Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are widely considered the best ice dance team in the world, and after three years away from global championships, they finally get the chance to prove it at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The French duo, which trains in Montreal, won four world titles in five attempts from 2015-2019. The 2020 World Figure Skating Championships were then canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Worlds were held in 2021, but Papadakis and Cizeron withdrew due to their inconsistent training caused by the challenges of traveling between two countries during the pandemic.
Their long wait to contend against the rest of the best – and potentially improve on their 2018 Olympic silver medal – starts with Saturday’s rhythm dance.
Papadakis and Cizeron won’t be handed the gold medal. They face stiff competition from a number of teams, including reigning world champions Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of the Russian Olympic Committee. The French have won every competition they entered since the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics except the 2020 European Championships, where they took silver by a miniscule 0.14 points to the Russians. Papadakis/Cizeron won the rhythm dance there while Sinitsina/Katsalapov took the free at that event.
Those teams lead the season’s best score list, followed by ROC’s Aleksandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, who were second at last month’s Europeans; Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, the 2021 world bronze medalists; U.S. teams Madison Chock and Evan Bates, fourth at the 2021 worlds, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, reigning world silver medalists; and Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, 2022 European bronze medalists.
Three of those teams – Papadakis/Cizeron, Chock/Bates, Hubbell/Donohue – train at the Ice Academy of Montreal under a team of coaches led by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. The I.AM camp has 11 of the 23 teams at these Games, including Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker.
The top two U.S. teams were thought to be vying for bronze at best, behind Papadakis/Cizeron and Sinitsina/Katsalapov, but that changed when both couples competed in the team event earlier in the Games.
Hubbell and Donohue won the rhythm dance portion, scoring 1.51 points higher than Sinitsina and Katsalapov, while Chock and Bates won the free dance, besting the ROC team by 0.9 points.
Look for familiar – and popular – music by all three U.S. teams in the rhythm dance as Chock/Bates skate to a Billie Eilish medley, Hubbell/Donohue a Janet Jackson medley and Hawayek/Baker a Donna Summer one.