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Papadakis, Cizeron complete three-peat in Ostrava

French team rises from third to take gold; Cappellini, Lanotte earn silver
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Stop us if you've heard this before: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillame Cizeron came roaring back from a deficit in the short dance to win the free dance and the title. The French duo entered the day in third but vaulted to the top of the leaderboard with a mesmerizing performance Saturday en route to capturing their third straight European crown. -Getty Images

Gabriella Papadakis had reason for doubt, especially after suffering a tough defeat at a recent marquee event. Papadakis and dance partner Guillaume Cizeron fell to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir the Grand Prix Final in Marseille six weeks ago, and after the French duo finished third following the short dance at the 2017 European Figure Skating Championships, it was easy to believe that a gold medal would once again elude the talented team.

Papadakis and Cizeron dismissed those thoughts, however, climbing up in the standings with a brilliant free dance to earn their third consecutive European crown. Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, and Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev picked up the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

Skating last in a group of 20 teams, the powerful French tandem performed a beautiful rendition of their "Stillness, Chaos and Happiness" free dance.

Five of their seven elements were rated Level 4, with two step sequences receiving Level 3. Each one of their elements received high GOEs (Grades of Execution), especially the Level 3 step sequences. Their components were also superior, ranging from 9.36 for transitions to 9.64 for performance and 9.68 for interpretation. The team amassed 114.19 points for their free dance, and 189.67 points overall.

"This is obviously not a piece of music you can relax to, or which you will play in your car," Papadakis said shortly after departing the ice.

"It creates an ambiance and provides a frame," Cizeron added. "What we hope for is to bring the audience directly into our performance. The whole point of our story is to free oneself from various stereotypes, prejudice and limits, which often prevent us from reaching our full potential." 

Wearing solid black outfits with only a white collar at the top, Cappellini and Lanotte embarked the Ostrava crowd in the playful atmosphere created by the music of Charlie Chaplin. Lanotte's opening mimics were the first hit of their routine, which were directed toward the judging panel in a stern yet playful manner.

"This is exactly what dance means for us," Lanotte said. "Create and live those moments. Show and perform. The same thing happened in Japan, and I was hoping the TV cameras would play my game the same way here. I was so happy to start the program with such support."

Delivering a solid performance that included a straight-line lift, where their straight bodylines combined to form a majestic statue, the Italians rallied the audience to their cause in a matter of seconds, and had them on their feet until the very end of their program.

Their elements received grades similar to those of the French team: Level 3 for their two step sequences and Level 4 for the remaining elements. Their twizzles were rated Level 4 as well, and despite an opening imbalance which cost them 0.06 points, Cappellini and Lanotte garnered 110.99 points for their free dance -- a new season's best -- and 186.64 points overall.

Bobrova and Soloviev, who entered the free dance with a slim lead, offered a strong interpretation of Jean-Luc Ponty's version of Frédéric Chopin's Prelude N. 20 and Antonio Vivaldi's "Winter." Their elements were rated on the same level as both the Italians and the French, with the notable exception of their circular step sequence, which received Level 2 grading.

They edged the Italians on the component score on skating skills and transitions -- 56.43 points to 56.30 -- and racked up 110.38 points for their free dance, and 186.54 overall.

The Russians managed to integrate each part of their story much better than they were able to at the Grand Prix Final, and though it was not their strongest performance, they were still able to lock up a place on the podim.

"We do a lot of work off-ice with our choreographer," Bobrova explained. "We dance not only with the music, but we also talk to one another and with our choreographer to precisely define each movement, the emotions they bear and how to transmit those subtleties to the audience."

Israel's Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko moved up from fifth after the short dance to fourth following the free after delivering a powerful dance to Piotr Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. They scored 99.94 points for their free dance, and 169.29 points overall, but finished some 17.27 points off the podium.

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin displayed a tempered rendering of Astor Piazzolla's "Tangos." Their smooth edges and fluid dance was impressively contrasting to their broken tango musical lines, but their intricate extreme steps sold that contrast. They racked up 98.76 points, and 166.93 points overall, to move up one spot into fifth.

Italy's Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri skated a fantastic short dance to enter the free in fourth place. Their program was unfolding beautifully, until Fabbri tripped on a rut during the team's curve lift and nearly fell. Guignard reached the highest position of that lift, but fell on the dismount.

"The short dance was great, but only the overall result counts," a disappointed Fabbri said following the event.

Their free dance scored 93.22 points and they dropped to sixth place overall with 163.68 points.