The 2016 World Figure Skating Championships opened today with Boston playing host for the first time in the event’s nearly 100-year history. Up first were the ice dancers who put on quite a show for the multi-national TD Garden audience.
Defending champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron from France took the lead in the short dance, skating to a personal best of 76.29 points. “We’re very happy to have skated like this today,” Papadakis said. “It’s a new experience for us to be first after the short dance, so we’re looking forward to (the free skate) even if we’re not used to being in this position. We’re just going to skate as we trained for, and see what happens.”
The duo has a regal presence on the ice, and moved through their waltz/march program with technical mastery unparalleled by the rest of the field. They earned level four plus positive grades of execution on all of their elements. “We skated really well, speaking both technically and artistically,” Papadakis said. To be honest, I didn’t expect our score to be that high, we just beat our best score by five points.”
Finishing in second place were Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, the reigning U.S. champions. Skating to the story of Coppelia with music to match, the siblings were robotic, charming, and as usual, well prepared. While Shibutani and Shibutani were able to match Papadakis and Cizeron in terms of levels, they fell slightly behind on grades of execution and program components. Still, their score of 74.70 was a personal best. “This is definitely a departure, but it brings out our natural sibling chemistry — the fun that we have off the ice was put into this program,” Alex explained. “It’s something that we will continue to explore.”
“This was our strongest performance of the year, and our score was nice. We were just excited to carry the momentum of this program all the way through from nationals all the way up to this championships. We got all level fours, so that is something to be happy about.”
Last year’s silver medalists, Madison Chock and Evan Bates stand in third with 72.46 points. A mistake by Bates on the twizzle sequence and a level three on the second waltz pattern marred an otherwise exquisite program. “The performance felt very nice — very connected to one another and with the music,” Bates said after the performance. “There were some good things and bad things technically—a level four for the first time this season internationally, but also a silly mistake on the second twizzle that cost us a level. It’s just at this event with so many good teams, you just can’t afford that.”
Still in contention for a spot on the podium are Canada’s top two teams — Kaitlin Weaver and Andrew Poje who are in fourth place with 71.83 points while Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are in fifth with 70.70 points. Gilles and Poirier were a crowd favorite, skating to a Beatles medley in Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Band inspired garb. Like the top two teams, the Canadian silver medalists earned level fours on each of their technical elements.
“We are so excited,” Poirier said after their performance. “We took a big risk after Four Continents because we only had about three weeks to get this program together… but I think that the choices that we made in terms of character, to the changes in music, and the partial step sequence and key points in the pattern really paid off.”