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Reflecting on Worlds: Papadakis & Cizeron Reach Perfection

  • Reflecting on Worlds: Papadakis & Cizeron Reach Perfection

    Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France compete to win the ice dancing event of the European Figure Skating Championships in Bratislava on January 30, 2016. / AFP / SAMUEL KUBANI (Photo credit should read SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Sometimes, in sport, in life, there are moments when beauty and perfection transcends all else. There are moments when the sheer delight of such a moment simply steals your breath away, and leaves you speechless with awe.

And it was to one of those moments to which the enigmatic French ice dance couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron treated us in Boston.

Papadakis and Cizeron were the reigning World Champions from 2015, but their 2015-2016 season immediately got off on the wrong foot. Papadakis took a bad fall in training during the off-season, and sustained a concussion. It was serious enough to take them out of their two Grand Prix events, and they did not return to competition until December. When they did, however, they soon quickly defended their French National title and won the European Championships.

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When they took centre ice to compete their free dance in Boston, they were already leading and favourite to win. Their sterling short dance had proved that, if anything, the enforced layoff had made them even better, and even though the two top US teams were nipping at their heels, they looked cool and composed.

Their program started softly, elegantly, sweeping into a stunning stationary lift that involved Guillaume spinning in place in a deep squat with Gabriella extended, almost flying like a bird. They then went into a graceful twizzle sequence, positions clean and held and turning across the ice like ballet dancers. Every movement was deliberate and thoughtful.

It took a keen eye to tell that they had started their circular step sequence, because the steps and movements looked simply like they were stretching to the music; everything organic and beautiful. The required elements simply did not look required in this program. The straight line lift followed, every movement perfectly timed in acknowledgement of the music.

The pairs spin was just as effortless as every other movement had been so far, and Guillaume's smile as they came out of it said it all - they were genuinely enjoying themselves. This wasn't work, it was play, and every moment seemed to follow on from the one before, as though - as commentator Charlie White said - they blended the technical requirements with the music, rather than being restricted by them.

By now the music was starting to swell, and the speed with which they took off into the diagonal step sequence was fantastic. Now they were both smiling; both revelling in the magic they were creating. The crowd seemed torn between cheering and enraptured silence, but when Guillaume swept Gabriella up into the rotational lift no-one could help themselves and the delight of the crowd was obvious.

The music dropped again, along with a beautiful choreographed lift, Guillaume once again low to the ice, Gabriella beautifully extending the line out from his body. And then the music was dying away, and with a brush of their palms on each others' cheeks, the French emerged from the enchantment of their free dance, into a world of rapturous applause, cheers, and an ovation that had started to stand before they had even finished.

I hadn't even noticed I'd been holding my breath. To me there was no question that they deserved the world record. Others might have memories of those they might consider better. But for me, I can't imagine seeing any ice dance better than I saw that night in Boston, and Gabriella and Guillaume's unimaginably perfect free dance will stay with me for a long time.

You can watch Gabriella and Guillaume's free dance here.

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