detached.”
The youmg team hopes to take a short vacation before the season begins, although they have not yet decided when. After the Masters competition, they are scheduled to compete at Trophee de France in France and NHK Trophy in Japan for their Grand Prix events.
“We wanted later Grand Prixes and we are glad that we got them,” said Papadakis. “Hopefully we’ll be at the Final in Marseille, France. Then we’ll have French Nationals in Caen, France, followed by Europeans, Worlds and maybe the team event if France qualifies.”
Article contributor: Klaus-Reinhold Kany