by Matteo Morelli
Torino’s Palavela welcomed back a Grand Prix Final after hosting the last one in 2019, as the 2020 and 2021 events got cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Junior and senior top qualified teams gathered at the historic Olympic venue to compete for the available titles.
The senior event saw Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier dominate both rhythm dance and free dance, securing a Grand Prix Final gold medal for Canada after Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir last won one in 2016. USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates earned a second consecutive Grand Prix Final silver Medal after their last one in 2019, and Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri won the bronze medal, the second of their career.
Canada also won a gold medal in the junior field, with Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont winning both segments of the competition. Korea’s Hannah Lim and Ye Quan ended in silver medal position, followed by Kateřina Mrázková and Daniel Mrázek from the Czech Republic in bronze medal position.
Let’s look into both categories in more detail, including comments shared directly by the teams.
Senior Ice Dance Final
Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sørensen finished the rhythm dance in fourth place with a score of 83.16.
“We were very excited to be in our first Final,” Fournier Beaudry shared. “We had two days of good practices and I think that the performance followed our good training.”
“We are trying to find each other’s eyes and create a moment that to us is really pleasant, and so whatever comes out of it is just extraordinary,” Sørensen added.
Despite of a strong free dance on their flamenco based music, they had to pay the price for a fall on the curve lift, dropping two positions and ending in sixth place overall with 196.15.
USA’s Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker earned 79.50 points for their rhythm dance and 118.56 points for their free, with an overall 198.06 points and a fifth place.
“Qualifying here was absolutely one of the first goals for us, but now that we are here, we have to always strive to win,” Baker said.
“We were thrilled with the performance, it was a skate that we felt incredibly present the entire time we performed it,” Hawayek shed in relation to their free dance. “It is always a learning experience to see that sometimes feelings don’t always add up to scores, but we are really happy with the performance,” she added.
Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson from Great Britain earned 80.75 points for their rhythm dance and 120.15 for their catchy Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ free dance, with an overall 200.90 points and a fourth place finish.
“I had the best time out there, it was an experience that I will always treasure,” Fear said. “We learn a lot in each competition, and I feel like from the last week at nationals we learned stuff to bring here and from here to bring forwards.”
“It was different to have a competition so close to such a big event for us and it is always so great to go home and do nationals and see family and everyone there,” Gibson added.
Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri earned their second Grand Prix Final bronze medal in front of a supportive home crowd.
“It is always nice to skate in front of the home crowd, you feel a little bit more pressure of course,” Fabbri said. “It was not super easy but we are proud of what we did.”
Their rhythm dance totalled 84.55 points and presented some changes compared to what they presented at their two back to back Grand Prix events in Anger and Sheffield.
“We decided to change the last choreo step and the lift after the second Grand Prix because we had more time to work on them,” Guignard shared.
“We weren’t getting really good points compared to other teams,” Fabbri added. “We all agreed the last music that we skated on was not as strong as other music, so we decided to change it after Sheffield.”
At the free dance, the Italian team earned 122.29 points and a total of 206.84, leaving them satisfied to skate on home ice but a bit disappointed with the overall result.
“It was a great feeling to skate in Italy and to go back home with a bronze medal which is really important to us,” Fabbri said. “We are just a little disappointed with the scores, we lost quite a lot of levels between yesterday and today, and we are going to find out the reason why.”
They have a clear idea of what they want to focus on going forward in the season. “Our next goal is the National Championship and, after that, the European Championships, which in our opinion is our most important competition at the moment,” Guignard shared.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates competed at their third competition of the season, presenting programmes that are growing to show the quality of their technical skills and interpretation, and recording season bests on both segments.
“We had a challenging start of the season with the Grand Prix and it really just made us dig deeper and look at a total evaluation of our skating and ourselves and we are proud with what we have done in such a short amount of time,” Bates shared.
Their rhythm dance totalled 85.49 points, only a fraction of a point away from the Canadians in first place and leaving the field for the gold medal open.
Chock was pleased with their rhythm dance. “It has definitely grown so much, I know it can grow even more and I feel so happy and confident with the place we are at right now, so we are going to go home and keep working,” she said.
Their free dance included changes to the music, programme composition and costumes (their third – and, they confirmed, final – costumes this season), earning 126.45 points and an overall score of 211.94.
“This free dance has been a constant evolution through the Grand Prix,” Chock said. “After Skate America, we started to re-evaluate the concept and how we wanted to evolve the program moving forward and we came up with the spirit of fire and the spirit of air. We had a short amount of time before NHK to develop that.”
“It has been a work in progress since the start of the season, we continued to evolve the story and the characters and we decided to drive the free dance into a more contemporary direction, adding the more contemporary dance, adjusting the choreography, making a new choreography in some places and really just opening ourselves up to a new line of dance that we haven’t yet explored for ourselves on ice” Chock added.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier confirmed their supremacy across this entire Grand Prix season winning their first Grand Prix Final title. Their rhythm dance earned 85.93 points, allowing them to gain a small lead on the Americans.
“I think it is really nice that each couple brings something different to the table and has different strengths and weaknesses and I think that what makes this sport so special is that we each bring our own individuality in,” Poirier said.
“Today the level of performance was the highest it has been throughout the whole season, we really felt inside the performance and that was a really great feeling,” Poirier added. “We both felt a little bit hesitant on a few of the turns in the step sequences and we did get a bit lower levels than the previous competition, we thought that was a fair assessment.”
Their free dance based on music from the movie Evita rewarded them with 129.71 points and an overall total of 215.64, enough to confirm their lead and win the title.
“I think we felt great today, from start to finish,” Gilles shared. “I said to Paul after we finished, I felt that was the most present we felt all season.”
“We enjoyed being here in Torino and having a full crowd, the biggest crowd we have had all season, being able to tell the story and enjoy skating for them is something that we will always remember,” she added.
“Our goal for this season is to really recapture our joy of skating,” Poirier shared. “So far I think that goal has been very successful, and I think we are looking forward to continuing to do that in front of more audiences as the season continues.”
Junior Ice Dance Final
The Junior rhythm dance ended with the Canadian team of Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont in first place, followed by GB’s Phebe Bekker and James Hernande in second place, and Korea’s Hannah Lim & Ye Quan in third. Just a fraction of a point away from both third and second teams were Czech Republic’s Kateřina Mrázková and Daniel Mrázek: despite of a fall during the first dance sequence that costed them some precious points, the highest scoring team of the season still delivered a solid programme.
The free dance started with Fradji and Forneaux and Grimm and Savitskiy confirming respectively their sixth and f place, while Bekker and Hernandez dropped from second to fourth place. Marazkova and Mrazek had to pay the price for a fall in the opening rotational lift, but they still managed to deliver the highest programme components, climbing from fourth to third and earning a bronze medal.
“Today was my fault, I got really nervous, I started to shake in the lift and couldn’t make it,” Daniel said.
“We are not so happy because we did some mistakes, but we still did a good job and are proud of ourselves,” Kateřina added.
Lim and Quan skated clean and convinced with their free dance that allowed them to go up a position and finish in second place with a silver medal.
“We are really proud of how we skated coming into the competition, it shows our hard work throughout the Grand Prix season,” Lim said.
Bashynska and Beaumont confirmed their first place and a gold medal for Canada.
“This is our last junior year, every programme is very special, and we connected to it a lot” Bashynska shared.
“We put out two clean performances and that was our goal coming into this event,” Beaumont said. “To have won the event, we are super pleased, it is the cherry on top of the cake.”