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Beijing 2022 Olympics: in ice dancing, Papadakis and Cizeron no longer want to see gold slip away

There are so many ways to turn an Olympic dream into a ” worst nightmare “. In 2018 in Pyeongchang (South Korea), Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron caused a sensation, but the public remembered this dress with green fringes which cracked from the first seconds of the short program to reveal a breast. Miraculously, the French will finish dressed, but the incident costs a delay on the Canadians Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, that even a masterful free program will not be enough to fill. On arrival, less than 1 point separates the hoped for gold for the big favorites, finally in silver.

Saturday, February 12, the rhythm dance (the equivalent of the short program) will kick off the ice dance event of the Beijing Games. And Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron no longer want to talk about rags and stitches. The instruction from the management of the French team was clear at the press conference on arrival in China: refrain from asking the two skaters any question relating to their costumes, “they no longer want to talk about this subject at all”.

Winter Olympics 2018: Papadakis-Cizeron, a thread away from Olympic gold

Gabriella Papadakis, 26, and Guillaume Cizeron, 27, carry all the hopes of French skating. French ice has not known Olympic gold for twenty years and the title of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, in Salt Lake City (United States) in 2002, against a backdrop of controversy and arrangements between French and Russians by intervening judges. The president of the French Federation of Ice Sports, Nathalie Péchalat, is convinced: this time, the couple will make an impact The Marseillaise in the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing.

2022 Winter Olympics: In Beijing, a French figure skating delegation reduced to a trickle

The former ice dancer has a few arguments to advance this prognosis. Papadakis and Cizeron have already won (almost) everything and several times: four titles of world champions and five of European champions, between 2015 and 2019. Olympic gold is therefore “really the clear and sharp objective”, insists their trainer, Romain Haguenauer. “We have gained in maturity, we have gained in technicality, artistically we are even better… We really have all the weapons for”, insists, for his part, Guillaume Cizeron.

“The position of favorites, we are used to it”

From a distance, all this looks like the chronicle of a coronation announced in a discipline where surprises are rare and the reputation of the dancers is decisive with the judges. But can this ultra-favorite costume still tear? “Already, in South Korea, they had this status. This year, they have the extra experience”, tempers their coach, who nevertheless admits having encouraged them to “enjoy a little more of the celebration that the Olympics represent” to relieve some pressure.

“The position of favorites, we have been used to it for several years. It is a continual challenge. The best way to manage is to stay focused on our performanceexplains Guillaume Cizeron. We try not to think too much about the competition or the results: we know that the results follow when we are happy with our performance. »

The couple arrived at these Games after having experienced a complicated end to the Olympiad. The Covid-19 pandemic obliges, Papadakis and Cizeron spent almost twenty months without skating in competition. For their comeback, in Finland, in October 2021, they leave the trophy in their arms. But this winning return is obviously not to the taste of the Russian international judge, Alexander Vedenin, who is targeting the skater’s sexual orientation.

“The French are very good. (…) And will be hard to beat. It will be necessary to play on an idea of ​​the dance, new elements, as well as feelings. The French skate with class, but are cold, he comments on the website of the Russian television channel MatchTV. The partner does not have a traditional orientation and he can’t hide it. Sinitsina and Katsalapov can express true love, like last year, and that can lead them to a victory. »

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, in training, February 9 in Beijing.

The Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are none other than the main rivals of the French in the race for the Olympic title, those who inflicted their first defeat in two years, during the 2020 European Championships and went to seek the world title in their absence in March 2021. Four months before the Games, the maneuver is not trivial. It’s a pathetic attempt to harm us », had reacted in the program “Tout le sport”, on France 3, Guillaume Cizeron, who made his homosexuality public in May 2020. “ I think we are feared because we are the favorites for the competitions to follow in the season. I find it sad. »

Ranged combat with the Russians

Since then, Papadakis and Cizeron have continued their preparation as if nothing had happened, notably recording two overall marks beyond 220 points – during the Grand Prix of Turin and Grenoble, in November 2021. But the Omicron variant has upset their reunion with Sinitsina and Katsalapov. The distance fight between the French and the Russians – who retained the continental crown in mid-January in Estonia, in Tallinn – should be one of the highlights of these Games.

Winter Olympics 2018: He trains Papadakis and Cizeron… and their rivals

The French duo, based in Canada, announces that they have made choices “strong” to woo the jury. The score for an ice dance performance is based on two parts: a technical score, which concerns jumps and pirouettes, and an artistic score, which assesses the quality of skating, interpretation, choreography or even musicality. “Without a doubt, these are the two most successful and complex programs that we have done.ts”, assures Gabriella Papadakis.

For the rhythmic dance event, articulated around the theme of urban dances, they decided to pay homage to waacking, this street dance that appeared in the 1970s within the homosexual community of Los Angeles (California, United States) , with music by John Legend. For the free program, the couple abandoned the idea of ​​a tango and it was to the sound of The Elegy, music composed at the end of the 19th centuryand century by Gabriel Fauré, which they will slip in the hope of winning, four years after the tearing of Pyeongchang, the Olympic title which is missing from their brilliant record.

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