They are young and beautiful, as the song says, and they are already making a name for themselves. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron took the figure skating world by storm last season, with their freshness, authenticity and daring routines – and, starting November, they have already established themselves as one of the most powerful ice dance couples out there: they won both of their Grand Prix events, Cup of China and Trophée Eric Bompard, and, a month ago, in Barcelona, they retained the bronze medal in the first (senior) Grand Prix Final of their career. A skyrocketing ascent in the world rankings for the French training in Montreal – and the best possible way to start their road to 2018 PyeongChang. The Olympics are their long term goal, as Guillaume convincingly stated in an interview for Inside Skating a while ago: „We would like a medal at 2018 Olympics, so we will work very hard until then. Every season is important and we need to prepare this starting now!“. Part of their preparation is, of course, the continental competition in Stockholm, less than a week from now – and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are definitely entering the 2015 Europeans as one of the heavy favorites.
by Florentina Tone
„We want to be on the podium [at the Europeans]“, said Guillaume Cizeron at the press conference after their free skate at the Grand Prix Final. And then he added: „We will work for that, but I think we are already lucky to have made really good improvements – and we feel like it has already been a good season. Everything is possible for us to have a podium finish, but we don’t know yet, it’s sport”. With the confidence boost given by their bronze medal in Barcelona – after all, up to this point of the season they have been Europe‘s highest ranked team in the Grand Prix circuit – the French can certainly hope they’ll do good in Stockholm, at the second Europeans of their career.
Feet on the ground, the 19-year-old Gabriella felt the need to emphasize they’d have tough opponents at the continental competition: „We didn’t see Bobrova and Soloviev [in the Grand Prix events] and they said they would go to Europeans, also the Italians [Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte] weren’t ready at Cup of China, but they will have worked and we don’t know what they will do. There are also other Russian couples and the British [Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland] too”.
Since Dmitri Soloviev’s recovery after the knee surgery is taking longer than expected, this particular ice dance couple won’t be in Stockholm next week, the three spots being assigned to the teams that medaled at the Russian Nationals: Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin (sixth place at the Grand Prix Final), Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin, Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin. The 2014 European bronze medalists, the British Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland, will fight too for a place on the podium, while the Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, World and European gold medalists last season, will surely try to defend their title in Sweden, a week from now. One thing is sure: the European Championships will be a heavily disputed event, with the French still having the best chances to claim a medal in Stockholm given their scores so far; and I wouldn’t be surprised if that particular medal would be actually golden…
“We fake nothing”
Skating to “Escobilla” and “Farruca” by Christina Hoyos in the short dance, Gabriella and Guillaume are all character and attitude – but it’s the free dance that sets them apart from the rest. Inspired by the ballet “Le Parc”, created in 1994 by Angelin Preljocaj for Opéra Garnier (Paris), and set to Mozart’ Adagio from Concerto no. 23, the French took everyone’s eyes in Barcelona with the softness and fluidity of their dance, with their sense of togetherness, with the details, the intricacy of their movements. For many people watching figure skating, this is THE free dance of the season, a marvel, a true gem – the program that won them two Grand Prix events and the bronze in the Final. Their coach, Romain Haguenauer, proposed this particular musical piece to them, and, skating to it, “you have this good feeling… We really love this program, I enjoy so much dancing to it”, said Guillaume after their free skate in Barcelona. The program is “more about the choreography, the ballet… We wanted to experience this kind of dance and we love the way we move together”, he added.
Asked about the magic of their performance, about the spell they cast on the audience while skating their free program to Mozart, Gabriella said simply: “It is something you need to feel inside of you; and you need to be one with the crowd, with the judges, with your partner, the ice, everything has to be like one thing. I think that makes the performance give emotions to everybody”. As for their connection on the ice: “I think it came naturally. We have skated together for a long time”. More than that, “this year, we have worked with a theatre coach, to improve our looks together and our feelings, so everything in the free dance is felt. We fake nothing”.
They do have a wonderful bond, Gabriella and Guillaume – and you can tell this only by looking at them, on and off the ice. In the mixed zone, minutes after their performance, and minutes before knowing they won a medal, the French seemed genuinely happy with their skate, with the experience of the first Grand Prix Final of their senior career. Talking to the journalists, they were constantly smiling and glancing at each other – a colored mixture of French and English sentences, seasoned with laughter and a lot of fun. “What kind of person is Gabriella?”, someone asks Guillaume, and Guillaume smiles and looks at her: “Bouches tes oreilles” [Cover your ears]. She laughs with amusement: “Je n’écoute pas” [I don’t listen…]. But she does pay attention to Guillaume’s efforts to describe her: “She’s a good partner… A good kid, a good girl. We have a lot of fun together, we’re skating together for ten years, so… She’s a hard worker, even if she’s kinda lazy sometimes… No, she’s working hard, she’s funny…“. The description ends with laughter and accomplice looks – and, from where I stand, this great friendship they share, along with their obvious talent must be a big part of their success.
PHOTO-GALLERY: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, bronze medalists at the 2014 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona