Ice dancing duo from France take gold and set new points record
France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron mesmerized with a free skate to seal their second ice dance world title at the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships.
The fans at Boston's TD Garden erupted in cheers as they rose to their feet in appreciation of the couple's performance.
The defending world champions also dazzled the judges who rewarded them with a whopping 118.17 points, the most ever awarded for a free dance performance.
Their winning points total of 194.46 was the second highest ever.
'We are just speechless now,' Cizeron said.
'We didn't feel too much pressure after the short dance. Half of the job was already done. We had really good energy and a good feeling out there on the ice tonight.'
Papadakis added, 'We didn't expect these high scores at all. We were really able to give our very best tonight.
'It took us a moment at the end of our programme to realize what we had achieved and I still can't believe it.
'I just want to catch this moment and enjoy it.'
With their free dance complete, Papadakis and Cizeron were able to sit back and see what the final competitors of the night would do.
Siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani of the United States also had the audience in thrall as they sailed through their routine set to Coldplay's 'Fix You.'
Fifth-ranked at the worlds last year, the Shibutanis have gathered momentum at every competition this season, but on this night it wasn't quite enough to overtake the French.
The Shibutanis settled for silver, posting 113.73 for the free dance and 188.43 overall.
Their US teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the 2015 world silver medallists rode the dramatic waves of Rachmaninov concertos into bronze medal position, scoring 113.31 for a total of 185.77 points.
Winning a second consecutive world title was a fine ending to a season that began in a frightening way for Papadakis.
She sustained a concussion last August that forced the couple out of the autumn Grands Prix. Her recovery from debilitating symptoms was long and difficult.
After their win on Thursday, she also revealed Cizeron's skate blade had sliced her knee open, a cut that required six stitches to close.
But Papadakis brushed off that injury, which happened just before they came to Boston, saying 'I was back on the ice after three days.'
The French duo took a risk with this season's free dance, which is contemporary and abstract, a departure from last year's love story.
Papadakis said they considered it a huge challenge to convey emotion to the audience without a theme or story to their performance.
It was a relief, she said, when the programme -- set to 'Rain in your Black Eyes' and 'To Build a Home' -- was well-received at the European championships where they won for a second time.
'They're true artists,' said coach Marie-France Dubreuil.
Earlier Thursday, Gracie Gold of the United States took a slim lead in the women's short programme opener.
Her El Choclo tango was judged the best of a slew of impressive performances as one medal contender after another skated lights out in her quest for the crown.
Gold posted 76.43 points, good for a two-and-a-half point lead. A little more than four points separates six other women also in the hunt for the podium.
Russian Anna Pogorilaya scored 73.98 to finish a fraction ahead of compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva (73.76).
Gold's teammate Ashley Wagner is fourth (73.16), ahead of Russian Elena Radionova (71.70) and Japanese Satoko Miyahara (70.72).
Looking ahead to the free skate on Saturday, Gold said, 'I really want to be in the moment and to give my performance back to the audience and to everybody who has gotten me this far.'
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