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French-Greek Gabriella Papadakis Wins Gold at Beijing Winter Olympics

France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, on Feb. 20, 2018. Credit: France Olympique/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

French-Greek skater Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron sealed Olympic gold in the ice dance, with a record-breaking score at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The French pair defended their world-record score in the rhythm dance portion on Saturday. The couple’s near-flawless dance to “Élégie” by Gabriel Fauré, in the free on Monday, earned them a 136.15 score in the free dance — enough to finish with a world-record combined total of 226.98, more than six marks clear world champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov.

The gold is an upgrade on the silver Papadakis and Cizeron won at Pyeongchang four years ago. This time around, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue took bronze in Beijing ahead of American teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

The final group, ROC’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, went out first, but their 120.98 score wasn’t enough to top the standings after Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri produced a 124.37 in the penultimate group. Guignard and Fabbri’s overall score of 207.05 was the benchmark to beat for the final four pairs, with two sets of Americans up next.

Rivalry among Americans at Beijing Winter Olympics

Chock and Bates, three-time American champions, shot into first, with a 130.63 score in the free dance, which was enough to go more than seven points clear of the Italian pacesetters.

Hubbell and Donohue, who knew a solid showing would potentially oust their close friends off the podium, came next.

Hubbell and Donohue held a three-point lead over their American teammates after the rhythm dance. Their celebrations were understandably muted when a medal place was guaranteed—a 130.89 score, enough to go first by more than three points.

Sinitsina and Katsalapov knew the 218.02 score was the new score to beat. And, having gone unbeaten in competition for two years, given that Papadakis and Cizeron skipped the 2021 season due to COVID-19, they put in a stunning free dance to go to the top as a 131.66 score put them at 220.51 points.

“It’s just astonishing!” says Eurosport commentator Simon Reed. “In the team event they weren’t great, but that was a performance that labels them as possible gold medalists.”

Greece’s “Olympic champions” at the Beijing Winter Olympics

The stage was then set for Papadakis and Cizeron, and the signs were positive after a technical score of 76.65 proved stronger than Sinitsina and Katsalapov’s 73.43.

“Olympic champions!” Reed said, as a host of their French Olympic teammates applauded from the sidelines. “For four minutes it was exactly at the point where art and sport met, the pinnacle of entertainment — in the most important competition in their lives!”

Former British Olympian Chris Howarth suggested this history-breaking score was “phenomenal.” From the “first five seconds, you know, they were on the money. This could be a huge score.”

Although the 136.15 score was just short of their own world-record mark in the free, it was still enough to seal a combined total record.

“Just short of it (their own free dance world record), but they have won! They lost in Pyeongchang by under a mark, but here they’ve decimated the field,” Reed said. “As fine an ice dance couple as there has been in history.”

Gabriella Papadakis’s Greek connection

Born in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Gabriella Papadakis is a French-Greek athlete, whose roots, on her father’s side, hail from Korydallos, Greece.

Her mother, Catherine, is a skating coach, and her father, Emmanuel, is the owner of a food truck in Austin, Texas.

She resides in Montréal, Canada.

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