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Ice dance gold for French couple

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France have broken their own ice dance world record, 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.

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.

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 favourite to win Olympic gold in the women’s program would be allowed to compete on Tuesday night.

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

Three couples separated themselves from the field on 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.

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.

The judges thought so, too.

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