2019 World Championships
19-24 March 2019
U.S. Dance Contingent Has Eyes on Worlds Podium
by Liz Leamy
This year’s U.S. World dance contingent
is as strong and promising as ever and is lead by Madison
Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, the 2018 World silver medalists
and reigning U.S. titlists, Madison Chock & Evan Bates,
the 2019 U.S. silver medalists and two-time World medalists
(silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016) & Kaitlin Hawayek and
Jean-Luc Baker, who were third at the 2019 U.S.
Collectively and individually, this
faction ought to make a major mark at the World
Championships in Saitama this week, with each team,
particularly the first two U.S. ones, holding competitive
resumes that are both impressive and extensive.
At the same time, each one of these
teams work with the same coaches, Marie-France Dubreuil and
Patrice Lauzon in Montreal, Quebec, which makes their bond
all the more unique and special.
Hubbell, a Michigan native and Donohue,
who grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, said they are very
much looking forward to competing in Saitama.
“We’re feeling confident and excited to
head to Japan,” said Hubbell in a pre-Worlds media
teleconference call held two weeks ago. “More than ever,
we’re just putting our focus on executions, precision and
making sure we don’t leave any points on the table.”
Hubbell & Donohue, who are the 2018
U.S. titlists and who also placed fourth at the 2019 Four
Continents Championships in Anaheim, California last
February, said since that event, they have made some changes
to their programs and have also re-edited the last portion
of their free dance music revolving around the famous
Shakespearean story ‘Romeo and Juliet.’
“We have slowly wanted to add more
challenge and dimension to the program,” said Hubbell. “[The
music] is something we wanted to explore for a long time
[and] the last minute of the program really ends with a
Since Februarly, the two have also been
working to make certain all of their technical elements are
on point, particularly since having their stationary lift in
the free dance at Four Continents not earning any levels
(since they had apparently moved during that particular
According to Hubbell & Donohue, this
turn of events inspired them to focus more than ever on
their technicality in the weeks leading up to Worlds,
especially in regard to the lift.
After Four Continents, the duo went
back to Montreal and, in tandem with their coaches, looked
at the lift, analyzed it and then made the necessary
“Now it’s executed with more
precision,” said Donohue. “[This experience has] really
helped accelerate us into a mental shift where we’re really
focused on our technicality and trusting in our strength
The two said they are also very much
motivated by the whole training atmosphere in Montreal.
“There’s no doubt we [all] respect each
other immensely and we’re used to that energy right now,”
said Hubbell. “We had competition simulations this week and
got feedback from the coaches. We all have our sites set on
the next three/four years.”
Chock & Bates, the 2015 U.S. titlists
who are also two-time Olympic contenders (in 2014 and 2018)
said they are as geared up as ever to make a splash in
This duo, who has been training with
Dubreuil and Lauzon for nearly a year now, valiantly scored
gold at the Four Continents Championships this past
February, which has given them a huge confidence boost
heading into Worlds this week.
“Evan and I have been training very
hard for this event,” said Chock. “We’re very excited coming
off our win from Four Continents and we feel like the
programs have progressed to a really good place.”
“I think it all came together [this
season] with the Four Continents victory,” said Bates. “I
think we still have a lot of potential to fulfill.”
Chock said she especially loves the
team’s free dance program this season to ‘Fever’ by Elvis
Presley and Michael Buble and ‘Burning Love’ by Elvis
“It’s such a cohesive theme,” said
Chock. “It’s a fun program centered around dance and the
theme of love.”
This duo, meanwhile, also credited
their success so far this season to their tutelage under the
direction of Dubreuil and Lauzon.
“I think we’re getting a feel for their
philosophy and their approach,” said Bates. “I think that
learning process is what sparked our renewed passion [this
Bates said the energy of the Montreal
rink environment has also helped boost the team’s spirits
and outlook in regard to their skating.
“[Marie and Patrice] have cultivated an
atmosphere. The development of their skaters is accomplished
not by a forceful nature,” said Bates. “When you’re part of
that environment, it’s hard not to be inspired.”
