From an adoring home crowd to their faces on trash cans, it was an unforgettable week for French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. They capped it with the best ice dance performance in history.
Papadakis and Cizeron followed their Olympic gold with their fifth world title, posting the highest score ever to close the world championships in Montpellier on Saturday.
“In Beijing, we were really going there to compete and to get the gold, and that was our goal,” Cizeron said. “Here, I think we saw it more as a celebration of our journey, of our school, of the sport.”
Papadakis and Cizeron broke their own records for the rhythm dance, free dance and total score, tallying 229.82 points, which was 2.84 more than the previous high they set at the Olympics.
They distanced silver medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue by 7.43 points, the third-largest margin of victory since the new scoring system was implemented in 2005. Madison Chock and Evan Bates took bronze, completing a podium of three dance couples that train together in Montreal that all produced personal bests.
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Papadakis and Cizeron now own the three biggest margins of victory and are one world title shy of the dance record set by Liudmila Pakhomova and Aleksander Gorshkov in the 1970s. Not that they focus on numbers.
“True story, when we’re in the kiss and cry and the score comes up, we have no idea what it means,” said Papadakis, whose dad owns the Big Fat Greek Gyros food truck in Austin, Texas. “We look at the coaches to ask if it’s good or not.”
Before their free dance, Cizeron felt chills from the screaming audience, which was largely absent at the Olympics. He had difficulty holding back tears. Papadakis said it was a once-in-a-lifetime event to compete at the top of their game at a home world championships, where their faces were everywhere.
“We’ve seen ourselves on trash cans; we’ll take it as a compliment,” Cizeron said. “Hand sanitizer, water bottles, a tramway, many bathrooms. … Our coach Marie-France [Dubreuil] said, ‘You know you’ve made it when your face is on a bottle of water.’
“We would rather have it on a bottle of Champagne.”
Nobody in the world field has beaten the French in more than seven years. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, the Olympic silver medalists and only couple to beat the French since the 2018 Olympics, weren’t at worlds due to the Russian ban.
The U.S. won at least one dance medal for a seventh consecutive time and, for the first time since 2016, earned two medals. Overall, American dance couples grabbed 17 medals in the last 17 years, with the last gold in 2013.
Hubbell and Donohue, the Olympic bronze medalists, earned their fourth world championships medal (all silver or bronze) in their final competition before retirement. Hubbell had said her goal was to not cry until after the performance, but she couldn’t even make it through the morning practice without full sobs of happy tears.
“I wasn’t handling it super well,” she said. “I wasn’t going to search for the emotion of it being my last time and instead celebrate what I’ve been able to become over the last 22 years. I couldn’t be happier with what we did on the ice.”
Chock and Bates picked up their third world medal, and their first in six years.
“It certainly hasn’t been an easy path getting back onto the world podium,” Chock said. “I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way because I feel like we were meant to take this journey.”
The U.S. earned a medal in every discipline at worlds for the first time since 1967, thanks in part to Russia’s ban and China sending no skaters. The U.S. has never won a medal in all four disciplines at an Olympics since dance debuted in 1976.
Next year, the U.S. is expected to have the maximum three entries in all three disciplines at a worlds for the first time since 1982, pending confirmation of pairs’ spots after Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc‘s withdrawal due to injury during the free skate.
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