ISU Challenger Series Begins in Salt Lake City


by Daphne Backman & Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Danielle Earl

This week, Salt Lake City hosts the 2015 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, the first of 10 events in the ISU Challenger Series. The Classic has been held annually since 2012 and was designated by the ISU as an event where skaters could achieve a minimum score for championship events. Salt Lake City has hosted the Classic each year since its inception.

Two teams will represent the host country, led by 2015 U.S. bronze medalists, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue. The Americans debuted their programs in August at the Québec Summer Championships in Pierrefonds, Que., near their new training base in Montréal. Taking silver in both phases, the team has had a month to make adjustments to their short dance to k.d. lang’s “Hallelujah” and free dance to “Adagio for Tron” by Daft Punk. 

Denmark’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (pictured, right) finished just behind Hubbell & Donohue at Worlds, setting all new personal bests and improving 18 spots over their 2014 finish to 11th place in 2015. They debuted their free dance to “Woman” by Shawn Phillips at Québec Summer Championships, where they snagged a bronze medal and a score of 86.02. The U.S. Classic will be the debut for their short dance to INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart.”

Canada’s Élisabeth Paradis & François-Xavier Ouellette also competed at the Québec Summer Championships, where they bested Hubbell & Donohue in the free dance by just under a point. Paradis & Ouellette skated to music by Anouk in the short dance and to the Simon & Garfunkel classic, “Bridge over Troubled Water,” in the free dance.

While Hubbell & Donohue, Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen, and Paradis & Ouellette all represent different nations, they are training mates under the tutelage of Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, Romain Haguenauer, and Pascal Denis. The three teams certainly have a chance to complete their training base’s first sweep of an international podium this week.

Ukraine’s Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin are entering their first full season at the senior level; last year, their effort to skate both junior- and senior-level competitions was met with mixed results. While they missed a repeat trip to the Junior Grand Prix Final, they eventually won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Junior Championships and finished a respectable 17th place in their first World Championships at the senior level. Now able to focus on senior-level dances exclusively, they should be able to make their mark. Nazarova & Nikitin will take on classical music in both dances—Strauss for the short and Mozart for the free.

Also representing the U.S., Danielle Thomas & Daniel Eaton won their first international medal—a silver—at the inaugural Lake Placid Ice Dance International in July. The event was Thomas’s first at the senior level, while Eaton has Grand Prix experience with his previous partner, Alexandra Aldridge. Thomas & Eaton teamed up this past spring, training in Canton, Mich., with Marina Zoueva.

Canada is also represented by Brianna Delmaestro & Timothy Lum, who will make their senior international debut in Salt Lake. With an exuberant Bollywood free dance, they should be able to stand out if they perform well. Delmaestro & Lum are the 2015 Canadian junior champions. They train in Burnaby, B.C., with Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe.


The short dance takes place on Friday morning, with the event wrapping up with the free dance on Saturday.