BEIJING (Reuters) -Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron put their Pyeongchang wardrobe heartbreak behind them as they won the figure skating ice dance gold for France with a world record at the Olympics on Monday.
The Beijing figure skating has been almost completely overshadowed by Russian Kamila Valieva’s positive doping test but the flamboyant French duo shone through the gloom, finishing with a total of 226.98 to eclipse their 2019 record (226.61).
A wardrobe malfunction cost them dearly four years ago during their short dance, leaving them with the silver medal behind Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
But there were no mishaps in a virtually flawless free dance at the Capital Indoor Stadium on Monday which earned 136.15 points and brought rival athletes and coaches to their feet in a standing ovation.
“I think it just fuelled us,” Cizeron said of the 2018 costume drama, when Papadakis struggled to stop her dress slipping off after a clasp came undone.
“It made us want that gold medal more than anything else. And I think we’ve never worked that hard for a specific goal.”
An overjoyed Papadakis said their triumph felt “completely unreal.”
“We have been waiting for this. This is the medal that we wanted,” said the 26-year-old, whose well-strapped dress of shimmering gold matched her medal.
Skating to the dramatic piano and cello music of Gabriel Faure’s Elegie, the four-times world champions once again dazzled with their silky, seductive dance, earning France a first Olympic figure skating gold since Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat took the ice dance title in 2002.
Reigning world champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov took silver for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with a final score of 220.51, skating to the music of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
It was their second medal of the Games after winning gold in the team event with their ROC team mate Valieva.
The team medals have not been presented due to the Valieva issue, and may not be until the doping case is addressed.
“We left everything on the ice. Our feelings are mixed right now,” said Katsalapov.
“The only thing I know is it was really the best free dance we did this season.”
U.S. pair Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won the bronze with a total of 218.02, edging out compatriots Madison Chock and Evan Bates (214.77).
Hubbell and Donohue, who produced a haunting routine to “Drowning” by French singer Anne Sila, savoured their spot on the podium four years after finishing fourth at Pyeongchang.
“We didn’t stay in because we were fourth last time. We stayed in because we still had something personally to conquer,” said Hubbell.
The penultimate pair in the schedule, Sinitsina and Katsalapov skated superbly to pressure the French winners, drawing gasps from the small crowd with a striking, choreographed slide late in their free dance.
But if Papadakis and Cizeron felt nerves, they kept them hidden throughout a performance of precision, verve and invention.
They smashed the Russians’ score for their technical elements and edged them in presentation to complete a dominant victory on the biggest stage.
The figure skating continues on Tuesday with the short programme for the women’s singles, where all eyes will be on 15-year-old favourite Valieva.
She was cleared to skate by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) despite her positive drug test on Dec. 25.
Katsalapov was “very happy” with the decision.
“Let’s go, Kamila!” he said.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Hritika Sharma; Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Robert Birsel/Peter Rutherford/Shri Navaratnam)