AT the age of 22, ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis is already a three-time French national champion, four-time European champion and two-time World champion. Fresh off winning a Winter Olympic silver medal, Gabriella stopped by for an interview with Close-Up Culture.
Q: A huge congratulations on your Winter Olympic success. You and your partner Guillaume Cizeron broke your own World Record and claimed a silver medal. How was the experience of your Winter Olympic debut and your time in South Korea?
A: THANK you. Like you said, it was our first Winter Olympic and we came both to win and to discover, which was a special experience. We were surprised with a lot of things, although the competition itself was surprisingly similar to other championships. We loved the fun, sport and spirit around in the village. I wish we had found more time to visit the mountain area and Seoul, maybe a temple, and view more competitions from other sports.
I went to the beach with my mum the day after we finished competing and it was beautiful.
Q: You got to carry the French flag at the closing ceremony. What has the response to your performance been like at home?
A: THAT was an immense honour from five-time Olympic champion Martin Fourcade whom we have a great respect for. It was his initiative and we felt grateful he thought of us as ‘the future’.
Q:You must already be sick of being asked about the wardrobe malfunction, but you have handled the situation with such grace. How do you reflect on the mishap?
A: DURING the performance, I could feel my top falling and I knew it would have been a catastrophe if it had fallen down completely. So I was trying to keep it up as much as I could. Especially every time I was twizzling, the weight of all the stones was putting me out of balance and that is when we did a couple of mistakes.
It is raging to do mistakes at THE event you prepared yourself for, and even more when you cannot even be responsible for it.
It was also hard afterwards to see how the media treated it. Hard to see that all the work you put in everyday, all year long, was reduced to this incident. Especially when you know it made you miss the gold medal.
Now I still feel a bit bitter but reflecting on it we really did our best and I think it is impressive what we did given the circumstances. So many people, coaches and skaters came to tell me they would NEVER have kept skating and especially not the way I did. It was really nice, I got a lot of support and that for me was a victory.
Q: This must be a special time for yourself and partner Guillaume Cizeron who you have been paired with since age 9. How did you both celebrate and what has been the key to your success together?
A: WE enjoyed a lot our Olympic experience, especially after our event. In every other competition, when you finish you just go home and the momentum wears off. In Korea we could walk around the village being Olympic medallists and that made us very proud.
We would never have thought being where we are until a couple of years ago. I remember not believing we could make it among the top 10 in junior. It is crazy when we think about it. The emotions were incredible and for sure reinforced our very special relationship – that is the key to our success.
Q: Away from the ice where do you get your inspiration? What are your passions?
A: GUILLAUME and I always had a lot of other interests – sometimes similar, sometimes different. Whatever they are, we are both drawn to anything that is artistic. Neither of us are interested in sport although we are naturally athletic. We both agree to say that Ice Dance was the only sport we could have done at a High Level – because of its artistic side.
I am drawn especially to literature, theatre, philosophy, I am passionate about getting to understand people’s emotions, how to express them and what it means to be human. I see skating as the way I can express all of that. The ice is a stage and a canvas.
Q: The film I, Tonya has just arrived in UK cinemas. Have you had chance to see it? And which actress would play you if they made a film about your life and career?
A: NO I have not had the time to go and see it, but I really want to. And that is a tough question – I would be more curious to wait and see who they pick. [smiles]
Q: What is next for you after PyeongChang?
A: RIGHT now we are busy in France with shows. Then we will be back in Montreal for two weeks to train before leaving for the World Championships.