Gabriella Papadakis, Guillaume Cizeron win figure skating worlds ice dance, break record

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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.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

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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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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