La ballerina di ghiaccio francese Cizeron punta all'oro a Pechino 2022

For French ice dance skater Guillaume Cizeron and his partner Gabriella Papadakis, China seems to be a place which can always bring them good luck.

The duo won their first Grand Prix victory and their maiden world championships title, and even reached above the 200-point barrier in the combined total score to set a world record for the first time, all in China.

With just one year to go before the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the four-time worlds winner and current world record holder told Xinhua that he is looking forward to going back to Beijing for the Olympic Games and his goal, obviously, is the gold medal.

"I had very good memories in Beijing. It is a very big city, I remember the rink is very well. And there was a little bridge that goes through the hotel on the other side of the road. That was our first trip to Beijing, and we broke the world record (of the combined total score)," Cizeron said about his first event in Beijing - the 2017 ISU figure skating Grand Prix Cup of China.

The event was held in the Capital Indoor Stadium, which is also assigned as the venue for the Olympic figure skating competitions in Beijing 2022. Cizeron and Papadakis set an overall world record of 200.43 points to become the first team to surpass 200-point.

It was just a start. The French duo then rewrote the record for another 10 times, until they raised the world best to 226.61 at the NHK Trophy in 2019, a score that seemed out of reach for any other couple in the world.

"I have to say it's really a lucky place for us. Not only Beijing, but we have also won our first Grand Prix title and worlds title in another Chinese city Shanghai, also many good memories for us.

"So, I'm actually really happy to go back and I think it's like a circle. You go back to where you started. I think it's gonna be special," the 26-year-old added.

With the figure skating season has been, like many other sports, hit by the COVID-19 pandemic since last spring, Cizeron and Papadakis, who both contracted the virus in July and recovered, had decided to withdraw from this year's World Championships due to "a lack of competition, COVID-19 protocols including quarantines, and psychological wear and tear."

Instead, the Montreal-based couple will turn their eyes to the 2021-2022 season and focus on the preparations for the coming Olympic Games.

"Everything feels different, but we're trying to get used to that and still plan for the future. I'm hoping that next season we'll go a little bit more smoothly with the Olympics. So we're taking this time to train and stay in shape.

"The holding of the World Championships still being hypothetical, we need a more solid and concrete objective - the 2022 Olympic Games are our priority," Cizeron said

The worlds titleholders have not competed since last year's European Championships in January when they suffered a shock defeat to Russia's Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, which was their first defeat after the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, where they finished second behind the now-retired Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

"I wasn't surprised (for the defeat at the European Championships) because we didn't really do good performances. We were not in great shape that time," Cizeron said. "I think before coming to the Europeans, we had only like two runs of the free dance since like a month."

"Of course we can be beaten, there is no one unbeatable. That's what sport is. Sometimes you are in your best shape, but sometimes you're a little bit less prepared.

"But we're really trying to learn from it. We were maybe able to make better decisions for the future based on that result."

If the four-time world champions do not compete again until the new season, the duo will possibly have spent up to 20 months away from official competition. But training at the Ice Academy of Montreal with many other top skaters provides them with a good platform to stay in good form even under the current situation.

"So we're pretty lucky to train with a lot of skaters here in the school, three American teams, a few Canadian teams and a Spanish team. It's good to be in a big school to be able to exchange. And it felt less lonely, you can see what other *** are doing. I enjoy training in school and being surrounded by other couples," Cizeron said.

When asked if he had prepared some "secret weapon" for the Olympics, Cizeron joked that "If we did have, I couldn't tell anybody now." But he promised that they are working on some new elements of their performance.

"We're really trying to make the smartest decisions for the future. It's a challenge because we have never been in such a situation," he said. "For Beijing 2022, our goal is to get the gold. We are really focused on that goal, and whatever happens, we are gonna do everything that we can to win."


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