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Gabriella Papadakis / Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)

Two-time World Champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron of France heated up the ice in the Latin Short Dance on Thursday to win the first segment of the competition. Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin came second and Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte of Italy are currently ranked third.

Dancing to “Shape of You” and “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran, Papadakis/Cizeron completed a level-four Rhumba sequence, pattern dance step sequence and straight line lift and picked up a level three for the side by side step sequence and the twizzles. The three-time European Champions scored 81.29 points. “We are happy with our performance. We had a little tiny mistake on the twizzle. It’s the kind of thing that never happens – but it did,” Papadakis commented. It (the Rhumba) is a hard element to perform. It’s always a challenge to incorporate the compulsory dance into the Short Dance. It requires a lot of skills to integrate it as part of the whole program. But the more we do it the more we enjoy it. And the Rhumba element is very short – maybe 15 seconds and I think it works well with the whole concept of our program,” Cizeron explained.

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Alexandra Stepanova / Ivan Bukin (RUS)

Stepanova/Bukin, who had drawn to skate last out of the 30 couples, turned in a dynamic performance to Rhumba and Samba rhythm and especially got the crowd going on the last step sequence to “Samba do Brasil”. The 2015 European bronze medalists earned a level four for the twizzles, Rhumba pattern and curve lift to post a new personal best of 75.38 points. “It was unreal. Although the stands are not completely full because it is a working day, we felt like there were a million of spectators. Especially for the step sequence at the end the audience exploded,” Stepanova sahred. “It felt like everything went well, but we haven’t seen the levels yet. Our coaches said it was the best performance of the season, so it probably was and it is a personal best,” she added.

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Anna Cappellini / Luca Lanotte (ITA)

Cappellini/Lanotte’s dance to Cha Cha and Samba was highlighted by level-four twizzles and a level four rotational lift. The 2014 World and European Champions earned 74.76 points. “It is not the best score and what we were hoping for, we are a bit disappointed. This was supposed to be a stepping stone, an increase in our short program score and it wasn’t. We had a demanding preparation and this means we need to keep training hard. We tried to give our presentation lots of energy but it felt rough. We managed to do a good, clean skate but it was tough and I think that is what the judges saw. It is a good preparation for the Olympics,” Lanotte said.

Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) turned in a strong performance as well and are within striking distance of the podium at 74.43 points. Charlene Guignard/ Marco Fabbri (ITA) follow in fifth with 71.58 points and 2014 European bronze medalists Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland (GBR) round up the top six (69.45 points). Kavita Lorenz/Joti Polizoakis (GER) withdrew before the Short Dance as he had come down with the flu.