Senior Short Dance Re-Cap
by IDC Staff

It’s not often an event lives up to its hype. When it does, you know you’ve witnessed something special.

Friday afternoon, the 14 senior ice dance teams took to the ice at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. A couple hours later, 14 clean performances — no falls, no deductions. Welcome to the new era of U.S. ice dancing.

As expected, reigning world champions Meryl Davis & Charlie White (pictured, left) are in first. They had the highest Technical Element Score (38.22) and highest Program Components (38.67) for a segment total of 76.89. Both patterns of the Rhumba were called only level 3, so they were not the top scorers in the compulsory section, but their lift, twizzles, and footwork were all called level 4. Yes, Davis & White’s no touch circular step sequence was called the very rare level 4. With the +2s and +3s GOE, that single element brought in a whopping 10.43 — more than a quadruple toe loop!

“We were just trying to push ourselves to improve the level at which we are able to compete comfortably for this season, especially in the short dance,” White said, “and by that I mean more gusto, more attack. We really felt like we were able to accomplish that and we were very pleased with our performance.”

The only team to receive all level 4s, Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, take 72.61 into tomorrow’s free dance. For the Rhumba patterns, they started with the base value of 14 points and, after adding the GOE, banked 15.07, which made up 40% of their technical mark. Their level 4 circular footwork added an additional 10 points. With their revamped short dance music and choreography, the Shibutanis earned 37.50 in TES and 35.11 for PCS.

“We changed our music after the Grand Prix Final to ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ and ‘Samba de Janeiro,'” Alex said. “It’s very upbeat and it’s got a real Latin vibe to it. We worked with [ballroom dancer] Corky Ballas after the Final, and he really worked on improving our interpretation. We kind of had a boot camp with him. So that was a lot of work, but I think it’s paid off and the program flows much better than the previous one. And it’s really fun for us to skate.”

Currently in the up-for-grabs third place and probable spot on the World Championship team, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue earned 27.51 for TES, 30.05 for PCS and a total of 57.56. Their third-place PCS rank says a lot about their favor with the judges at this event.

“This is our first nationals together, obviously, and we were mainly focused on showing our strong points and making a good program,” Hubbell said. “I think we took the opportunity to have fun with it and that came across in our performance today. It may not have been perfect, but it was a good start for us. We’re very happy and it was a lot of fun.”

Hubbell & Donohue are at the top of “the rest” of the field, but they did leave a lot of points on the table. Their only level 4 element was the straightline lift. Their Rhumbas were level 1 and 3, their footwork sequence a level 2, and the twizzles a level 3. This made their base value a whopping nine points behind the Shibutanis. They netted positive GOE on all elements, with only one negative and six base 0s out of the 45 marks. The rest ranged from +1 to a lone +3.

In fourth are Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt with 56.37. Their only level 4 element was also the straightline lift. They received a level 2 on one Rhumba and level 3s on the other Rhumba, spin, and twizzles. Less than a point behind with 55.49 are Madison Chock & Evan Bates. Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt took the edge on the TES, 29.50 to 26.36, while the judges gave the edge in PCS to Chock & Bates, 29.13 to 26.87.

The skaters in sixth through ninth are virtually tied. A pair of Anastasias skated expressive and impressive senior debuts, landing in sixth and seventh after the short dance. Cannuscio and partner Colin McManus scored 53.82 while Olson & Jordan Cowan earned 53.44. Close behind are new pair Emily Samuelson & Todd Gilles with 53.24. Another team making their senior debut, Charlotte Lichtman & Dean Copely, have 52.55.

Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello had the eighth highest PCS, but low levels (only 2s and 3s) have them rounding out the top 10 with 50.03.

Senior Free Dance Recap
by IDC Staff

U.S. ice dancers once again staged a competition that put other disciplines to shame. Fourteen teams competed the free dance at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday and not one of them fell. The top 10 teams — who were given a combined 693 Grades of Execution — earned only five negative GOE.

Reigning world champions Meryl Davis & Charlie White were near perfection in their “Die Fledermaus” free dance, collecting their fourth consecutive U.S. title. Seven of their eight elements were level 4, with the circular step sequence a level 3. Save for one base 0, all their GOE were +2 or +3 for a Technical Elements Score of 55.43. Their Program Component Scores (59.22) were even more impressive, with two 9.50s being their lowest. For Interpretation and Timing, Davis & White earned the first 10.0 average in the history of the International Judging System.

“Charlie and I felt really great about both of our performances here at nationals,” Davis said. “I think we achieved exactly what it is we wanted to achieve coming into these championships, which was to leave it all out on the ice and achieve a new comfort level with both of our programs, as well as a higher level of performance.”

Davis & White have always been superb waltzers, and their program highlighted their strengths as well as entertained the audience. Their free dance score, 114.65, gave them a total overall score of 191.54, a new U.S. record.

With 178.84, Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani won their second consecutive senior silver medal. Two of their elements were level 3s (diagonal step sequence and, surprisingly, their twizzles) while the rest were level 4s for a TES of 52.78. Four of the five PCS were over nine on average (Transitions “only” 8.89) for a total of 54.45.

“We were really pleased with our performance today,” Maia said. “I think that we felt like we put out a stronger skate than we have all season and it’s something that we can really build on. The crowd was great and we really appreciate it, so we’re really happy.”

The event’s top five teams all train in southeastern Michigan, with three of those teams training at the Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Mich. The Shibutanis realize how lucky they are to be pushed by that kind of competition on a daily basis.

“We’re really happy with our training situation,” Maia said. “Marina [Zoueva] and Igor [Shpilband] are such wonderful coaches, and it’s great looking up to Meryl and Charlie and having Tessa [Virtue] and Scott [Moir] at the rink.”

Winning the bronze medal and two plane tickets to Nice, France for the World Figure Skating Championships in March, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue solidified their third-place standing after the short dance by earning 94.04 in the free dance (47.78 TES + 46.26 PCS) for an overall 151.60.

Hubbell & Donohue did better with their levels in the free dance than in their short, earning 3s on both footwork sequences and level 4s on the other elements. They didn’t hold back in their sexy dance to “I Put a Spell on You” by Joe Cocker and were rewarded with Program Component Scores that averaged around 7.5 up to just under 8.

This is Donohue’s first national medal at the senior level, but Hubbell has two pewters (in addition to three gold and two silvers at the juvenile through junior levels) over the previous 10 consecutive U.S. Championships with her brother, Keiffer.

“This year has been filled with ups and downs for me,” Hubbell said. “It has been hard. Every competition they play the ‘amp-up video’ before short dance and there are little clips of Keiffer and I. That happened at Skate America and I wasn’t really ready for it. It’s been a struggle getting used to skating with somebody else in the competitive process because I’m so used to Keiffer.”

She was quick, however, to comment on the chemistry with her new partner.

“Right from the first day Zach and I skated together, there was instant chemistry,” Hubbell said. “There was ease to our skating and skating styles and we’ve had so much fun working through different little problems this year. We can’t be happier with how our first year has gone and we’re looking forward to building on that, however many years we skate together.”

Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt won their first senior national medal, a pewter, after placing fourth in the free dance (92.18) and overall 148.55. Despite two level 3 footwork sequences and besting Hubbell & Donohue on the technical mark, Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt ended up just shy of a place in the top three.

The top three couples were named to the Four Continents and World Championships teams, with Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt as first alternate to both competitions.