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2014 U.S. National Championships

Davis & White Near Perfect in Free Dance, Exceed 200 points

by Klaus-Reihnhold Kany

(11 January 2014)  The whole ice dance competition at US Nationals in Boston had a very high level which would have been impossible 10 or 15 years ago, let alone in the last century. All of the six best couples train in one of the three dance schools in the Detroit area. They would all be worth being sent to the Olympic Games and have a good result in Sochi. But it is for good reasons that no country has more than three spots. It would frustrate and discourage the rest of the world if one country were too dominant. Meryl Davis confirmed: ”I think we feel there’s such greatness in American ice dance in the building. Liz Punsalan is coaching here. Tanith Belbin is doing commentary. Ben Agosto is here. With all of those American ice dancing greats being here, it really feels like a collective effort and we feel proud to be a part of it.”

No question that she and Charlie White, the two time ice dance world champions, would win their sixth title. But the way to be first makes the difference and everything looks easy and nevertheless had a high speed. The Scheherazade program has grown from month to month and started with a risky curve lift in which she jumps from below into his arms. Later the rotational lift had a usual extremely high speed. Everything else was excellent as well. According to the story in the music their coach Marina Zoueva had choreographed a little bit of additional erotic movements in the last few weeks. After all, Scheherazade and the king were married. About 10,000 spectators, as many as never in US ice dancing before, had come for the dance event and gave a standing ovation.

This time Davis and White got 200.19 total points, a level 4 on all elements, a +3 on 70 of the 72 given elements score and component scores of 10.0 in 44 of 45 cases. As the lowest mark is always deleted, they got the maximum possible 119.50 points on their free dance. More points are even theoretically and mathematically impossible. Some people might criticize this hundred per cent voting looks as if the jury had agreed before the competition to give them the maximum. But at least one judge had the courage to give a 9.75 for transitions and a +2 for two elements. He saved the image that the jury was independent.

White later reflected: “We are really proud of our consistency. We’ve been lucky to be injury-free, which is another big part of it. And we’ve worked our butts off. It’s just a huge collective effort. Our families have played such a big role. We work hard every day on the ice and off the ice. We have a great athletic trainer, Chad, who pushes us to where we think we couldn’t go. And then on the ice we have Marina who every second is pushing us both mentally and physically. I think a big part of it is mental. We are lucky we’ve had the coaches that can really get it out of us, especially at the end of a program with music like that when you need it.”

White also mentioned the Olympic team event: “We have made it very clear that we’ve be interested in doing both portions of the team event. For us having another opportunity to compete at the Olympics is amazing in and of itself and America is certainly poised to be in the hunt for a medal in the team event. Excited to be part of that team and do our best for our teammates.”

Madison Chock and Evan Bates kept their second position, earned a total of 181.44 points and had about four more points in the free dance than the teams on third and fourth position. Skating to the French musical “Les Miserables”, the students of Igor Shpilband started with an excellent combination lift for which they got seven +3, followed by a perfectly synchronized twizzle sequence (six times +3). All the other elements were performed first class as well, half of them were +2, the other half +3. Chock has always had a very good expression and Bates has improved his one lately with the help of Shpilband’s mime coach. The components were around 9.0, which they have never had before. Bates commented: ”We skated a great free dance today. It’s the best we’ve ever skated. This has been the best competition we’ve ever had together, and it’s just at the perfect time, rolling into Sochi. We’re going to build off of this. If we skate like this in Sochi, we will be very happy.”

The first two Olympic spots were quite clear, but was a close battle for the third Olympic spot. The winners are Maia and Alex Shibutani from Canton who are third with 170.44 points. After their Grand Prix they had changed the middle part of their Michael Jackson free dance. They took out “Ben” and added “Man in the Mirror“ instead. Zoueva explained: “The music they were using before was missing the concept a little bit.” Five of their elements had a level 4, three a level 3. The twizzle sequence was a highlight as usual. Their whole program looked fresh and lively and it was a good idea to go away from their conservative style of the last few years.

Alex Shibutani later said: ”A lot of emotions going through my head, first of all just really tired, we had to work really hard for that one today. What we do on the ice is really physical, but there’s a huge mental component to it too. There’s the benefits of knowing we have ten years of experience, ten years of amazing opportunities and memories. We were really mentally strong today. A program like this one begins and ends with such high energy. We’ve never had a program like this where people are screaming when the first note hits. You know the music obviously carries some weight. We know that we’re not done improving the program by any means, there is still a lot of work to be done, and we’re happy that we’ll have the opportunity to do that.”

Maia Shibutani added: “We wanted to pick two programs that not only went against the grain of what everybody would be doing, but also a program that would be fun for us, and hopefully fun for the audience, so that’s why we picked this really energetic music. It takes a lot out of you. It’s really hard to perform every single second, but I think it’s still worth it.”

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the Detroit Skating Club are fourth with 168.27 points, a bit more than two points away from an Olympic spot if the nomination committee confirms what everybody expects. The couple can express the feelings between man and woman more convincingly on the ice as they are also a couple in life and no brothers and sisters. On the other hand their speed during the program was a bit lower, and the judges saw that. But their free dance to “Nocturne and Bohemian Rhapsody” was very good as well. Every element except the two step sequence (level 3) was a level 4 and everything was well performed. Hubbell commented: “The crowd’s energy really helped us perform all the way through the four minutes. I don’t think we could be any more proud of ourselves this year. It’s been very tough, everyone knows, it’s an old story. But for us it’s very emotional.” Donohue added: “I’m so proud of my partner, she’s gone through a lot this year: concussions, torn body parts, bruises, cuts, scrapes. She really pulled through and I think we had the best skate of our lives so far. We are really thrilled with our program.”

The fifth place with 160.26 points is a big success for Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton in their first senior season. They train in the school of Krylova/Camerlengo school in Detroit. Their free dance to a Bollywood medley had an exotic touch and all elements were well performed. Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, students of Igor Shpilband, remained on sixth position and earned 155,98 points. Like the top teams they made no mistake in the Spartacus free dance and showed a very good general level.