by Gina Capellazzi | Photo by Daphne Backman
After finishing second to Olympic champions Meryl Davis & Charlie White the last two years, Madison Chock & Evan Bates got their turn in the spotlight and took home their first U.S. Championship. Their free dance to “American in Paris” electrified the crowd and had them on their feet. They received all level 4 for their lifts, spins and step sequence and finished with a free dance score of 111.11 and an overall score of 185.06. They would finish 3.75 points ahead of silver medalists, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani. In the short dance, the two teams were only separated by .11 points.
“Tonight felt so great,” Chock said. “The crowd was amazing and we could really feel the energy in the rink. We used that really well and this was one of our best performances of the season. It’s really exciting to have done that at the U.S. Championships and we’re very excited to go forward and on from here.”
Chock & Bates will lead the U.S. ice dance team into the World Championships in Shanghai, China in March. This is their third trip to the World Championships. Last season, they finished in 5th place.
After finishing in third the past two seasons, the Shibutanis won their third U.S. silver medal . Following the Grand Prix Final, where they finished off the podium in fourth place, the Shibutanis, with help of their coach Marina Zueva, reworked their free dance program. In Greensboro, the siblings received level 4 on all their elements, except for their circular and diagonal step sequences, which received level 3. They earned a free dance score of 107.74 and an overall score of 181.31.
“We were really pleased with how we skated this week,” Maia said. “The audience reaction was fantastic.”
“Today was definitely our best performance of the season and we are looking forward to Four Continents and World Championships later on this year,” Alex added.
The Shibutanis will return to the World Championships for the fifth time. They are looking to get back on the podium after claiming the bronze medal in their first trip in 2011.
After finishing in fourth place at last year’s U.S. Championships, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue missed making the Olympic team. They did, however, go on to win the Four Continents Championships. After Davis & White decided not to compete at the World Championships last March, as first alternates, Hubbell & Donohue were expected to compete in their place. However, the team was not able to go because Hubbell sustained a torn labrum in her left hip and had to undergo surgery.
This season, Hubbell & Donohue were looking to get on the podium and make the World team. They did just that by claiming the bronze medal and securing their trip to the World Championships with a free dance score of 99.31 and an overall score of 164.74. Though earning level 4 on all their elements, except for their step sequences, which earned level 3, the team was slightly disappointed with their performance.
“For Zach and I, this wasn’t quite the dream that we had when you think of skating really well and skating your strongest,” Hubbell said. “We can only be thankful to our coaches and the last four weeks of really hard training because even on a very off day and struggling through every element, we were able to make our goal.”
The team skated to music from The Great Gatsby, which some had considered to be a risky choice compared to their podium counterparts who choice to skate to more traditional music.
“We’re trying to bring some different perspective to the sport,” Donohue explained.
The reigning U.S and World junior champions, Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker finished fourth in their senior debut at Nationals. Skating to “Romeo and Juliet”, the young team showed a high level of maturity in their skating, despite it being their first senior season. They received level 4s on all of their elements except for their twizzles and step sequences, which earned level 3s. The team was named to the Four Continents Championships.
“There’s a certain experience that you need to be able to get that transition going, and I think Jean-Luc and I have done a good job,” Hawayek said, regarding their move from the junior level to the senior level.
Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus had their best showing at Nationals, finishing in 5th place. The two, who finished seventh at last year’s Nationals, had a free dance score of 94.53, which was more than eight points better than their previous personal best. The 2012 & 2013 U.S. junior champions, Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton, who finished fifth in their senior debut last season, finished in sixth place.