Grenoble, France

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Papadakis/Cizeron returned to action after missing the NHK Trophy © International Skating Union

Three-time World Champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron of France returned to competition in style, taking a strong lead in the Rhythm Dance at the Internationaux de France in Grenoble Friday. Russians Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov finished second while Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier of Canada came third.

Skating to “Oblivion” and “Primavera Porteno”, Papadakis/Cizeron performed a smooth and characteristic Tango that was highlighted by an original curve lift and excellent twizzles.

The four-time European Champions collected a level four for the twizzles, the lift and the second Tango Romantica sequence to score 84.13 points.

The couple missed the NHK Trophy in Japan earlier this month after Cizeron suffered a back injury in a practice fall, but he says he has recovered.

“We don’t find it (the Tango) harder than other short dances that we’ve done. Tango is a universal language; everybody knows what it is about. It just feels natural to our bodies,” Cizeron said.

“We are very happy with our performance today, especially for our first competition. We really love this program,” Papadakis added.

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Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov danced their way into second place © International Skating Union

Sinitsina/Katsalapov chose “Verano Porteno” by Astor Piazzolla for their Rhythm Dance and interpreted it with passion, picking up a level four for the twizzles and the rotational lift, while the Tango Romantica and the midline step sequence merited a level three.

The Skate Canada silver medalists posted a season’s best of 77.91 points.

“We have worked with the best Tango ballroom dancers in the world, Dmitry Vasin and Sagdiana Hamzina, so a big thank you to them,” Katsalapov said.

“We have not yet reached our maximum and we’ll continue working on the chemistry and the relationship between us and that fire.”

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Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier of Canada came third © International Skating Union

Gilles/Poirier delivered an expressive performance to “Angelica’s Tango”. However, their twizzles, the circular step sequence and the second Tango Romantica sequence garnered only a level two, while the rotational lift was a level four.

The Skate Canada bronze medalists earned 74.25 points.

“We really took our time and enjoyed the performance, because this is a program that both of us truly enjoy. We’re really excited to go into tomorrow and skate a great free dance. We’re really proud of this artistic program and it’s going to be great,” Gilles said.

NHK Trophy Champions Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA) are currently sitting in fourth on 69.85 points. Olivia Smart/Adrian Diaz (ESP) placed fifth with 68.16 points, closely followed by NHK Trophy bronze medalists Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) on 68.14 points.

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