Intermediate Ladies Medalists
Intermediate Men Medalists
Intermediate Pairs Medalists
Intermediate Dance Medalists
photo by Carly Gold

2018 U.S. National Championships

29 December - 7 January 2018, San Jose, CA


The "Usual Suspects" Headline Dance Championships - Maia & Alex Shibutani, the 2016 and 2017 U.S. champions and three-time World medalists, Madison Chock & Evan Bates, the 2015 U.S. titlists and two-time World medalists and Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, the four-time U.S. bronze medalists, collectively comprise some of the three strongest American dance entries to ever be facing off against one another at a U.S. Championships, especially during an Olympic season, which ought to make this a more exciting showdown than ever.

U.S. Pair Teams Vie for One Olympic Berth - The country’s premiere pair teams, helmed by Alexa Scimeca Knierim & Chris Knierim, the 2015 U.S. champions and Deanna Stellato & Nathan Bartholomay of Ellenton, Florida, the 2017 U.S. fourth-place finishers are some of the teams at the helm of this year’s U.S. pair roster at the U.S. Championships in San Jose, which kicks off on Thursday, January 4th at the SAP Center.

U.S. Men Ready for Showdown in San Jose - The leading U.S. men seem as fired up as ever as they prepare to face off against one another at the U.S. Championships in San Jose this week in hopes of scoring a medal and one of three sought-after U.S. Olympic spots.

Top American Ladies in the Hunt for U.S. Olympic Berths in San Jose - It's show time this week for Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. champion, Ashley Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist and three-time U.S. titlist, Mirai Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. champion, Bradie Tennell, the 2015 U.S. junior gold medalist, along with several other premiere American ladies, to score a coveted U.S. Olympic team spot at the U.S. Championships in San Jose.

Olympic and World Team Selections

U.S. Olympic Team nominations(1) and World Team selections following the National Championships roughly followed order of finish, though with one unsurprising exception.  The guiding principle for Olympic selections is to choose those skaters who are most likely to gain the U.S. the largest number of medals at the 2018 ISU Olympic Winter Games.  The guiding principle for World and World Junior selections is to choose those skaters who are most likely to gain the U.S. the largest number of entries for the subsequent 2019 ISU Championships.

For the men, silver medalist Ross Minor was bypassed for Adam Rippon (pewter medal) for the Olympic and World Championships, and as a further slap in the face he was named only the second alternate for the Olympic Team.  Minor was assigned to the Four Continents Championships but withdrew on 12 January 2018.

For the ladies, it was speculated that pewter medalist Ashley Wagner might be selected over one of the higher placing ladies, but it was ultimately thought by the International Committee of U.S. Figure Skating that Wagner had a lesser body of work for the season and was not selected to the Olympic or World Teams.  She was assigned to the Four Continents Championships, but on 12 January 2018 U.S. Figure Skating announce she too had withdrawn from that competition.

In a quirk of the Olympic rules, the U.S. has two entries for the 2018 World Championships, but only one for the Olympic Winter Games.  As expected, Knierem & Knierem were named the sole nomination for the Olympic Team.

In Dance, the top three teams, who have been at each others heels all season, were named to the Olympic and World teams.

Follow the link for all assignements.

(1)  U.S. Figure Skating nominates Olympic Team members to the USOC which actually selects the entire Olympic Team representing the U.S. in the Olympic Winter Games.  U.S. Figure Skating selects the team members to the various ISU Championships.

Senior Championships

Senior Ladies Senior Men Senior Pairs Senior Dance

Mirai Nagasu (2)
Bdarie Tennell (1)
Karen Chen (3)
Ashley Wagner (4)

Ross Minor (2)
Nathan Chen (1)
Vincent Zhou (3)
Adam Rippon (4)

Tarah Kayne & Danny O'Shea (2)
Alexa Scimeca-Knierem & Chris Knierem(1)
Deanna Stellato & Nathan Bartholomy (3)
Ashley Cain & Timothy LeDuc (4)

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (2)
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (1)
Megan Chock & Evan Bates (3)
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (4)


Senior Ladies Short Program

Senior Ladies Free Skate

Senior Men Short Program

Senior Men Free Skate
Senior Pairs Short Program Senior Pairs Free Skate
Senior Dance Short Dance Senior Dance Free Dance

Junior Championships

Junior Ladies Junior Men Junior Pairs Junior Dance

Pooja Kalyan (2)
Alysa Liu (1)
Ting Cui (3)
Hanna Harrell (4)

Dinh Tran (2)
Camden Pulkinen (1)
Maxim Naumov (3)
Ryan Dunk (4)

Sarah Feng & TJ Nyman (2)
Audrey Lu & Misha Mitrofanov (1)
Laiken Lockley & Keenan Prochnow (3)
Nadine Wang & Spencer Howe (4)

Caroline Green & Gordon Green (2)
Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (1)
Chloe Lewis & Logan Bye (3)
Eliana Gropman & Ian Somerville (4)


No Surprise Here: Junior Dance Title Goes to Carreria & Ponomarenko

Christina Carreria & Anthony Ponomarenko stole the show in the Junior Dance event, scoring 90.48 points in the free dance for a total score of 159.18 in Thursday morning’s event. The team started the event strong in the short dance, skating a feisty performance to “Conga.” The reigning 2017 U.S. Junior silver medalists won the portion of the event by more than 5 points with a score of 68.70.

