2018 U.S. National Championships
29 December - 7 January 2018, San Jose, CA
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
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.
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
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.
Mirai Nagasu (2)
Bdarie Tennell (1)
Ross Minor (2)
Nathan Chen (1)
Vincent Zhou (3)
Adam Rippon (4)
Tarah Kayne & Danny O'Shea (2)
Alexa Scimeca-Knierem & Chris
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)
Pooja Kalyan (2)
Alysa Liu (1)
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)
Wang & Spencer Howe (4)
Caroline Green & Gordon Green (2)
Christina Carreira & Anthony
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
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
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
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 awards photos by Carly Gold
Juvenile and Intermediate
Intermediate Singles and Pairs Finals Compete on Day 2 of
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.
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.
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
Zoe Larson & Nick Hubbart captured the Intermediate pairs
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
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.
UCKY UCKY UCKY.
Juvenile Singles and Pairs Lead off 2018
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
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
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.
The Intermediate Championships for singles and pairs will
finish on Saturday, December 30 with the skating of their
- Current attendance estimates and comparison to previous U.S.
Photos © 2017, 2018 by George Rossano