by Carly Gold
Hubbell and Donohue Surpass Shibutanis for Ice Dance Gold
(7 January 2018) The final event of the U.S. Championships was the Ice Dance event. The Shibutanis, who were in first place after the short dance, dropped to second behind Madison Hubbell & Zach Donohue after the free dance. Hubbell and Donohue delivered a fantastic free performance Sunday aafternoon to score a winning total of 197.12 points combined.
Hubbell & Donohue accomplished a mesmerizing free dance to a mash up of “Across the Sky” by Rag’n Bone Man and “Caught Out in the Rain” by Beth Hart. The team received level 4s on four of their leveled elements, and a level 3 on their diagonal step sequence. Their highest scoring element of the free dance was their serpentine step sequence, which earned straight 3s in Grades of Execution for a score of 11.90 points in the element alone. Hubbell and Donohue also scored the highest components of the event, with 58.25 points.
“I’m pretty excited. We had the goal of staying focused and not letting ourselves become distracted and making mistakes like we had in the past. I think that we’ve shown how much we have grown. We didn’t have two perfect skates, and there is a lot of room to grow, but we were able to attain what our fellow competitors have already accomplished in their careers,” Hubbell said after her free dance performance.
As the champions of the event, Hubbell and Donohue are virtual locks for the 2018 Olympic team. It will be the fist Olympic Games appearance for both Madison and Zach.
“We are just really proud of ourselves. We were proud from the moment we finished, and winning (the Championships) is just a bonus for us,” Hubbell remarked.
Maia & Alex Shibutani skated a lovely performance to “Paradise” by Coldplay, but their score of 114.60 points was only strong enough for third in the free dance. Their total score of 196.93 points put them in second place, just under .2 points from Hubbell and Donohue.
The Shibutanis lost points in levels of elements, receiving only level 3s for their circular step sequence and diagonal step sequence. In addition, they scored only the fourth highest components of the night, with a score of 57.34 points. The elements they performed were just not as strong as the top two teams in the free dance.
“Alex and I have a lot to be proud of coming out of this week. We have been challenging ourselves with both of our programs tis season to really push ourselves to reach another level,” Maia said. “Today, we had a mistake in our diagonal (step sequence) which was unfortunate, but we had each other’s backs out there. There were a lot of things about the program that we were proud of.”
The 2018 Olympic Games will be the second appearance for the Shibutani siblings, as they placed 9th in their first appearance in 2014.
Chock & Bates remained in third place, although they won the free dance segment with a score of 118.99 points. They performed an absolutely breathtaking performance to “Imagine” by John Lennon, and earned a combined score of 196.60 points combined.
Chock & Bates were awarded with level 4s on 6 of their 7 leveled elements, as well as huge GOE on every element performed. Their opening level 4 stationary lift gained straight plus 3s, as well as their choreographed lift later in the performance. Chock and Bates scored the highest element score of the night, earning 61.39 points.
“We are really proud of how we skated today, and just in general the way we have been fighting and will continue to fight. I think we have improved a lot over the last year,” Bates stated. “The results haven’t gone our way, particularity this week we would have loved a different result, but we can find a lot of encouragement in our personal growth.”
Chock & Bates will be the third team selected for the 2018 Olympic Games. They competed at the 2014 Winter Games as well, placing 8th in the event.
Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker maintained their position after the short dance to win the pewter medal. They scored 114.43 points in the free dance for a total score of 187.61 points. They performed a dramatic free dance to “Liebestraume” by Franz Linzt, and were the only team in the event to achieve a level four on each element completed.
Hawayek & Baker improved on their Championships finish from last year, where they placed fifth. I am a huge fan of this team, and see great things for their future in this sport. The team needs to improve on their component score to achieve a top-three finish in future years, but with more experience in senior level events it should be easily obtainable.
Rachel & Michael Parsons rounded out the top five with a free dance score of 103.38 points for a total score of 176.07 points.