Recap: 2021 Gran Premio d’Italia

by Matteo Morelli | Photos by Robin Ritoss

Italy’s Olympic venue Palavela in Turin welcomed back an international skating competition after hosting the Grand Prix Final in 2019. Gran Premio d’Italia, the third GP event of this season, was allocated to Italy as a replacement for the Cup of China, cancelled due to travel restrictions relating to the pandemic.

Day 1: Rhythm Dance 
Italy’s Carolina Moscheni & Francesco Fioretti kicked off the Rhythm Dance competition, making their Grand Prix debut and earning a season best. “We felt good on the ice, it was our first grand prix as a team and we wanted to skate clean. We think we delivered a good performance”, Moscheni said. They were invited to replace Carolina Portesi Peroni and Michael Chrastecky, who had to withdraw from the event because of Peroni’s injury. However, this didn’t stop her from coming to the event and cheer for her teammates from the audience.

Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud from France delivered a good RD with a score that was a fraction of a point away from their personal best, ending in sixth place: “We made what we hoped for, and we think our skate today was very good”.

USA’s Caroline Green & Michael Parsons RD continues to grow this season, scoring a new personal best with 75.60 and ending fourth: “Our programme felt really good! We are very proud of how it went. We had back to pack GPs (they were at the Skate Canada the week before). We have done this before and are not concerned about it, we always wanted to give all we have on the ice”.

Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France won the RD with their Waacking dance earning a score of 87.45, followed by training mates Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue from the USA with 84.79 for their Janet Jackson dance, and Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin in third place with 81.47 for their first competition this year. 

This is what the top couples shared at the press conference.

The French couple explained why they changed their music.

“We changed the second music (‘U move, I move’ by John Legend), Papadakis said.  “We find it very clean to perform, and feel that we made a good improvement to the programme. We had a very good time performing it.”

“It was very fun to choreograph,” added Cizeron. “The Waacking idea is something that Marie-France (Dubreuil) came up with. We tried a lot of different styles, but Waacking ended up being the one we wanted to skate with. It was new to us, so we trained for a few weeks with specialists and did our best to become ‘waackers’! We took all the time we needed before bringing it to the ice. It ended up being a really good match for skating, because it is mostly arm and body movement, so the legs are free to do what they have to do. It flows really well, we made it our own and can relate to the dance and concept”. 

They also shared some thoughts about their time away from competitive events last season.

“A lot of things happened since the pandemic started”, Papadakis said. “We didn’t do any events for a while, it was hard for everybody, but at the same time we turned it around and looked at it to find time to work, and also to rest as we were pretty worked out from the previous season. We repurposed and found new ways of skating: this time gave us the opportunity to do so”.

Madison Hubbell got a bit emotional when talking about this being their last season.

“Our first GP was in Nice, so it is great that Worlds are going to be in France and we can close our career there. I have been in competitive sports for as long as I can remember. It is easy to be hard on yourself and to think that there is always more to accomplish, especially now with all these great teams in the ice dance. There comes a time when you have to say that you are happy with what you accomplished”.

“Our career has been full of ups and downs, but this year has culminated into us falling back in love with the sport and with everything we do on the ice,” Donohue added.  “We have no regrets and are very happy with what we have built. We are still pushing ourselves to be the best we can be before we finally take our skates off.”

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin were asked about their return to competitions.

“This is our first competition this season,” Stepanova said. “We are still lacking in confidence, we would have liked to compete before but this is the way it was. We have tried our best, and will do the same tomorrow for the free dance.”

“We missed competing and are very happy to be back”, Bukin added. “We could only practice for a week and a half. It was a little sad before as there were some problems. From a physical point of view, today was not bad, we think we skated better than in the practice”.

Asked if they feel any pressure going into the free dance, Stepanova said that their programme is different from their RD and based on Romeo and Juliet.

“We want to tell a true love story on the ice, we want to come together as one in the dance”.

Day 2: Free Dance
Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron dominated the Grand Prix of Italia with a total score of 220.06, with a margin of 12 points from the second medallists. Both wearing different costumes from what they presented at Finlandia Trophy a month before, their free dance based on Gabriel Fauré’s Élégie (tango) earned 132.61 points and a new season best. In second place, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue with and overall score of 207.9 and 123.11 points for their free, losing a couple of marks from the score they received at Skate America because of a small mistake with a lift. Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin’s return to competitions was crowned with a bronze medal, with their new programme earning 120.71 points and an overall final result of 202.18 points. 

Moscheni & Fioretti shared how happy they were to skate in front of their home audience: “This was a great experience, and we were extremely proud to skate in front of our home crowds”. 

Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus from Canada went up by one place from their RD, ending in seventh place: “We are very happy with the performance we did today, we were very focussed and very present, which is the goal for us this season.” 

Lopareva and Brissaud skated to their new personal best: “I think we made some tiny mistakes, but for such a big and stressful competition we feel very pleased with the result and made a lot of progress”, said Lopareva. She was also questioned about her new hairstyle: “my hair is quite easy to keep being this short”!

Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu from China earned 111.31 points for their free and a total of 184.59, ending a step away from the podium. “Our programme was very hard to choreograph! We are happy with the result”, said Liu. 

Green and Parsons dropped by one position after a fall at the exit of the second curve lift. “There are definitely a lot of emotions that we put on the ice”, said Parsons. “Mistakes happen, we need to build on the programme and do better next time”.

The medallist gathered at the press conference room following the end of the competition. 

“We are very happy with our performance today. We made some really good technical improvements from Finlandia Trophy”, Cizeron said. “There are still a lot of things to work on. It is a whole year’s process, and we take it step by step. We are really looking forward to seeing where this programme can go”.

“We were very happy with the performance,” Papadakis added. “We made some improvements and they showed in some of the levels that we had. We will see how the programme goes and still have a lot of work to do”.

Hubbell & Donohue are the first ice dance team qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

“We made some choreographic improvements from Skate America and made some changes to the music”, Hubbell said. “We made a mistake at the end, which always leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth. But sometimes you jump in the air, and you kick your partner in the crotch, so thank you for not falling over Zachary! Certainly we are disappointed with the score today and have a lot to work on still, we have to hear the feedback on some of the elements and work on them”.

“On the other hand, our connection with the programme and love of performing it is growing,” Donohue said.  “We are very eager to get home and make some improvements and changes.”

Stepanova commented on their new free dance.

“As for the performance today, we feel that we are a little less satisfied than yesterday, we were lacking some speed and energy. As for the emotions, it is a dance about love and we feel we weren’t able to tell the story fully. We are still pleased with what we did. Now we have another week to get ready for our second Grand Prix”. 

“Actually, we already planned to work on this programme for the past season, but since we were only able to compete at the Worlds and Russian championships, we decided to keep it for the Olympic season,” Stepanova added “We feel it is a truly Olympic programme. I always wanted to skate a programme about love: we did a show on this music, and we realised that this suited us very well and decided to use it for our free dance”.