by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) expressed the story of love with every movement in their free dance. It opened with “I Want to Dance with Somebody” sung by Bootstraps. The singer immediately set the mood for a romantic connection between the skaters and audience.

“The artist is not just singing the words to a song,” Donohue explained.  “He really feels it, and that translates into the way we skate the performance.”

By choosing one of Hubbell’s favorite songs, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Ingrid Michaelson, the middle section built on their strong connection.

The music also helped Hubbell & Donohue be more creative with their elements.

“Everything has a natural birthing moment in music,” Donohue said. “You want a lift to say something – be more than just a lift. There is a deeper meaning behind every movement.”

“They are just not moves,” Hubbell added.  “To just twirl the girl around wouldn’t make sense for us. We have very simple lines that put us face to face – like we are singing to our best friend or lover. I want to look into his eyes. We want all our technical elements to create a moment.”

The seamless performance earned a 102.08 score in its international debut. The total 166.90 earned them the gold medal and their second straight Classic championship. The Americans next compete at Finlandia Trophy (October 6-10).

Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed (JPN) won the silver medal with a Flamenco dance to “Poeta” by Spanish guitarist, Vicente Amigo. Reed lost a little momentum at the end, but said it was more adrenaline than altitude.

“There was great atmosphere here, so we built on the character from the start,” Reed said.

“The crowd helped us get through to the end.” “We gave it our all,” added Muramoto.

“This competition gave us a confidence boost to where we can be,” Reed said. “We’re going to work for the top ten at Worlds.”

The free dance 90.08 and total 151.18 total were both personal best scores.

The Canton, Michigan trained team next competes at Skate America (September 21-23).

Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam (CAN) moved up two notches after the SD with an 87.26 score and claimed the bronze medal. Their lifts and twizzles earned level 4.

“We are really happy with what went down today,” Islam said.  “It felt good to see a clean program. That’s what we were aiming for – give it 110% each time we’re out there.  We are happy to skate clean and are more motivated.”

“We recovered well from yesterday and got a little fire back,” Paul added. “We still need to put out a good SD at our next competition, but we know we can come back from it.”

“The SD is so technically based, that we’re going home and work on the technical side,” Mitchell pointed out.

Paul & Islam next compete at Skate Canada (October 28-30).

Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz (ESP) slipped to fifth in the free dance, but finished fourth overall. The new team skated to pieces of music named “Experience” by Italian pianist and composer Ludovic Einaudi; it earned a personal best 81.22 score. The total 138.34 was also a personal best.

“The program is about our experiences together,” Smart said.

“It’s about what we went through together,” Diaz added.

Unfortunately bobbles in the twizzles and her slip entering the straight-line lift gave them negative GOE scores. The curve lift and combination spin earned level 4.

“This is only the second time we’ve performed this program, so it’s really a work in progress,” Smart explained.  “We will feel it more and more each day. It’s a step forward since the last time we performed it in Lake Placid.”

Smart & Diaz next compete at the ISU Autumn Classic in Montreal, Canada (September 28-October 2).

Karina Manta & Joseph Johnson (USA) earned a fourth place score for their interpretation of “Dream On” by Aerosmith. Unfortunately, a lift collapse at the end lost them -2.60 points and bumped them down to a fifth place finish. Their free dance (84.16) and total (137.76) were personal best scores.

“The skate as a whole was great,” Johnson said. ”Her arm’s been hurting, and we haven’t done the lift all week. It was a counter balance issue. Her weight went down and mine went back.”

“We are happy with the response to the program,” Johnson concluded.  “We try to make it flow. The transitions on the spin are only a week old. We will evolve from here.”