The undisputed favorites of the event have had a remarkable showing all season, winning both of their Junior Grand Prix events and placing 2nd in the Junior Grand Prix Final. Carreria and Ponomarenko performed a captivating free dance to the soundtrack from W.E., which was mesmerizing from start to finish. The GOEs on every element they performed were either 2s or 3s, boosting the base value of their elements by 7.57 points. They achieved level 4s on 4 of the 5 elements they completed. Carreria & Ponomarenko are one of the most talented teams in the U.S. right now, and they certainly have a bright future ahead of themselves!

Siblings Caroline & Gordon Green came in second with a free dance score of 83.58 points and a total score of 146.72, improving upon their 5th place showing in the previous year. Their enchanting free dance to Sarah Brightman’s “Strangers in Paradise” included level 4s on their two lifts, twizzles, and combination spin. The team’s twizzles were the best in the event, gaining a huge 8.23 points for the single element. Placing 3rd in both of their Junior Grand Prix events this season, this duo has demonstrated the potential to be a top Senior team in the near future.

Capturing the bronze medal with a score of 143.21 points was the team of Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye. Lewis and Bye won the 2013 U.S. Novice title, and has placed 6th, 7th, 6th, and 4th at Junior in the following years, respectively. It was nice to see them improve upon their placement this year by placing in the top three.  Their free dance performed to a “Coeur de Pirate” medley was highlighted by a level 4 straight-line lift and a level 4 twizzle sequence. However, the team lost points in their component score, which was nearly 6 points below the champions of the event.

Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville placed 5th in the free dance, but their short dance score was enough to help them win the pewter medal. They earned 77.77 points in the free dance with a combined score of 138.90 points. They placed 6th in last year’s event.

Camden Pulkinen Crushes it in Junior Men

Camden Pulkinen in Junior Men's Short Program

Alysa Liu Take 2018 Junior Ladies Title

The Junior Ladies title was won by Alysa Liu, a wunderkind who is exactly what U.S. Figure Skating needs -  a 12-year-old with all the triples through triple Lutz, a clean Triple Lutz - Triple Toe loop combination, and the style and personality to go with it.  She won both the short and long, and ran away with the title with a 17.65 point margin of victory.

In the short, skating to "Spanish Flame", Liu landed triple flip - triple toe loop, triple Lutz and double Axel.  All three spins were level four while the step sequence was level three. Except for an edge attention on the flip, it was a clean, dynamic skate with no insecurity.  In the long, the student of Laura Lipetsky, with choreography by Cindy Stuart, skated to music from Le Miz, she landed seven triples and two double Axels.  Only an opening double Axel was in the first half of the program.  Two spins were level four, while the the third and the step sequence where level three.  For both programs her components were in the mid-sixes, though some judges had her in the high sevens.

Pooja Kalyan gave two mature performances to finish second.  She edged out Ting Cui by 1.02 points.  Cui was eleventh in the short and second in the long.  In the short she fell on double Axel and had only triple toe loop - double toe loop for her combination  In the long she landed seven triples and two double Axels, with all three spins level four and the step sequence level three.  Kalyan had six triples in the long and two double Axels, with two level four spins.  Hannah Harrell placed fourth.  She landed five triples and fell on two others.  She also singled an Axel.  She had three level four spins and level three on the step sequence.

Alysa Liu, St. Moritz ISC

Audrey Lu FSC & Misha Mitrofanov are 2018 Junior Pairs Champions

It was an unambiguous win for Audrey Lu & Misha Mitrofanov, who captured the Junior title with a 17.74 point margin and wins in both the short and the long.  Skating to "Once Upon a December" in the short they skated with appropriate speed and nicely interpreted the music in a nearly clean program.  They received just a few negative GoEs on their opening double twist due to a catch off the shoulder of Mitrofanov.  Otherwise their other elements were mostly 2s and their components averaged 6.5.

In the Free Skate, their twist again received a few -1s, due to the catch not being as clean as it needs to be, though overall it had good air.  Lu fell on through triple loop, but then the remainder of the program was clean.  In the long their components were a bit higher, averaging just over 7.0.

They skated with solid technique and good speed, but artistically the program was odd.  Their music for the long began with "Memories" from Cats, but then transitioned to "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the opera.  Other than both of these were written by Andrew Lloyd Weber, they have nothing to do with each other making for a program lacking any purposeful sense.

