Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron registered the first major surprise of the figure skating world championships, vaulting from fourth place to win the gold in ice dancing on Friday with an expressive, passion-filled free dance performance.
The young French duo — Papadakis is 19 and Cizeron 20 — have made remarkable progress since moving up to the senior level last year, winning the European Championships, two Grand Prix events and now the world title. Last year, they were only 13th at the world championships.
"It is like a dream," Cizeron said. "We cried when the scores came up and we saw our placement."
Skating to Mozart’s "Concerto No. 23," Papadakis and Cizeron turned in an elegant performance that ended with Papadakis swinging with legs extended from Cizeron’s neck and then collapsing in his arms on the ice. They received four scores of perfect 10.00 from the judges.
"It’s a big surprise to be here right now," Papadakis said. "Our goal at the beginning of the season was to be top 10 (at the worlds) so it’s a big improvement."
American pair Madison Chock and Evan Bates took the silver medal, while the pre-tournament favorites, Canadian duo Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, got the bronze.
Defending champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy finished fourth.
Weaver shook her head in disapproval when their scores came up on the screen. She and Poje had been undefeated in five international events this season and were looking to improve on their silver medal from last year’s worlds.
"It just makes us hungrier to work even harder and peak at the right time and make sure the next four years are ours," Weaver said. "We’ll come for revenge at (the season-ending) World Team Trophy."
The ice dancing competition lost some of its luster this year without American pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Canadian duo Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who have dominated the event over the past four years, splitting four world titles and two Olympic golds.
Neither pair has competed since last year’s Sochi Olympics, but they also haven’t confirmed their retirements.