The ISU Challenger Series heads to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. The U.S. Classic is the second of 10 events that make up the Challenger Series, which was created by the International Skating Union in the 2014-15 season.
This is the fifth U.S. Classic, an event that has always been held in Salt Lake City, Utah. With the exception of its inaugural year, an American team has always gone home with the gold medal.
Thirteen teams representing 10 countries fill out the U.S. Classic roster with all of the couples training primarily in the United States or Canada. A trio of Montreal-based training mates are likely to battle for medals in Utah.
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue of the United States will return to defend the title they won in 2015. Hubbell & Donohue are coming off their most successful season yet, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final and finishing a career-high sixth at the World Championships. Their programs this season, including their short dance to a medley of 1980’s rap/hip hop selections including “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mixalot and “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa is sure to bring both a fun and nostalgic vibe to the ice.
Denmark’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen of Denmark started their season strong at the 2016 Championnats québécois d’été in August where they posted a combined score of 160.90 to win the event. Their short dance performance to “You’re the Boss” by Elvis Presley and Ann Margaret and “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley earned 67.66 points. Their free dance is set to Edith Piaf’s “La vie en rose” and “Hymne à l’amour” performed by French singer Patricia Kaas.
Canada’s Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam, long-time training mates of Hubbell & Donohue (even through a coaching change), had a solid start last season with a silver medal at Nebelhorn Trophy, but finished a disappointing fourth at the Canadian National Championships, missing the podium and the opportunity to compete at Worlds. The team has not yet revealed their free dance music, but their short dance will be to “Big Spender” and “Sing Sing Sing”. Also representing Canada are Mackenzie Bent & Dmitre Razgulajevs, who are competing in their first season at the senior level and finished fourth in their senior international debut at the Lake Placid Ice Dance International.
In addition to Hubbell & Donohue, the U.S. is also represented by Danielle Thomas & Daniel Eaton and Karina Manta & Joe Johnson, who finished sixth and seventh at the 2016 U.S. Championships. Thomas & Eaton finished fifth at this event last season and won Ice Challenge, which was part of the Challenger series in 2015. Manta & Johnson won the bronze medal at the 2015 Autumn Classic International.
U.S. Classic marks the Challenger Series debut for the new Spanish team of Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz. The team debuted in July at the Lake Placid Ice Dance International, where they finished second and earned the technical minimums for the ISU World Championships. Smart & Diaz won the short dance portion of LPIDI with an energetic and entertaining performance to Ike and Tina Turner’s cover of “Proud Mary.”
Korea’s Yura Min & Alexander Gamelin (pictured) are in their second season together and have already earned a bronze medal in Lake Placid. They have an intense and powerful free dance to music from Cinema Paradiso. Gamelin has applied for Korean citizenship in hopes that he and Min can compete at the 2018 Olympics, if the team is selected.
Also in their second season as a team, Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed of Japan hope to build on the momentum they started last season, which ended with the team qualifying for the free dance at the 2016 World Championships where they finished 15th.
Alisa Agafanova & Alper Ucar (Turkey), Katharina Müller & Tim Dieck (Germany), Cortney Mansour & Michal Ceska (Czech Republic) and Tina Garabedian & Simon Proulx-Senecal (Armenia) round out the roster. cluding a bronze at the Golden Spin of Zagreb Challenger Series event.
The short dance starts at 1 PM (MDT) on Friday, September 16, with the free dance taking place the following day at 2:15 PM.