Figure Skating world champions Papadakis and Cizeron return to clinch French Masters title

The four-time world champions are competing again after a 20-month hiatus, but didn't miss a step as they sealed the national competition in Epinal. 

By Sanjeev Palar
Picture by Patinage Magazine - Olivier Brajon

Figure Skating duo Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron returned to competition after a 20-month absence to clinch the French Masters title in Epinal on Saturday (2 October).

The PyeongChang 2018 silver medallists from France did not participate in the 2021 world championships in Stockholm earlier this year due to the global pandemic and subsequent travel issues.

The four-time world champions were in a league of their own, scoring 137.31 points in the free dance - to add to their earlier tally of 93.79 points in the rhythm dance on Friday 1 October - for an overall score of 231.10 points.

Papadakis and Cizeron finished over 40 points clear of their nearest rivals, but their overriding emotion was gratitude to be competing again after such a long absence.

"It's still the same pressure we have to deal with. Only this time, there was a certain gratitude that everything has started again." Papadakis said, adding, "I took less for granted being there, skating in front of an audience," the pair shared with L'Equipe.

"It was a long time since the last time we have skated in front of someone else than our coaches and teammates." - Guillaume Cizeron to L'Equipe

Guillaume Cizeron and Gabriella Papadakis at the 2021 French Figure Skating Masters
Picture by Patinage Magazine - Olivier Brajon

The French Masters is a national competition that traditionally takes place at the start of each season, and the scores are not taken into consideration by the International Skating Union.

The pair hold the world record for the highest scores in rhythm dance (90.03), free dance (136.58), and the combined total (226.61) which they set at the 2019 NHK Trophy.

Papadakis and Cizeron proved that they have lost none of their competitiveness in their time away from competition, and could be in for another record-breaking season after scoring higher than their current world records in Epinal this weekend.

Papadakis and Cizeron debut new programme

The two-time Grand Prix Final winners debuted their new rhythm dance programme, which pays tribute to waacking, a dance that appeared in the 1970s amongst the gay community of Los Angeles.

Performing to a medley of John Legend's Made to Love and You & I, Papadakis and Cizeron had the crowd on their feet at the end of their routine as the judges awarded them 93.79 points - what would have a been a new world record.

Similarly their free dance programme, performed to classical piece Elegy by Gabriel Faure garnered 137.31 points, a fraction higher than the world record.

Records aside, these scores provide an accurate indication of the pair's current form, which also pleased their coach Romain Haguenauer who shared with L'Equipe: "They performed very well. I found them confident and serene. It was very fluid. It is a very good base to build on as they look ahead to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in China."