Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France took a very narrow lead of .05 points ahead of Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov on Thursday in Graz, Austria. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy are currently in third.
The top two teams both delivered the goods in their respective dances. The main difference came down to the program component scores (PCS) and grades of execution (GOE).
Papadakis and Cizeron met all key points in their Finnsteps and all elements were graded a level 4 except for the diagonal steps and Papadakis’ pattern steps—both of which were graded a level 3. The twizzles and lift were both very good, and the defending champions earned 88.78 points for their Disco/Blues routine to music from Fame.
“We are very pleased,” said Cizeron. “there is still a room for improvement and we are excited about the free dance. Technically the program was correct and the audience was with us—even if the seats are far—we felt it. We had some fear at the beginning of the season with this program, being a bit vintage, but now we feel that most love it.”
“Even if it is not a big arena, we felt how the audience was very enthusiastic and very supportive,” said Papadakis. “It is not our season best, but we are happy with our performance. We have fun with this program, but if it is only us, it does not work: we need the audience to have fun as well.”
“We made a lot of changes in this program, especially the end,” she added. “I think it adds more moves connected to the theme. It is true that it’s a challenge to stay grounded on the ice while moving the upper body, especially as the theme is something we picked from the floor. All that we do is supposed to be on the floor. It was a challenge to put it on the ice and stay focused. We try to stay really relaxed with our skates, with our legs, while the upper body moves to the music. It’s different and we worked on it. It’s something that comes with the competitions—with the competitions it gets easier. At first, we were struggling with the rhythm.”
Of their costume change, Papadakis noted that they like to change in the middle of the season as the original ones feel more like “practice costumes. “Now this version is the final one, with crystals, more ‘show time’ costumes,” she explained.
Sinitsina and Katsalapov showed very good level 4 midline steps, as well as twizzles and lift. The Finnsteps were graded a level 3, as was the pattern dance for Sinitsina in their Foxtrot/Quickstep routine to “Singin’ in the Rain,” and the 2019 World silver medalists scored a new personal best of 88.73.
“We are feeling just awesome now!” said Katsalapov. “We finished the program and skated with ease. When we finished the program, we still had so much power. Obviously, we were not only skating on emotions, we were controlling all elements, because we, especially me, sometimes could do something what we shouldn’t do. We prepared very well and I think the program today showed it.”
“Europeans is one of the most important competitions for us,” shared Sinitsina. “We never won a medal here and we wanted to skate clean all season and we want to improve. We have been training very well since the New Year.”
“The judges recommended to not wear the jacket,” said Sinitsina of Katsalapov’s costume change. “They said it was distracting when he moved. They said he should wear something more elegant and we took their advice.”
Guignard and Fabbri also earned a new personal best (84.66) for their “Grease” routine which was highlighted by very good level 3 midline steps and level 4 twizzles, lift, and Finnsteps.
“We are finally happy about our performance,” said Fabbri. “This year has been really hard. Because of my injury (tendon injury to his right hand), we couldn’t train properly, and once the competing season started, we just had back-to-back competitions, so we didn’t have time to practice.”
“I still feel a little weird, but the strength is there,” he explained. “I can do everything I could before the injury. We came back to some elements and features that we planned to put in the program at the beginning of the season. We did a lot of work last month. I am now much more secure—even the normal transitions are now easier than they were a month ago.”
Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are currently in fourth with 83.65 points after their Quickstep/Blues dance to selections from Moulin Rouge. The twizzles and curve lift were both graded a level 4.
Stepanova said they were not particularly satisfied with the marks. “We’ll have to see what have we done wrong.”
Guerreiro felt they could have skated better, but that it wasn’t bad for the first day. “Tomorrow is a practice day and we hope to skate better on the last day,” he said. “We only had one practice on the practice rink and it was the first time we were skating on the main rink.”
Hurtado was a bit disappointed with some small mistakes, but still felt it was good overall. “We have been working on consistency a lot and it’s just very disappointing when you have been doing it every day and then in this precise moment of competition, you don’t execute it as you would like to. Overall, I think we’re growing.”