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Olympics

French pair sets a world record in winning ice dance gold, while Americans finish 3rd and 4th

BEIJING — Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France broke their own ice dance world record Monday, winning the Olympic gold medal that narrowly eluded them four years ago in Pyeongchang.

The last figure skaters on the ice for the free dance, Papadakis and Cizeron scored 136.15 points for their performance to “Elegie” by the early 20th-century French composer Gabriel Faure. That gave them 226.98 points, beating their previous mark of 226.61 set at the 2019 NHK Trophy in Japan and easily enough to hold off Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov.

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The Russian world champions took silver with 220.51 points, while the longtime American duo of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who already have announced their plans to retire, claimed bronze in their final Olympics.

Another set of Americans, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, finished just off the podium in fourth place.

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“I think we don’t believe it yet. Honestly it feels completely unreal,” Papadakis said. “We have been waiting for this. This is the medal that we wanted. My brain doesn’t understand it.”

One of the earliest pairings on the ice was Gleb Smolkin and Diana Davis, the daughter of embattled Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze, whose star pupil Kamila Valieva was awaiting a decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport on whether the heavy favorite to win Olympic gold in the women’s program would be allowed to compete Tuesday night.

Tutberidze watched from an inconspicuous corner of Capital Indoor Stadium during her daughter’s performance.

“Diana feels more calm when Eteri supports her because, first of all, she’s her mom,” Smolkin said. “I think for everyone, it’s a great feeling when your family is right here, right behind you.”

Gold medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France pose during a venue ceremony after the ice dance competition Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Beijing.

Three couples separated themselves from the field Saturday night, the first night of ice dance, when Papadakis and Cizeron broke their own rhythm dance world record. Sinitsina and Katsalapov were less than two points back while Hubbell and Donohue, riding a personal-best score to their “Rhythm Nation” program, kept their golden hopes alive heading into Monday.

Still, there were some soaring performances before those three teams took the ice.

The best came from Chock and Bates, good friends of Hubbell and Donohue and teammates of Papadakis and Cizeron at the Ice Academy of Montreal. The American champions bounced back from a mistake in their rhythm dance with a season-best rendition of their astronaut-alien love story to solidify their fourth-place finish.

“We really wanted to be on the podium, and you know, fourth place sometimes can be one of the hardest places to finish,” Bates said. “We skated our best and didn’t get the result we wanted, but we did a lot of great things.”

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Moments later, Hubbell and Donohue took the Olympic stage for the last time.

With newly crowned gold medalist Nathan Chen cheering from a section of flag-waving U.S. fans, the two-time world silver medalists seemed to float across the ice in unison to “Drowning” by French singer Anne Sila. Hubbell and Donohue’s biggest mistake came on a lift that lasted a fraction over the 12-second limit, costing them a deduction, but they otherwise showcased the unique power and precision that has come to define a decade-long partnership.

It was enough for Hubbell and Donohue, the fourth-place finishers in Pyeongchang, to move onto the podium and add a bronze medal to those they’ve won in the team event at the past two Winter Games.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States perform their routine in the ice dance competition Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Beijing.

There is always one ice dance couple at the Olympics that sets the bar for everyone else, though.

That was Papadakis and Cizeron in Beijing.

Even after a season-best skate from Sinitsina and Katsalapov to briefly take first place, the French pair showed poise along with their usual brilliant technical ability and unmatched artistry. From their opening one-foot step sequence to their final choreographed lift, their striking performance was without fault.

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The judges thought so, too.

They gave Papadakis and Cizeron the highest marks for their straight line lift, synchronized twizzles, combination spin and curve lift for a free dance score of 136.15 points. That was less than a half-point off their own record for the second segment of the ice dance competition but more than enough to stand atop the Olympic podium.

“We worked a lot. We built upon the last Olympics. We started winning and everything and knew it was possible,” Papadakis said. “For years this was the only medal that we wanted, and the past four years were just about that moment.”

Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States perform their routine in the ice dance competition Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Beijing.

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