France’s Guillaume Cizeron started skating at age 9 and formed an ice dance team with Gabriella Papadakis a few years later. The duo had a chance at the 2014 Olympics, but missed out to two more experienced French teams. In the years since, it became Papadakis and Cizeron who were the team to beat—not only in France, but around the world. They went practically undefeated in the 2014-15 season: golds at their two Grand Prix competitions, a bronze in the Grand Prix Final (their only loss), and golds at the French Championships, European Championships and finally the 2015 World Championships title. They vaulted from 13th in 2014 to gold in 2015 at the world championships. Despite injuries, they stayed on top for the 2015-16 season, winning the French, European and World championships titles for a second consecutive year. But the season was marked by injuries: first, Papadakis sustained a concussion before the season started and was unable to compete in the Grand Prix series, then a few weeks before the 2016 World Championships, she cut her knee with a skate blade during practice and needed stitches. During the 2016-17 season, Papadakis and Cizeron found themselves competing in the shadow of Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions and 2014 Olympic silver medalists who returned to competition after a two-year break and became Papadakis and Cizeron’s training partners in Montreal. Virtue and Moir claimed the Grand Prix Final title while Papadakis and Cizeron finished with a silver, a result they repeated at the 2017 World Championships.
The back-and-forth continued for the French and Canadian teams in the lead-up to the Olympics. Papadakis and Cizeron began their Olympic season with a win at an event in Finland. Then, they competed in China and France on the Grand Prix series, winning both times. They went head-to-head with Virtue and Moir at the Grand Prix Final, where the French team won for the first time. They won their fourth straight French national title and in January, their fourth straight European gold medals.