Recap: 2024 World Championships

by Matteo Morelli

After having lost its chance to host the event in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Montreal could finally deliver the World Figure Skating Championships this year, with Centre Bell arena welcoming all the top skaters in the world for the most important competition of the season.

The ice dance podium saw the same medallists from last year imposing themselves again as the top teams, only with a difference between second and third place. Winning a second consecutive world title were Madison Chock & Evan Bates of the USA, which sealed a season of gold medals from each event they competed at. Going up from third to second place were Canada’s Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, followed by Italy’s Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri earning bronze.

Event recap
Last year’s world champions Madison Chock & Evan Bates entered the competition with the highest scores of the season and strong of earning the first Grand Prix Final title of their career. This event was particularly important for them as they are one of several teams from the Ice Academy of Montreal, competing in the city where they relocated several years ago.

“As I get older and I do more of these World Championships, you realize that they are really a unique opportunity to skate on the biggest stage other than in an Olympic year and I think in particular with Montreal Worlds, which is something we have been looking forward to since the pandemic”, Bates shared. “Training here and living here for the past five years, it feels like home”.

Their rhythm dance was improved and earned a new season best for them with 90.08 points, whilst they earned 132.12 for their free based on the concept of time, totalling 222.20 points.

“Diving into something abstract, like the concept of time, was totally different and unique for this program”, Bates said. “It is probably the most physically demanding program that we have created, putting in really difficult lifts especially towards the end of the program”.

“It is a standalone piece that we have worked on for almost 9-10 months and put so much effort and work into and hopefully it will be remembered”, he added.

Chock and Bates are now the first American team to win two consecutive world titles. With thirteen years of partnership at the highest level and a wedding coming up, it is not yet clear whether they are going to continue competing in the future.

“We are going to re-evaluate and see how we feel at the end of season and after our wedding”, Chock shared. “That is the big thing on my mind now”.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier crowned their dream of medalling in front of their home audience. They earned 86.51 points for their rhythm dance and ending in provisional third place, but then excelled and won the free skate with a score of 133.14 and a total score of 219.68, both new personal bests for them and allowing them to claim a silver medal.

“We felt very present during the performance”, Poirier said. “We believe the preparation during the weeks that led to the competition really made the difference”.

“I think this program in particular has been physically really challenging for us”, he added. “It was a very difficult program to pace, to find where breathing moments were, where we could pull back a little bit, where we really had to attack”.

Being the last team to skate in the free didn’t stop them from delivering what they were hoping to show.

“I think skating last can be really difficult, but we really embraced the moment, we let the crowd give us energy and to create a moment like that and a program like that at home was something so special”, Gilles shared.

They have also been competing for thirteen seasons, but like Chock & Bates aren’t able to indicate whether they are ready to retire or not.

“When we feel like we don’t want to come into the rink every single day, I think it is when you won’t see us anymore”, Gilles said. “We love the training process, we love our teammates, we love our coaches, so I right now we are just going to enjoy the shows this spring and see where life takes us”.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri entered their twelfth world championships together as the two times European champions. They finished the rhythm dance with 87.52 points and a provisional second place, however they dropped one place with their free that earned 129 points, for a total of 216.52 worth a bronze medal.

Their condition entering the event was not ideal, with Fabbri feeling unwell during the week leading to the competition.

“We are very proud of our performance tonight because it has been a tough week, I have been sick for all the week pretty much, so it was not an easy free dance tonight”, Fabbri shared. “It has been a fight since the beginning”.

Adding to this, the last twenty seconds of their free dance saw Guignard’s skirt getting stuck under one of her blades, a potentially dangerous situation that they managed to control really well.

“When I saw the skirt under my blade I just said okay, I have got just one jump and the lift, and we did it”, Guignard said.

“I saw the skirt under Charlene’s blade when we ended our sliding and I was a little bit scared”, Fabbri added. “Fortunately, it happened at the very end of the program, we just had to survive for twenty seconds and nothing happened”

Like the other two medallists, they are also not able to share whether they want to dive into another competitive years – it would be a remarkable sixteenth year of competitions for them. This is an important reflection on longevity in ice dance, which is a discipline that requires years on the international scene for teams to grow and develop.

“All of us are teams that paired up not as youngsters necessarily so it always takes a little longer for a team to gel, to come together and to create an identity together”, Poirier shared. “I think that is a process that takes time, you don’t see a lot of teams that will excel in a year or two into the partnership because you don’t have that time together to know who you are necessarily”.

This longevity is met with an increasing awareness of the importance of proper recovery and care for the athlete.

“If you look at a skater like Deanna (Stellato-Dudek) who is a World Champion at 40, I think there is so much more emphasis placed on the care of the athlete and I think that allows us to continue competing as long as we want to, we don’t get stopped by injuries”, Poirier added.

Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson of Great Britain finished in fourth place with a total of 210.92, mirroring the same result they had at the previous World Championships. The British duo bid farewell to their Rocky programme, which received some critiques at the start of the season to then become a crowd favourite.

In fifth place, Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha earned a total of 208.01. Pushed by a very supportive local crowd, they managed to successfully skate to new personal bests after missing Nationals and Four Continents due to a concussion for Lajoie which left them with just three weeks to prepare for Worlds.

The teams from sixth to eighth place ended only with a point difference between each other, including Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevičius of Lithuania, Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko of the U.S., and Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud of France.

In contrast with the more experienced teams, it was interesting to see the impressive performances from both ex junior teams at their first senior year that qualified to the finals. Former junior world champions Kateřina Mrázková & Daniel Mrázek of the Czech Republic ended in 13th place with 188.28 points, followed by South Korea’s Hannah Lim & Ye Quan with 186.51 points.

This event saw 36 teams competing and only 20 qualifying to the final, however the quality of skating seen in Montreal supports a need to increase the number of teams reaching the free dance back to 24, to allow even more teams to experience the final and keep pushing the ice dance level up.

With another season ending, we would like to congratulate all skaters on their achievements. Now that we leave the 80s rhythm dance theme behind, it is time to get ready for next year’s new theme: social dances and styles from the 1950, 1960 and 1970s!