Hawayek & Baker, meanwhile, are also
excited for a memorable outing this week at Worlds.
This duo, who were the 2018 Four
Continents champions, are known for their terrific technique
and energy and should rack up some big points.
For the Rhythm Dance, they’ll be
skating to ‘Vuelo al Sur’ and ‘A Los Amigos’ by Juan Carlos
Caceres and for their free dance, the two will interpret the
‘Trampoline Theme’ and ‘In This Shirt’ by the Irrepressibles.
As mentioned earlier, Hawayek & Baker
also train in Montreal with Dubreuil and Lauzon.
Tennell and Bell Seek to Prove Themselves at World
by Liz Leamy
Bradie Tennell, the 2019 U.S. silver
medalist and 2018 U.S. titlist and Mariah Bell, the 2019 and
2017 U.S. bronze medalist, are primed to compete in Saitama, Japan at the 2019 World Championships
this week. Tennell, a Chicago area native and
Bell, who hails from Westminster, Colorado, will skate the ladies
short program on Wednesday.
Bell will face off against prominent World contenders
such as Russian Alina Zagitova, the 2018 Olympic Champion,
Russian Evgenia Medvedeva, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist
and Kaori Sakamoto, the 2019 Japanese titlist, among others.
Tennell, who catapulted to the
forefront of the sport in November 2017 when she scored
bronze at the International Skating Union Skate America
Championships in Lake Placid and then scored the U.S. title
two months later in January 2018, said she wants to put out
two first-rate programs this week.
In a pre-Worlds media teleconference
call held a week ago, Tennell said she was fired up to
compete in Saitama.
“I’m excited to go out there and show
the world what I can do,” said the 21 year-old
Carpentersville, Illinois native. “I think it’s going to be
a super fun time and I’m really excited to go.”
Tennell, who coaches a handful of
students in and around the Chicago area, said that in
leading up to Worlds, her training has been going well.
“Training’s been going really well,”
said Tennell, who is coached by Denise Myers and Jeremy
Allen. “I want to go out there and skate my programs. As
long as I do my job, I don’t have to worry about anything
Bell, meanwhile, who trains in Irvine,
California with Rafael Arutyunyan (coach of Nathan Chen, the
2018 World champion, among others), is also laser focused on
making her mark in Saitama.
Bell, known for her incredible speed,
strength and flow, said she is thrilled about skating in
“Training’s been going awesome and I’m
really looking forward to next week,” said Bell in a media
teleconference call last week. “It’s about believing in
myself and believing in what I do.”
Bell also talked about Arutyunyan’s
effect on her as a coach.
“[Rafael] is definitely very special
and he’s not for the faint of heart,” said Bell. “He truly
cares for his athletes and wants the best for us. He’ll do
what he needs to do to get it out of us.”
Bell said that she has also enjoyed
working with Shae-Lynn Bourne (the former Canadian World
champion ice dancer with Victor Kraatz) as one of her
choreographers this season, citing the long program (to
Ludovico Einaudi’s ‘Divinire’) that was created for her by
this renowned former top world dance contender as a personal
“The long program [Shae-Lynn] created
for me is one of my most favorite long programs,” said Bell.
“I’m telling a story and the skating is more advanced than
what I had done [in the past]. It’s also very exciting and
I’m very proud of the work I’ve done to make it what it is.”
U.S. Men Looking to Make Mark at Worlds
by Liz Leamy
The U.S. men’s contingent is set to make their mark at
the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships this week, to be
held in Saitama, Japan Wednesday, March 20th through Sunday, March 24th
at the Saitama Super Arena.
This event, which is taking place in this bustling
Japanese urban locale located nearly an hour northwest of
Tokyo (and considered to be part of the Greater Tokyo Area)
is the culmination of the season for the sport’s top men’s
and ladies’ singles, pairs and dance contenders, all of who
are vying for a top position and to establish themselves as
top-seed contenders leading up the 2022 Winter Olympic Games
in Beijing, China.
