France's Papadakis, Cizeron repeat as ice dance world champs
BOSTON (AP) Asked about the six stitches she needed for her knee a couple of weeks ago for a gash from partner Guillaume Cizeron's skate, Gabriella Papadakis cheerfully noted they were back on the ice three days later.
Whether it was the pressure of defending their ice dance world title or the long injury layoff earlier this season, the young French stars remained unfazed. Heading into Thursday's free dance with a lead to protect - unlike last year when they came from behind - Papadakis and Cizeron gamely went out and posted a record-setting score to repeat as champions.
They were followed by two American teams, just the third time the U.S. has had multiple ice dance medalists at the same world championships.
Papadakis and Cizeron scored a record 118.17 points Thursday for a total of 194.46 and easily held off local favorites Maia and Alex Shibutani. The siblings from nearby Connecticut scored 113.73 points for a total of 188.43 for their second world championship medal and first since 2011.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates, last year's silver medalists, scored 113.31 points for 185.77 total.
Papadakis suffered a concussion in a fall in training in August and was still dealing with symptoms several months later, forcing them to skip the Grand Prix season. Papadakis is just 20 and Cizeron 21, but they're already two-time world champs.
Combining grace and speed, they were in unison not just for the footwork and twizzles but every bend of the arm, every arch of the back, every facial expression. The two shared a long embrace at the end, earning a standing ovation from a crowd eager to see an American team win.
''It was such a special moment,'' Cizeron said. ''Such incredible feelings. The crowd was awesome.''
Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, the 2014 world champs, were fourth with 182.72 points.
Three of the top six teams were from the U.S., with Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue finishing a personal-best sixth. After going two decades between ice dance world medalists, the Americans have now won 12 in 12 years - from four different teams.
The Shibutanis skated last, needing to smash their previous personal best to win. They feel a connection to their music, Coldplay's ''Fix You,'' using it to tell the story of the perseverance of their career.
The Shibutanis were part of the last time two U.S. teams medaled, earning bronze five years ago when Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their first world title. They couldn't get back to that level until this season, when they overtook Chock and Bates to win their first national championship.
The free skate soars from melancholy to hope to triumph. The music building, their twizzles set the crowd roaring.
''We've been able to really weather out this journey, and tonight was incredible,'' Maia said.
It was a trying season for Chock and Bates, who kept altering their programs to try to move up the podium. But for all the difficulties, they still won a world medal for the second straight year.
''It's been a long, hard season for us,'' Chock said. ''We're so happy we could put out our best free dance at the world championships.''
Once the last two Olympic champs, Davis and White and Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, took a break after Sochi, the discipline has been deep and closely contested. Now Virtue and Moir plan to return next season and will train with Papadakis and Cizeron.
''The ice dance field has never been stronger,'' Alex Shibutani said. ''It's never been more competitive.''