The 2016 European Championships finished with a flurry with both the pairs and ice dance titles decided on the final day of competition in Bratislava.
When Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron took to the ice for the free dance to defend the title they won last year, the pressure must have intense. This was their first international since Papadakis suffered a concussion in August and they sat in second place following the short dance. A loss here would surely have had an impact on their chances of repeating as World champions in Boston in March. However, as soon as Cizeron lifted Papadakis and twirled her around in their opening stationary lift, everyone inside the Ondrej Nepela Arena was captivated. In the subtle moments of the superb choreography in their “Rain in Your Black Eyes” and “Build a Home” program, the audience spontaneously burst into applause.
It was also technically a cut above the rest of the field. Two lifts, both step sequences, a combination spin and a twizzle sequence were graded Level 4. Only a straight line lift was graded Level 3 and coaches Romain Haguenauer, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon will no doubt have that fixed by the time Worlds rolls around in just under two months’ time. Papadakis and Cizeron scored 111.97 for their free dance, earning a total of 182.71 and a second consecutive European title. “I think it feels even more amazing than last year because we proved that we can do it again,” Cizeron said. “We managed to have a really great moment during the performance and the audience shared this program with us.”
There was no question that Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte had an unfortunate draw. The leaders from the short skated first in the final flight, and, while they connected very well with the audience in their free dance to music by Italian composer Nino Rota, they were perhaps not as sharp as they normally are. The Italian team garnered Level 4s for their twizzles, curved and rotational lifts and combination spin, but only received Level 3 for their circular and diagonal steps and a straight-line lift, which cost them valuable points.
The 2014 European and World champions were also docked a point for an extended lift violation. They took the silver medal for the second year in a row with a free score of 105.70 and a total of 178.01. “We started with a very specific warm-up for this program,” Cappellini explained. “We had a tough skate today. We missed a couple of points on our first lift but there is nothing we can do about it now.”
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Solovyev ranked second in the free dance. Their “Anna Karenina” program earned a score of 107.79, a new personal best. The 2013 European champions hit Level 4 for all their elements, apart from a Level 3 circular step sequence. Despite finishing ahead of the Italians in the free, a total of 176.50 kept them in third place. Their bronze this week in Bratislava now gives the Russians the full set of European medals to go with their silver from 2012 and gold from 2013. “We can say that we really are back and we proved that we are competitive,” Bobrova said. “There are no regrets, except for the twizzles in the short dance maybe.”