Leading this season’s U.S. World men’s contingent
is Nathan Chen, the 2018 World champion and Yale University
freshman who claimed his third consecutive U.S. title last
January in Detroit with a superb back-to-back series of
short and long programs.
Chen, who trains at various rinks in the New Haven and
Cromwell, Connecticut area, near his academic home base of
Yale said he is looking forward to this event.
“I’ve been training really well for Worlds and I’m really
excited,” said Chen in a pre-Worlds media teleconference
call from Yale last Friday. “I’m looking forward to this
Chen, who is also a two-time International Skating Union
Grand Prix Final champion (in 2017 and 2018), said his
primary goal is to keep improving from competition to
competition, something he certainly seems to be achieving
based upon his tremendous performance level and results over
the last several years.
“That’s always my goal every season,” said Chen, who said
flew to Japan from Connecticut last Saturday (March 16th).
“[So far], I’m really happy about [the progression].”
Certainly, Chen seems to be accomplishing this task in
every way, shape and form, as over the past number of
seasons he has helped set a whole new technical bar with his
extensive library of quads, including a Salchow, toe loop,
flip and Lutz, which he executes regularly in his programs
and which has catapulted him to the pinnacle of the sport.
At Worlds this week, Chen plans to skate the same short
and long programs that he did at Nationals in January.
Meanwhile, in regard to the ‘big’ picture, Chen seems to
be laser focused on building toward being in optimal
position for the 2022 Olympics and is doing everything
possible to make the most of his journey as he continues
working toward that goal.
The Salt Lake City native, who works with Rafael
Arutyunyan via Facetime from California while training
almost daily in Connecticut, said he is happy in regard to
where everything stands right now.
Chen has been taking courses on such subjects as math,
abnormal psychology and music at Yale, which he said he really enjoys
and seems to have adjusted quite well to his new life of
training and college academia.
“Definitely what I’ve been doing has been the right
move,” said Chen, who will be turning 20 on May 5th.
“As of now I’m happy with everything.”
Vincent Zhou, the talented 18 year-old San Jose,
California native who clinched silver at the 2019 U.S.
Nationals, also seems geared up to have a memorable outing
in Japan this week.
This amiable and strong athlete, who trains with Tammy
Gambill, Christy Krall and Tom Zakrajsek in California and
Colorado, is the 2017 U.S. silver and 2018 U.S. bronze
medalist and is the first skater to have ever landed a quad
Lutz at the Olympics (in 2018, where he finished sixth),
designating him as a serious prospect for the World
Zhou, who clinched bronze at the 2019 Four Continents
Championships last February, said he has been working hard
and making progress since then.
“Since Four Continents, I’ve been making good progress,”
said Zhou. “I’m trying to bring everything together and get
some effortless flow throughout the program so everything
looks like it flows better.”
According to Zhou, who, like Chen, has rightfully earned
the reputation as a global technical ace, the most important
thing about maintaining good flow and condition is to
effectively manage training on a daily basis.
Zhou added that once he gets a good repetition [of a jump
or his programs] down, he leaves it “at just that.”
Finally, he said he makes sure to get adequate rest and
nourishment in order to be at optimal pace for training and
“I make sure I utilize my day off to get some good rest,”
said Zhou. “I [also] eat three meals a day.”
Zhou also addressed the high standard of skating among
every competitor in his event.
“It’s an honor to be competing in such a deep field,”
said Zhou. “I have such a high level of respect for [all of]
these guys competing.”
Jason Brown, the 24 year-old Highland Park, Illinois
native who is the 2019 U.S. bronze medalist and 2015 U.S.
champion, also appears poised to make a lasting mark in
Brown, who trains in Toronto with Brian Orser and Tracy
Wilson, said he is excited as ever to compete at Worlds.
“I’m really excited to go to Worlds and make my mark in
Japan,” said Brown. “I’m so excited to have another
opportunity to get out there and learn.”
Brown, who has a total of four U.S. Championship (senior)
medals (he was second at the 2014 Nationals and third at the
2017 Nationals), said he has been focused on building a
super-strong base this past year.
