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Gabriella Papadakis, Guillaume Cizeron go disco with ‘Fame’ ice dance

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Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron conjured 1980s workout videos with their leading rhythm dance at Internationaux de France on Friday.

Papadakis and Cizeron, four-time world champions, debuted their aerobic-themed dance to selections from the musical “Fame” on the Grand Prix level in their home nation in Grenoble.

The full dance is available for NBC Sports Gold subscribers here at the 1-hour, 16-minute mark.

Papadakis’ teal and pink costume was reminiscent of Olivia Newton-John. Cizeron’s workout-like outfit included a headband with a sleeveless pink top.

“It’s really fun for us that it is really different,” Cizeron said, according to the International Skating Union. “It’s different from what everyone else is doing, and it’s different from what we’ve been doing. It was a kind of a challenge to work on this program and make it fun.”

Internationaux de France concludes Saturday with all of the free skates. A full live stream schedule is here.

Internationaux de France
Rhythm Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 88.69
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 80.69
3. Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) — 79.65
4. Olivia Smart/Adrian Diaz (ESP) — 76.09
5. Tiffani Zagorski/Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) — 75.05
6. Natalya Kaliszek/Maksym Spodyriev (POL) — 74.19
7. Carolane Soucisse/Shane Firus (CAN) — 68.61
8. Julia Wagret/Pierre Souquet-Basiege (FRA) — 63.55
9. Marie-Jade Lauriault/Romain Le Gac (FRA) — 61.48
10. Allison Reed/Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) — 58.10

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Alexis Pinturault wins World Cup opener; Americans just miss podium

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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — Widely regarded a main candidate to succeed retired Marcel Hirscher as World Cup overall champion, Alexis Pinturault passed his first test with flying colors on Sunday.

He beat teammate Mathieu Faivre to lead a French one-two finish in the World Cup season-opening giant slalom in spring-like, sunny conditions on the Rettenbach mountain glacier.

Pinturault held a slim lead of two-hundredths of a second over Faivre after the opening run but extended the margin to 0.54 in the final leg. It was the 12th time that Pinturault led a race after the first leg, and the ninth time he held on to the advantage to win the race.

“Everything is working really well, I have a good team around me,” Pinturault said. “That’s something that brings me a lot of self-confidence.”

Zan Kranjec of Slovenia came 0.63 behind in third, followed by American duo Tommy Ford and Ted Ligety, who trailed by 0.70 and 1.09, respectively.

Ford, with his best career World Cup finish, and Ligety, with his best since January 2018, came close to ending the U.S. men’s program’s longest World Cup podium drought in two decades. The American men had zero World Cup podiums last season for the first time since 1997-98.

Lucas Braathen of Norway posted the fastest second run to climb from 23rd to sixth, 1.10 behind Pinturault, while Swiss prospect Marco Odermatt dropped from third to 13th after coming wide on a left turn halfway down his final run.

Pinturault finished runner-up to Hirscher in the overall standings last season, making him one of the favorites to take over from the record eight-time champion from Austria as winner of the sport’s biggest prize.

“It’s not so easy for us that Marcel isn’t there anymore,” Pinturault said. “We have a lot of pressure, more than before. Usually all the pressure was on Marcel. But this is a wonderful start for me.”

Pinturault also won the traditional first GS of the season in the Austrian Alps when it was last held in 2016. The race was canceled due to bad weather in the past two years.

Sunday’s win was Pinturault’s 24th career victory, and 12th in giant slalom. He also won Olympic bronze in the discipline in 2018.

“This was the first event of the new season, you had to get used to racing again,” said Pinturault, adding it was “cool, a super start” for the French team to place 1-2.

The result came as a surprise for Faivre, who said before the race that his start in Soelden had been doubtful after back problems affected his pre-season training.

“It was a tough summer because of the injury. We didn’t really know how long it would take for me to heal,” Faivre said. “But training the last two weeks went very well. I had a lot of fun.”

While France led with the top-two spots, the U.S. ski team had an excellent start to the season as well with Ford and Ligety’s achievements backed up by Ryan Cochran-Siegle finishing in 11th.

Ford improved one spot from his previous best — a fifth place in Alta Badia, Italy, last season — on a hill where he had never scored World Cup points before.

“I am feeling strong. My first run was just solid skiing, real safe. The second run I definitely trusted it more and let it go. Psyched with this personal best,” said Ford, who posted a photo from the race on his Instagram account and wrote: “Nice way to score points for the first time in Sölden.”

In sharp contrast to Pinturault, another favorite in the post-Hirscher era struggled in the opening race.

GS world champion Henrik Kristoffersen failed to find his rhythm in the opening run and finished eight-tenth behind Pinturault, before he almost skied out in the final run, losing control of his inside ski in a wide left turn. The Norwegian ended up more than two seconds off the lead in 18th.

“It was a classic mistake that cost me,” Kristoffersen said. “But it’s only the first race of the season.”

The anticipated season-long duel between Pinturault and Kristoffersen will go into its next round at a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 24.

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MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing TV, live stream schedule

French gymnast who broke leg at Rio Olympics qualifies for Tokyo after father’s death

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STUTTGART, Germany — French gymnast Samir Aït Saïd took a moment for himself while he posed for podium photos after the world championships still rings final.

He lifted the bronze medal that was draped around his neck, looked toward the ceiling of the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle and pointed up there. He kissed the medal and lifted it even higher, above his head, and shook it repeatedly.

“I hope he was proud,” he said.

Aït Saïd dedicated the medal, and the tears welling in his eyes during interviews, to his father, who died last winter of lung cancer, according to French team officials.

It wasn’t just the world championships medal, the first of the 29-year-old’s career. Aït Saïd also qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by getting on the still rings podium.

He was the very last gymnast to go on Saturday. He knocked reigning Olympic and three-time defending world champion Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece off the podium and out of Olympic qualification. Petrounias can still qualify for Tokyo via another route next year, but it will not be easy.

Aït Saïd knows all about hardship. He is best known for a horrific scene: fracturing his left tibia and fibula on a vault landing in Rio Olympic qualifying and getting carted away on a stretcher. He also missed the 2012 London Games after sustaining three right tibia fractures at the European Championships, also on vault.

The day after his Rio injury, he said in a video taken at the hospital, “believe me, the Tokyo 2020 adventure is still in the cards. … We’ll go for that Olympic gold.”

Aït Saïd’s father was in the Rio Olympic Arena when he broke his leg. When Aït Saïd vowed to come back for Tokyo, his father promised that he would be there with him.

“Before my father died, I made him a promise that I would go to Tokyo 2020 to get that medal for him,” Aït Saïd said through a translator. “Unfortunately, he won’t have this chance to come to Tokyo to come see me, but I’ve given him my word that I will go get that medal for him. It was his dream, too.”

Fourteen months after Rio, Aït Saïd finished fourth in the world championships still rings final, .008 out of a medal. Even though France failed to qualify a full team for Tokyo, Aït Saïd had multiple paths to clinching an individual Olympic spot.

However, worlds would be his best chance. He needed to make the eight-man still rings final. He did. The way things shook out Saturday, he needed to outscore the last two Olympic still rings champions. He did.

Aït Saïd competed in vault in qualifying here, but he plans to only do rings in Tokyo. That’s the medal he promised his father.

“I need to rest,” he said, “because what is awaiting for me is very, very hard. I’m going to work hard to go get that title at the Olympics.”

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