by Liz Leamy
(16 January 2021) Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, the 2018 and 2019 U.S. champions who were second at the 2020 U.S. Championships, reclaimed their crown at the 2021 U.S. Championships in Las Vegas last night, edging out Madison Chock & Evan Bates, the 2020 U.S. titlists, by just 1.63 points with a 224.56 total. The rivalry between these two teams continues as each strive to be the premiere American dance contenders heading into the 2022 Olympics.
Skating to the arresting song ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley and also by K.D. Lang, as well as Karl Hugo’s ‘Pray Gently,’ Hubbell and Donahue turned on the star power and flew through around the ice at top speeds, hitting all of their elements with skill, command and confidence. The couple previously used 'Hallelujah' as their exhibition music during the 2018/19 season.
The duo reeled of such components as high-charged twizzles, stunning lifts and footwork sequences featuring all of the sport’s primary turns and steps including three turns, brackets, rockers, counters, twizzles, loops, mohawks, Choctaws and toe turns in both directions, which was key as these things comprise the foundation of figure skating.
For this technically packed free dance, Hubbell and Donahue were awarded an array of plus four and five execution scores and a 134.90.
The duo, who trains with Marie France-Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in Montreal, described this victory as sweet.
“We couldn’t be happier to be here and to have accomplished this goal,” said Hubbell, an Okemo, Michigan native, who, with Donohue scored World Championship silver and bronze in 2018 and 2019, respectively. “Each competition is individual and each year it’s a different game and it’s an honor to be a U.S. champion and to [be able to] compete with these athletes is always an honor.”
“We’re just thrilled to be here,” said Donohue. “And it feels amazing to be back in Vegas with another win.” (Last fall, Hubbell and Donohue won gold in the dance event at the 2020 International Skate America Championships, held at the same venue, the Orleans Arena.)
Madison Chock & Evan Bates, the two-time World medalists (silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016) and defending U.S. titlists, claimed silver with a 222.93 total, having moved from first in the Rhythm Dance with their provocative and stunning Egyptian Snake Dance program, the same vehicle that had helped them clinch the U.S. crown last year.
This team, who, like Hubbell and Donohue, train in Montreal with France-Dubreuil and Lauzon, were smooth, fluid and engaging and did a collection of stunning lifts, electric spins and complex, fast-moving footwork sequences and connecting steps, among other things.
Bates, who had a fatal stumble on a twizzle during a twizzle sequence, which cost them the title, said he and Chock, who are also the 2015 U.S. champions, were pleased with their performance.
“So much of the program was really good,” said Bates, who, with Chock, earned a host of plus four and plus five grade of execution marks for their elements. “We’re going to get back to work in Montreal. It’s all part of being an athlete.”
The error in the twizzle cost them double the points by which they trailed Hubbell & Donahue.
Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, the two-time U.S. bronze medalists in 2019 and 2020, secured bronze at this event with a 212.55 total for their high-energy free dance to Blondie’s iconic 1980s pop hit ‘Heart of Glass’ as interpreted, ironically, by Philip Glass.
Awarded a 127.27, Hawayek and Baker covered the ice with the ease, power and artistry of a solid world-class dance team and executed solid twizzles, numerous first-rate lifts and complex footwork sequences for which they received a majority of plus-four grade of execution marks from the nine-member judging panel.
“We’re quite proud of our performance as a building block for the two of us,” said Baker, who, along with Hawayek, also trains in Montreal with France-Dubreuil and Lauzon, like the gold and silver medalists in this competition. “We trained really hard for this event and used it as an opportunity to grow.”