Papadakis, Cizeron to skip World Championships

FILE PHOTO: Figure Skating - ISU European Figure Skating Championships - Steiermarkhalle, Graz, Austria - January 25, 2020 France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron during the Pairs Free Dance REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

(Reuters) - French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron will not defend their title at next month's World Championships after withdrawing from the tournament due to a lack of preparation and concerns arising from COVID-19 health protocols.

The French skating federation said the ice dance world champions will skip the March 22-28 event in Stockholm, Sweden to focus on preparing for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The federation added that COVID-19 protocols including quarantine and psychological strain were "elements and constraints which do not permit preparation in optimal conditions for such a prestigious gathering".

Papadakis and Cizeron, who both contracted the novel coronavirus and recovered last year, are four-times world champions.

"We have never known such a long time without competition," Cizeron said in a statement. "The series of cancellations provoked a climate of uncertainty and doubt that is difficult for all top-level athletes to manage.

"The holding of the World Championships still being hypothetical, we need a more solid and concrete objective – the 2022 Olympic Games are our priority."

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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