Audrey Lu, Dallas FSC & Misha Mitrofanov, Dallas FSC

Novice Championships

Novice awards photos by Carly Gold

Novice Ladies Novice Men Novice Pairs Novice Dance


Novice Ladies Novice Men Novice Pairs Novice Dance

Juvenile and Intermediate Championships

Intermediate Singles and Pairs Finals Compete on Day 2 of U.S. Championships

Indi Cha, Maxim Zharkov, and Zoe Larson & Nick Hubbart won the Intermediate titles for the Ladies, Men and Pairs on the second day of U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Indi Cha of the Skating Club of Boston took the lead of both the short and long program to capture the Immediate Ladies title. Cha took a small lead of 0.21 points in the short program.  In the free skate, skating to music from "La La Land" she opened up her lead by and additional 2.12 points.  Her win was thanks to strong technical scores in both segments.  Her component, while strong in the low 5s, where not the best of the group in either segment.

Cha showed command of triple Salchow, loop and flip as well as a strong double Axel.  Her spins all scored level while her steps were level 2.

Maxim Zharkov gave two commanding performances in the Intermediate Men's event, winning by 12.67 points.  He showed command of triple toe loop, triple flip and triple Lutzs, as well as double Axel.  He did not attempt triple loop or Salchow in either segment.  His component scores averaged just under 5.  Skating to music from "Carmen" he was a commanding presence on the ice with a shock of red hair and intense projection of the program.

Zoe Larson & Nick Hubbart captured the Intermediate pairs title after being together only since August of 2017.   The edged out Cate Fleming & Jedidiah Isabel by just 0.27 points.  Larson & Hubbart won the Short Program, while Fleming & Isbell took the Free Skate.

The top two teams were the only teams of this event to display uniformly capable pairs skills.  They were also the only two teams to execute real twist lifts and throws in either the short and the long. Both teams earned components in the high fours to low fives.

Otherwise, the overall quality of the pairs event was a disappointment.  The boys lifting the girls to shoulder level as she squirms half a turn between his hands before being dropped on the ice is not an acceptable standard for a twist lift.  Neither is a throw where the girl turns three-quarters of a turn before the boy lets go and she completes only a quarter turn in the air on her own.  The development pipeline for U.S. pairs is in dire straights, and has been for years.  The great pairs minds at U.S. Figure Skating need to start doing their jobs and take action to fix this.

And as for music choices, I have never been much concerned about the uck factor for siblings skating together, but I did reach my limit in the short program where a brother-sister team skated to lyrics about making love to each other, and how they wanted their partner to tremble when they are touched.


Juvenile Singles and Pairs Lead off 2018 Championships

The Juvenile and Intermediate Championships kicked off the 2018 National Championships at the Solar4America Ice arena in San Jose, CA on Friday, December 29.  The 2018 Championships are several weeks earlier than usual due to this being an Olympic season.  The schedule is also a day longer than in the past, starting a day earlier and filling up 10 days of competition.  Juvenile singles and pairs competitions were completed on this first day, and the Intermediate singles and pairs skated their short programs.  Attendance varied during the day, but was generally 200-300 spectators.  Only about 450 seats are available, and for the Junior Short programs, we predict a lot of unhappy all event ticket holders will be unable to get into the arena.  Why the Junior short programs are even in the secondary arena at all, though, in itself makes no sense.

Isabeau Levito, from New Jersey, led the way on both the technical side and component side to win the Juvenile Girls title.  She gave a strong, dynamic, outgoing performance that was clearly above the rest of her group, earning 65.39 points, with Performance in Interpretation scores in the fives - excellent scores for a Juvenile skater.  She opened with a strong double Axel, then filled time with her Choreographic step sequence, to allow the remaining jumps to be executed in the second half.  Her second double Axel, in combination with half loop and double flip was not as clean as the first, with the half loop called under-rotated.  Both of her spins reached level 4.  At 10 years old, Levito is the kind of Juvenile skater the U.S. needs to be developing at her age.

Skating to music from "Peter Pan," New York native Keita Horiko  won the Juvenile Boys title with a strong skate. Most of his lead (2.58 points) came on the technical side, though he still managed to lead in components by 0.53 points.  He landed two double Axels, though with a handful of negative GoEs.  One of these was in combination with half loop and double loop.  Both his spins reached level 4.  Like Lovato, his program was back loaded with an opening double flip, then a time-killing spin and Choreographic step sequence followed by four jump elements in a row - not particular creative choreography, but good for racking up points.

Natasha Mishkutionok (Dallas FSC) & Daniel Tioumentsev (Albuquerque FSC) skated a Russian gypsy themed program. They scored 48.63 points, 5.05 ahead of the rest of the group.  The team scored level four on their opening group2 lift and closing pair spin.  Their side-by-side change combination spin was scored level 3.  Their components averaged near 4.25.  While well skated, like all the Juvenile pairs, their program is hampered by ruled that restrict the Juvenile pairs to mostly trivial pairs elements.  Compared to Juvenile singles and dance, Juvenile pairs is handcuffed by rules that hold back the development of U.S. pairs.

The Intermediate Championships for singles and pairs will finish on Saturday, December 30 with the skating of their long programs.

Estimated Attendance - Current attendance estimates and comparison to previous U.S. Nationals.

Photos © 2017, 2018 by George Rossano

Juvenile Girls Medalists
Juvenile Boys Medalists
Juvenile Pairs Medalists
Juvenile Dance Medalists