by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The 2019 World Figure Skating Championships were held from March 14-24 in Saitama, Japan. Twenty-seven teams from 20 ISU countries competed in the Rhythm Dance. (RD)

European teams won the top three spots. The last time a North American couple began the Free Dance below third place was fifteen years ago in 2004. Small gold, silver, and bronze medals in that order were awarded to Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA), Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) and Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS).

RHYTHM DANCE

Eighteen of the twenty-seven teams earned season best scores.

Papadakis & Cizeron tangoed to selections by Astor Piazzolla and earned all level 4’s and a record-setting 88.42 score for a solid lead. On a lighter note, the couple returned to their original costume, with a few additions for the event. They felt the black color fit the atmosphere.

Papadakis commented on the program. “We have worked a lot on the technique since Europeans. I think that’s what made a difference. We love this program; we love working on it.”

She continued, “Sometimes we have difficulty finding something that suits us. This time, the Tango theme was right up our alley.”

“We chose a more classical music to show the passion of the Tango without anything artificial,” Cizeron added.

Sinitsina & Katsalapov also danced to music by Astor Piazzolla – “Verano Porteno”. All the elements except his twizzle received level 4; the Midline footwork earned a 4.01 GOE. The score was 83.94

The team spent most of their time since Europeans working on their programs – doing lots of run-throughs on ice. This season has brought a big change to their approach to everything they are doing.

“We fell in love with our work, and that’s our biggest motivation,” Katsalapov explained.

The Russian National Champions gave accolades to the excellent skating conditions at the Saitama Super Arena.

“The quality of the ice is absolutely unique,” Sinitsina added.  “It supports every edge and allows us to make all the movements freely.  It’s a pure joy to skate here.”

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin danced Paso Doble and Tango to earn a third place 83.10 score with all level 4 elements. The European silver medalists felt that in the beginning of the season the rhythm dance was their week point.

“We know that the key to success is hard work, so we did our best to increase our skills in expression and speed,” Stepanova said.

“We have made an attempt to fix the mistakes that we have made at the Russian Nationals and the European Championships,” added Bukin. “We wanted to skate heartily and enjoy our performance.”

The three North American teams finished fourth, fifth and sixth, less than a point out of third place and within striking distance of the podium.

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (83.09), “We were very pleased today to give out a strong performance. We got all level 4s which was our goal; it’s a great start toward the whole competition.”

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (82.84) “The last time we did a Tango in this building was the 2014 World Championships. It felt good to come back and do this program that we love,” said Poje. “I’m not sure what levels we got, it doesn’t really matter anymore at this point. We had a connection with the audience, and those are the memories that we keep,” added Weaver.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (82.32) “It felt great to perform out there with the audience today,” said Chock. “Today we had a lot of fun,” added Bates.

SAITAMA SCORES

The Rhythm Dance scores for the top 12 teams averaged out to be higher than those received earlier in the season at Europeans and Four Continents where six of the teams had competed at each event.

At Worlds, eleven of the top twelve teams earned level 4 for each pattern. However, at Europeans only one of the six, and at Four Continents none of the six received both level 4’s.

At Worlds, eight of the top twelve teams earned level 4 for their step sequences. At Four Continents, two were received and none at Europeans.

These two elements have the highest base values, so when added to the GOEs the scores increase.

Several factors can explain the rise in the levels. First, the couples spent considerable time since Europeans and Four Continents working to perfect their pattern dance and step sequences. Second, the technical specialists were a bit lenient in their calls. The third possibility is a combination of both.