by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The 2016 Ice Dance Podium had a familiar look. The medalists were the last three former European champions. The French defended their title, followed by the Italians and Russians.

Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) propelled their bodies seamlessly across the ice and with effortless beauty performed a contemporary dance to the music of “Rain, in Your Black Eyes” by Ezio Bosso and “Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra.

“We relate it to many experiences we have had together on the ice,” Cizeron explained.  “We are using impressions and images that are a little bit more abstract than last year, but it’s still talking about feelings and a connection and our life, so it’s very concrete for us.”

Six of seven elements earned level 4. The component marks were mostly all above 9.00, including two 10’s. The reigning World and European Champions scored 111.97 and totaled 187.71.

“I think it feels even more amazing than last year because we proved that we can do it again,” Cizeron added.  “We managed to have a really great moment during the performance, and the audience shared this program with us.”

Papadakis spoke of not watching or hearing the scores of others. “We managed to stay in our own bubble and deliver the program.”

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA) skated first in the final group and performed a snappy, energetic dance to the Fellini Italian film, La Dolce Vita. The twizzles, spin, and two lifts received level 4, while the footwork and the opening straight-line lift were level 3.

Cappellini evaluated their performance.  

“We had a tough skate today. It didn’t flow as much. We certainly left a few technical points on the table like on our first lift. We want to finish the program like we can’t get up anymore, and that’s something we’re not achieving yet.”
“Being first in the free dance is definitely not our favorite,” Cappellini added. “If you skate last, it’s a long wait, and you can get very nervous like we did last year when we skated after Guillaume (Cizeron) and Gabrielle (Papadakis).  It’s mentally challenging. I would say skating second, third, or fourth is best. Skating first or last is the hardest.”

The 2014 World and European champions were ranked third in the free program with 105.70 points. They won the silver medal with a 178.07 total.

“Our next goal is the World Championships in Boston, and hopefully we can fight for the gold medal. We tried our best; we respect our competitors very much,” Lanotte concluded. 

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) scored 107.91 points and were second in the free program. Their circular step sequence was level 3, but the remaining six elements earned level 4.

Soloviev explained his emotional mindset during the performance.

“Skating today was extremely difficult.  We were nervous and worried.  I felt every single movement of Katia’s and mine.  I was so concentrated on everything, and that helped to keep me together.”

The 2013 European champions dramatically danced a personal best performance to the film soundtrack of Tolstoy’s classic tragic novel, Anna Karenina.

“We had a lot of friends, family and fans come here,” Bobrova said.  “At the end of the free dance, we looked up and saw that they were crying, but they were tears of joy. Yes, there are dramatic themes, but they did not cry because of the drama, but out of joy for the performance.”

 “We can say that we really are back, and we proved that we are competitive,” Bobrova continued.  “There are no regrets, except for the twizzles in the short dance, maybe.”

The bronze medalists totaled a personal best 176.50 score.

Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalpov (RUS) danced to the Andrea Bocelli vocal “Io Ci Saro” and scored 104.32 points for a fourth place finish. The Skate America silver medalists earned level 4 for five of seven elements. Both step sequences were level 3. A 1.00 deduction was incurred for an extended lift.

“Our free program today was good,” Katsalapov said. “We could have showed more energy and maybe improved a couple of technical moments like the first lift. It is a very complicated program and to bring together the music, the emotions, and the technical content is very difficult.  It is important for us to get feedback from here.  We learn something from every competition.”

Sinitsina & Katsalpov formed a new partnership after the 2014 Sochi Olympics and moved to Canton, Michigan to train with Marina Zouva. They scored a personal best total 172.75 at their first European Championships as a team.

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS) danced to Rachmaninov’s Revenge by Freddy Mercury and scored 98.90. They earned level 4 for the lifts and spin; the twizzles and footwork received level 3. A 1.00 deduction was given for an extended lift.

“It was harder both physically and emotionally to skate today,” Bukin said.  “Probably the day off in between the completion led to this feeling. We were nervous more before the free skate. Also, I made a mistake on the twizzles. We got a deduction.  What a pity.”

The 2015 European bronze medalists placed fifth.

Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland (GBR) withdrew from the 2015 World Championships due to illness, so opted to repeat last season’s program “Exogenesis Symphony Part 1” and “Butterflies and Hurricanes” by Muse. Five elements earned level 4 marks; the footwork garnered level 3.

Coomes assessed the performance. “You can’t beat the feeling when you finish (your program), and you know you’ve done a good job. We wanted to make a statement that we’re back, and we’re on our way to the top.”

The team switched coaches after the 2015 season and moved to Novi, Michigan to train with Igor Shpilband.

“We worked very hard coming into this competition, Buckland said.  “We didn’t know what to expect, but we just wanted two good performances no matter what the marks or placements.  We did that.”

The 2014 European bronze medalists finished in sixth place with a personal best 162.75 total score.

Notes & Quotes – A compilation of a few notable quotes from competitors who finished outside the top six.

Charlene Guignard (ITA), who finished seventh with partner Marco Fabbri, on their free dance performance:
 “It is without a doubt the best free dance of the season.  Today we achieved a very important goal for us.”

Federica Testa & Lukas Csolley (SVK), who finished eighth, on skating at home and the crowd response: 
(Testa) “This will be the best reception we ever get (at a competition).”
(Csolley) “We really concentrated on using all of the positivity and energy from the audience to push us forward.”

Nikolai Sorensen (DEN), who finished ninth with partner Laurence Fournier Beaudry, on not competing their free dance since Skate Canada in October: 
 “We had a chance to rework our program, and we cannot wait to analyze the feedback from the judges.”

Isabella Tobias (ISR), who finished 10th with partner Ilia Tkachenko, on mistakes in their free dance performance:
 “We didn’t skate our best. I think the results are fair; they reflect our skate. We are capable of doing it (free skate) much better. It was one of our worst performances of the season. We are a new couple, so we are trying to work out the kinks.”