by Anne Calder | Photo by Daphne Backman

Boston is a city rich in sports traditions. The natives are ‘wicked’ proud of their professional and collegiate teams. It is fitting that the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships be held in the city of champions.

Ice Dance opened the competition on Wednesday morning with the short dance – twenty of the thirty teams qualified for the free program.

Highlights included several season-best performances that the appreciative audience rewarded with standing ovations. The final placements produced a free dance skating order, that upped the anticipation for the Thursday night final.

And so the scene was set…

The top three podium teams received level 4 for all their elements. The difference in their technical scores came from the judges GOE marks. They all earned personal best scores for the short dance, free dance, and total.

Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) danced a seamless contemporary program to “Rain, in Your Black Eyes” and “Build a Home” to win gold. The defending World Champions mesmerized the audience with their detailed footwork and deep edges. The judges rewarded their component skills with eighteen scores of 10.00. The free dance earned 118.17 and a total 194.46. They were the highest Ice Dance scores earned at a World Championship.

“We didn’t expect these high marks at all. It took us a moment at the end of our program to realize what we have achieved, and I still can’t believe it,” Papadakis said.  “I just want to catch this moment and enjoy it.”

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA) performed last. The siblings knew they needed a flawless performance. All season their  “Fix You” program by Coldplay had earned much-heralded reviews. They stepped on the ice and did not disappoint. Their ice-covering twizzles done to the music crescendo drew a huge audience cheer and at the end, a standing ovation. The free dance was 113.73 and the total was 188.43. The first-time 2016 U.S. National Champions earned the silver medal.  

“I think I have a new favorite Boston sports memory,” Alex said.  “All the time growing up it was other people – on the (baseball) field or on the (hockey) ice, or on the (basketball) court.  What we did was very special, and we’ll remember it for a very long time.”

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) won the bronze medal with a strong sophisticated performance to Rachmaninov’s “Concerto No. 2”.

“This piece of music was presented to us by our coach, Igor (Sphilband),” Bates explained.  “At the time, we were a bit naïve and thought, ‘Yes, it’s great; we like it’.  Then we realized not many ice dancers have skated to this music before and started realizing why.  It is so demanding.  It took us a very long time to get the stamina, to craft the material, and that didn’t happen in the first half of the season.  Tonight was the best skate of the season.”

The audience showed appreciation for their performance with a cheering standing ovation. The judges awarded 113.31 points. The 2015 World silver medalists added bronze to their collection with a total 185.77 score.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA) moved from sixth to fourth with a lively animated dance to the soundtrack of the Fellini film, La Dolce Vita.  The reigning Grand Prix Final silver medalists earned level 4 for all their technical elements. The Free Dance (112.07) and Total (182.72) were personal best scores. They beat their season’s best by six points.

“I have to say that we were pretty impressed,” Lanotte said.  “For one second I thought these could not be our scores; they got it wrong. We are super pleased with how we skated.  We tried to give it our best shot. When you are in sixth place after the SD, you don’t have anything to lose.”

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN) danced a dramatic interpretation of “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter and “This Bitter Earth” by Dinah Washington and “Run” by Ludovico Einaudi.  Their elements were all level 4, except an unfortunate misstep on the twizzles earned level 2. However, the reigning World bronze medalists fought to the end and received a personal best 110.18 score. The total was 182.01. They slipped from fourth to fifth place.

“I think if we can take anything from this it is we’re not ready to wind down yet,” WEaver commented.  “We’re only getting stronger and stronger.  This is just a little bit of a valley, and we know that better things are to come for us.”

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) danced to “Adagio for Strings” by Daft Punk and placed sixth. The dramatic presentation earned all level 4 marks and a 108.37 personal best score. The total score 176.81 was also a personal best.

“A 108 (free dance score) is a big step up for us,” Hubbell said.  “It’s a big moment in our career.  The standing ovation in both of our programs really means a lot because it means the audience got pulled into our story.”

“We’re going to continue on the path we’re working on which is connecting to our program.  We’re going to work on new lifts and elements,” Donohue added.