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French duo close in on fourth European figure skating crown

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Moscow (AFP)

Record-breakers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron closed in on their fourth consecutive European ice dance title in Moscow on Friday.

The French duo led the field on 81.29 points after an accomplished short programme set to a Latin remix of Ed Sheeran's smash 2017 hit Shape of You on the third day of the 2018 European Championships at the Megasport Palace rink.

"We are happy with our performance. We had a little tiny mistake on the twizzle (turn). It's the kind of thing that never happens ? but it did," said Papadakis.

She said they were enjoying dancing to the Sheeran soundtrack, explaining: "We liked it, because we wanted to do something more young, more urban, more modern, more like us."

The 22-year-old and the year older Cizeron have swept all before them this year, smashing the world ice dance points record to become the first to ever break the 200-point mark in China in November.

The two-time former world champions bettered that in Grenoble and again with a tally of 202.16 to win the Grand Prix Finals title in Japan in December.

There they saw off Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who are their big rivals for Olympic gold at the Pyeongchang Games next month.

Going into Saturday's free dance, Papadakis and Cizeron have as their closest rivals Russian pair Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, who produced a personal best 75.38 buoyed by enthusiastic home support.

"It was unreal," said Stepanova.

"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."

Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte are placed third on 74.76.

Friday's action continues later with Spain's Javier Fernandez holding a commanding lead as he pursues a sixth consecutive men's title.

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