Personal best takes Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron to top spot in China
Ed Sheeran proved an inspired choice for Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron after opening their season in stunning style at the Audi Cup of China.
The French pair are in the lead after the short dance leg of the ice dance competition, delivering a personal best score of 81.10 points in the ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix.
Dancing to "Shape of You" and "Thinking Out Loud" by the popular British singer, the double world champions shone with level four twizzles, Rhumba pattern and straight line lift, leading ahead of two-time world medallists Madison Chock and Evan Bates from the USA, who scored 72.66.
Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev round off the early podium ahead of Saturday's free dance, but the day very much belonged to Papadakis and Cizeron on the Beijing ice.
"It was a very good performance, especially for the beginning of the season," Papadakis said. "We made a lot of improvement on the technical score compared to the beginning of the season but also to last year."
Cizeron added: "We worked with Christopher Dean on the short dance and he came up with the idea (to skate to Ed Sheeran), which we loved.
" "The music has this Urban Latin feeling. It is very popular and fun to dance to.""
Meanwhile, a surprise leader emerged following the men's short programme as Russia's Mikhail Kolyada hit a triple-figure score for the first time in his career.
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France perform during the Ice Dance Short Dance at the Cup of China ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Beijing November 3, 2017Getty Images
That 103.13 effort saw him top the pile ahead of Boyang Jin, the world bronze medallist from China, while Spain's double world champion Javier Fernandez sits in third.
But despite the impressive performance Kolyada, who hit a quad Lutz and quad toe-triple, was keen to downplay this being the decisive factor of the weekend.
He said: "I did not look so happy at the end of my programme because this is only the short programme and everything will be decided tomorrow.
"So I did not let my emotions out. Overall, I enjoyed my performance today. The only negative thing was the change foot camel spin – I somehow lost my focus."
While Kolyada's lead is convincing, the same could not be said for Gabrielle Daleman in the ladies' competition, leading the competition by just 0.12 points at the halfway stage.
But the Canadian's 70.65 score was enough to take her to top spot, despite the last effort from Japan's Wakaba Higuchi, while Elena Radionova is third – one of three Russian skaters in the top five.
Finally, Wenjing Su and Cong Han lead the way in the pairs competition with a short programme score of 80.14, with fellow Chinese stars Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang among the chasing pack in second place.