Last spring, he began training with Orser and Wilson in
Canada after having spent many successful years with Kori
Ade, with whom he had worked with in the Chicago area and
Monument, Colorado, respectively, prior to moving to
Brown said his primary goal at Worlds is to just skate
“I would love to make my mark and get two personal best
by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
Five years after being held in Saitama, the World
Championships 2019 will take place in the same marvelous
“Super Arena“ in this large Japanese suburb of Toyko, about
45 minutes north of downtown. All skaters, coaches and
officials stay in a Tokyo hotel and come to the arena every
day by shuttle bus. For about ten years, Japan is the
country with the biggest and most enthusiastic figure
skating public. Their stars are as popular as top baseball
or football players in the USA and earn millions of dollars
with commercials. Two of the four 2018 World Champions try
to defend their titles: Nathan Chen and French ice dancers
Papadakis & Cizeron. The other two 2018 World Champions
Kaetlyn Osmond and the German pair Savchenko & Massot do not
compete this season.
In the ladies competition, a hard fight for the medals
between the Japanese and the Russian skaters may be expected.
The favorite is Rika Kihara from Japan who won the Grand
Prix Final and the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim,
USA and is the only lady in Saitama with a triple Axel, but
she was only second at Japanese Nationals. The new Japanese
Champion Kaori Sakamoto has no triple Axel, but her other
triple jumps are often very clean. Satoko Miyahara is the
most elegant of the three Japanese ladies, but her jumps are
Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova and the 2016 and 2017 World
champion Evgenia Medvedeva also want the title or at least a
medal, as well as the third Russian Sofia Samodurova.
Skaters of other countries seem to have only chances if the
Japanese and Russian ladies make several mistakes. U.S.
champion Bradie Tennell of the Chicago area as well as
Mariah Bell of California hope at least to be in the top six
or eight. Elizabet Tursynbaeva from Kazakhstan has also high
ambitions after winning silver at the Four Continents as
well as Loena Hendrickx from Belgium and Eunsoo Lim from
Full time student and U.S. Champion Nathan Chen is „on
Spring Break in Japan“ and therefore has time to compete at
Worlds. He and Japanese superstars Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma
Uno are the favorites in the men’s competition. For Hanyu,
it is the first competition after the Cup of Russia in the
fall where he injured his ankle. Uno also has some problems
but at least he won Four Continents. Other medal candidates
are Junhwan Cha from South Korea, the two Russian skaters
Mikhail Kolyada and Alexander Samarin and the Chinese man
Boyang Jin. Hopeful for a Top Ten position are also the two
U.S. skaters Jason Brown and Vincent Zhou, the third
Japanese skater Keiji Tanaka, the Czech skater Michal
Brezina and the Italian Matteo Rizzo.
The big favorites in ice dancing are French World Champions
Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron. Two U.S. dance
teams can hope for a medal as well: Madison Hubbell &
Zachary Donohue were silver medalists last year, Madison
Chock and Evan Bates beat them at Four Continents. Other
dance couples who may hope for a medal are Italians Charlène
Guignard & Marco Fabbri as well as the two Russian teams
of Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov as well as Alexandra
Stepanova & Ivan Bukin. Two of Canada’s couples aspire a top
position: Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje as well as Piper
Gilles & Paul Poirier.
In pairs skating one team from France, two from Russia and
two from China might be the best in Saitama.
Vanessa James & Morgan Ciprès from France won the Grand
Prix Final in December and the European Championships in
January. They are kind of favorites if they do not make
mistakes. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han, runner-ups at Worlds in
2018, would be the favorites, but Sui still suffers from
several injuries she had in the last 12 months. So we have
to wait and see in which shape she is. The other Chinese
pair of Cheng Peng & Yang Jin also has high ambitions.
Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from Russia also hope
for a gold medal, but they were not so excellent at
Europeans. Their team mates Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert are back. They had to leave out Europeans because
Enbert had to undergo some mysterious medical examination.
The Canadian pair of Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro as well as the new U.S. champions Ashley Cain
Timothy LeDuc as well as the Italians Nicole della
Monica & Matteo Guarise also hope for a good position in the top