Recap: 2018 Internationaux de France

by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The last of the six Grand Prix competitions was held in Grenoble, France from November 23-25. Ten teams representing six countries competed for prize money and points toward qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

The final podium included Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron of France (gold), Russians Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (silver) and Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (bronze).

The French team competed for the first time since winning the 2018 World Championships in March. Their record smashing scores proved they had not lost a step in the eight months since taking gold in Milan, Italy.

Rhythm Dance

Papadakis & Cizeron danced to two Astor Piazzolla tango selections choreographed by Christopher Dean. The twizzles, curve lift and second pattern were level 4; the judge’s scores were all +3, +4, and +5. The component marks averaged above 9.50, with their music interpretation getting four 10s. The 84.13 was the highest rhythm dance score of the Grand Prix Series and put them in first place.

Sinitsina & Katsalapov also chose Astor Piazzolla’s music. Their twizzles and lift earned level 4; the patterns and midline step sequence were level 3. The second place dance scored a personal best 77.91.

At Skate Canada and again in Grenoble, both their patterns earned level 3s – higher than many of the other teams. Katsalapov credited their work with champion tango dancers, Dmitry Vasin and Sagdiana Hamzina.

Gilles & Poirier’s dance to “Angelica’s Tango” by Piernicola di Muro used a warm and romantic approach that scored 74.25. The Canadians struggled with their levels, earning twos for the twizzle, circular footwork, and second pattern. They were third at the end of the rhythm dance.

Just as with their 2016-17 free dance, “Con Buena Onda”, the team is committed to making the tango on ice look just like what dancers do on the floor.

Fourth through sixth places were very close. Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker of the United States scored 69.85, while Spain’s Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz (68.16) and Americans Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons (68.14) were in a virtual tie.

Free Dance

Papadakis & Cizeron built on their over night lead and beat their closest competitor by over ten points in the free dance to “Duet” and “Sunday Afternoon” by Rachael Yamagata. The French team had the music for several years, but did not choose it until this season when they wanted to explore and try new things.

“For different reasons both pieces of music are very interesting, with different moods,” Papadakis said. “The program tells of the meeting of two lovers and relationships that are complicated.”

Their contemporary dance was interspersed with intricate lifts and crisp footwork, then closed with unique choreographic movements. Highlights included the level 4 diagonal step sequence that earned 11.82 points and the hydro blading curve lift that eight of nine judges awarded +5. The segment recorded the highest free dance score of the season – 134.65.

New to their list of choreographers this season is two-time World Champion, Stephane Lambiel. At the press conference, the 2018 Olympic silver medalists shared their experiences working together.

“He knows nothing about ice dancing. He is all imagination – no rules – nothing stops him,” Papadakis said with a laugh.

“His artistry is special. It was a great collaboration,” Cizeron added.

Sinitsina & Katsalapov performed a blend of Russian classical and modern sentimental genres to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and won their second 2018 silver Grand Prix medal.

“Our program is a breath of fresh air in competition and training,” Sinitsina said. “We want to draw everyone into our performance and make it look like it goes by in one minute – one breath. It feels light and airy.”

Their opening level 4 twizzles earned all +4 and +5 GOEs from the judges. The level 3 serpentine footwork totaled 10.49 panel points. The closing choreographic movements added almost 12 points. The 122.47 score was a personal best.

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier performed to “Vincent” (“Starry, Starry Night”) in an emotional tribute to the Dutch artist Van Gogh. The couple collaborated long distance with the British duo Govardo for their cover to the original Don McLean song.

“The story is not exactly about Vincent himself,” Gilles said. “It’s about how everyone struggles on a day-to-day basis. Vincent was an artist. He struggled because no one appreciated his work.”

The spin, lifts, and twizzles earned level 4; the footwork was level 2. The segment scored 114.49.

The Canadians earned their second Grand Prix bronze medal with a total 188.74.

“We’re a little bit disappointed not to qualify for the Final. We had very tough events with deep fields – like these two teams. We need to look at the levels in our programs, which were very low at this event to make sure we’re ready for the championship season.”

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker were fourth with their dance to “Trampoline Theme” and “In This Shirt” by the Irrepressibles. Their total was 181.47. Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons (171.17) were fifth; Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain LeGac finished sixth (170.64).

The event sealed the roster for the Final.

Sinitisina & Katsalapov won a spot with their silver medal plus the one at Skate Canada.

Hawayak & Baker’s gold medal at NHK plus fourth in France gave them a position.

Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron earned 15 points for their win at Internationaux de France, but missed their NHK assignment due to his back injury and could not qualify for the Final.

December 6-9 – Vancouver, BC Canada

Senior Qualifiers:

  • Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) – 30 points
  • Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS) – 30 points
  • Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) – 26 points
  • Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA) – 26 points
  • Kaitlin Hawayak & Jean-Luc Baker (USA) – 24 points
  • Tiffany Zagorski & Jonathan Guerriero (RUS) – 24 points

Juniors Qualifiers:

  • Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov (RUS) – 30 points
  • Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Nikita Nazarov (RUS) – 30 points
  • Avonley Nguyen & Vadym Kolesnik (USA) – 28 points
  • Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko (RUS) – 28 points
  • Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (CAN) – 28 points
  • Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya (GEO) – 28 points