Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France lead two U.S. couples after the World Figure Skating Championships short dance in Boston on Wednesday, seeking to become the first repeat ice dance gold medalists since 2007.
Papadakis, still dealing with residual effects from an August concussion, and Cizeron scored a personal-best 76.29 points and take a lead of 1.59 into the free dance Thursday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra).
It’s the highest short dance score since Meryl Davis and Charlie White‘s world record 78.89 at the Sochi Olympics.
U.S. Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are in second and third, respectively. The third U.S. couple, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, is seventh, putting the U.S. in position for three couples in the top seven overall for the first time since 1965.
The Shibutanis, who also tallied a personal best Wednesday, are trying to become the first siblings to win a World title in 25 years.
“It was the strongest performance of the season,” Maia said in a press conference. “We truly loved our short dance this season, so to end it like that in front of the audience today was pretty special.”
The last Americans to win a World title were Davis and White, who prevailed in 2013 and then became the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champs in 2014. They haven’t competed since but haven’t retired, either.
The Shibutanis have been on the upswing this year, winning their first U.S. title in January and their first Four Continents Championship in February, beating Chock and Bates in both competitions.
The Shibutanis earned World bronze in their first year as seniors in 2011 but haven’t been on the podium at the Olympics or Worlds since, with a best of fifth at the 2015 Worlds.
Chock and Bates led after the 2015 Worlds short dance but were passed by Papadakis and Cizeron in the free skate as the French became the youngest couple to win a World title in 40 years.
This season, the French returned from Papadakis’ concussion in an August practice fall to win their Nationals in December and the European Championships in January. She dealt with headaches and trouble focusing for months.
“I still have some headaches sometimes,” Papadakis said Wednesday, “but nothing really bothering me training.”
This year, Chock and Bates hope to play the comeback role.
“A silly mistake on my second twizzle that cost us,” Bates told media in Boston. “At this event, with this many good teams, you just can’t afford that. So, a little bit disappointed in myself.”
Later Wednesday, IceNetwork.com will provide live coverage of the men’s short program for subscribers beginning at 6:15 p.m. ET.
World Championships Short Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 76.29
2. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 74.70
3. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 72.46
7. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 68.44