by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(11 February 2019) The Ice Dance competition at the Four Continents Championships 2019 had a high level. Seven of the 12 couples came from the Montreal school. The competition ended with a surprise, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, World silver medalists in March 2018 and winner of the Grand Prix Final in December 2018, did not win any medal although they were first in the Rhythm Dance and did not fall in the Free Dance.
Gold medalists with 207.42 points are their team mates Madison Chock & Evan Bates, who also train in the famous Montreal ice dance school. They had not competed in this season until early January 2019 because Chock had problems to get well prepared after her ankle surgery. In Anaheim, they were second in the Rhythm Dance to a Flamenco and the "Assassin’s Tango“, only 0.77 points behind Hubbell and Donohue. Their step sequence was outstanding (level 4) and the very good Tango sections had a level 4 and 3. The Twizzles and the rotational lift were stellar again (several GOEs of +5).
Chock commented, “It’s such a joy to perform for the audience. Taking 10 months off and not being able to skate for 3 months, was a bit nerve racking. We’re very happy we competed in Poland (at Mentor Torun Cup in January) before Nationals. It was a great way to warm up our programs.“ Bates added, “What makes the Tango Romantica difficult, is the tempo, it’s a fast dance and there is a lot of leading and partnership. Our new team of coaches have done a lot for us, not just technically, but getting us to love going to the rink every day. We’ve come back better than ever. We’re strong in both phases of the competition and that is reflective of our overall improvement.“
In their free dance to the Elvis Presley songs “Fever“ and “Burning Love“, all elements were excellent and had mainly GOEs of +4, eight of the nine even had several +5. They chose to perform a combination lift whereas the majority of the dancers chose to perform two short lifts instead and therefore have ten elements. The components were around 9.4, with five perfect 10.0. The program was elegant, had difficult footwork and was the best program they ever had. Bates said, “It’s been a whirlwind of five weeks or so since we came back to the competitive scene. So it feels really good especially after the emotional high of Nationals. It was difficult to come here and compete again with these caliber of teams.“
Kaitlyn Weaver & Andre Poje from Canada won the silver medal with 203.93 points. They had also sat out the Grand Prix competitions. Their Rhythm Dance to the "Libertango“ by Astor Piazzola had excellent levels. Four elements were very good, only his Twizzle sequence was not perfectly clean. Weaver said, “We are both excited to return to competitive skating, we love this tango very much. The key points are very difficult not just to do well but to do on time. Tango is one of our favorite rhythms to perform. It is soft, subtle, nuance.“
Their free dance music is “S.O.S. d’un terrien en detresse” and they dedicated it to Olympia bronze medalist Denis Ten from Kazakhstan who was killed last July. He had planned to use this music during this season. All ten elements, including innovative lifts, were very strong. GOEs of +3 and +4 dominated, and six of the ten had some GOEs of +5.
Weaver explained, “It’s about the emotional memories that we have shared with Denis throughout our friendship. He was not only an amazing skater but an amazing person. It is our medium of expressing ourselves, that’s why it’s so special to us. Andrew and I are so pleased to be able to skate free and with love today, that was our goal. Overall in the fall we spent our time on "The Thank you Canada Tour“ and we were adamant about keeping every element in our program so we can practice it every night and that paid off.“
Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier from Scarborough near Toronto, Ontario, took the bronze medal, earning 202.45 points. Four of their five elements had a level 3, only the rotational lift had a level 4 and was excellently executed. Poirier explained, “We have had some problems with the levels on Tango Romantica and we have made some improvements and are pleased with them, despite where we may end up in the standings.“
Their free dance to the song "Starry Starry Night“, performed by Don MacLean, was the second best free dance of the competition. Five of the level elements had a level 4 and two a level 3, whereas the three choreo elements never have any levels. GOEs of +4 dominated and their flow was excellent. Their components had an average of 9.4, and they had five perfect 10.0. Poirier said, “We are using the story of Vincent van Gogh’s art and tell the more general human story of what it means to create and struggle and put it out into the world and see how people take it.“ Gilles added, “We’re both very happy about how we skated, this program brings so much life and so much energy. After nationals we focused on the key points.“
U.S. champions Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue came only fourth with 201.66 points, in spite of taking a close lead in the Rhythm Dance. Here, the first highlight were the twizzles which were rewarded with five GOEs of +5. The curve lift also got a level 4, but the step sequence and the first Tango section only had a level 2.
“There were some mixed feelings today“, Hubbell explained. “At moments it felt very on, I felt very excited to perform but there were also some shaky moments. It is a testimony to our training to be able to put out a strong performance one week after nationals, to not necessarily do our best but be able to do enough for today. The Tango Romantica has been one of the most challenging dances since changing the system and putting the key points in there, partially because the key points are so many steps so you can do most of them well and if you miss one you miss the whole key point. I also think it is difficult to portray a Tango, which is sharp and dynamic while maintaining a smooth edge quality.“
The stationary lift was the first element of their Romeo and Juliet free dance, but they travelled too much and got only a basic level instead of level 4. This cost them more than five points and a medal even if the judges gave them GOEs with an average of +4. The levels and the execution of the other elements were very good and they got the highest components with an average of 9.5 and five 10.0.
Hubbell said, “The performance was actually not disappointing at all, we’re very pleased overall. Our first lift, which is a stationary, is considered to travel just so much that we did not get any level for that element. That’s very unfortunate. Certainly we would rather it happens here than the Worlds, so maybe it’s a good wake-up call to make sure that everything is good for Worlds. We will go home and work to do absolutely our best in Japan.“
The third U.S. team of Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, who also train in Montreal, finished fifth with 189.87 points. The twizzles and the lift in the Rhythm Dance had a level 4, the other three elements level 2 and 3. Hawayek said, “Levels aside, we felt it was a huge step up from what we’ve done this season so far. We’re super proud of the consistency that we’re continuing to show and being able to to put out stronger performances each time.“ In their faultless free dance, GOEs of +3 dominated and the levels were mixed. Hawayek explained, “It was a season’s best score wise and performance wise and we both felt like it was our strongest showing yet.“
Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen represented Denmark until 2018, and debuted here for Canada. They finished sixth with 186.91 points. Both programs were almost flawless and they had mainly GOEs of +3. Fournier Beaudry said, “It was so much emotion and it felt so good to step out there again after such a long time and perform as we are able to do it. Europeans is a bigger event as there are more couples, but the organization is just as big.“
Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu from China ended seventh with 169.11 points and their countrymen Hong Chen & Zhouming Sun eighth with 156.89 points. Misato Komatsubara & American citizen Tim Koleto from Japan tool ninth place with 149.14 points and Chantelle Kerry & Andrew Dodds from Australia were tenth with 138.53 points.