Newly crowned U.S. National Champions Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani continued their momentum claiming their first Four Continents title.

In the short dance, the siblings cleverly interpreted the comic ballet, Coppelia, as Maia’s character assumed the role of a mechanical dancing doll.  Their four elements, including both dance patterns, were rewarded with level 4 marks and a personal best 72.86 score.

At the end of the day, the Shibutanis topped the leader board, a slim .44 points ahead of the second place Canadians.

The Shibutanis returned to choreographer Peter Tchernyshev for their free program after their collaboration for last season’s exhibition number had earned a positive response.

The dancers wove smoothly across the ice to the beat and tone of the music. The level 4 lifts, twizzles and spin melted into the choreography allowing a seamless flow to the program.

The performance earned 108.76 points and a total 181.62. Both marks were international personal best scores and earned the gold medal.

The team will use this event as a building block for the future.

“It’s about taking each experience and learning from it and continuing to grow,” Maia said.  “We feel like we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what our potential can be.”

“We feel like there are really no limits,” Alex added.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) had a disappointing short dance to music by Andrea Bocelli and Il Divo and landed in fourth place with 67.05 points. The curve lift earned level 4, the footwork and both Ravensburger patterns level 3 and the twizzles level 2.

“We had a pretty rough skate, and that was tough for us,” Chock said.

The team needed little motivation to re-focus on their upcoming free dance performance the following day.

“To be honest, it’s not too difficult because the free program requires so much focus for us,” Bates said.  “It’s the most challenging program we’ve ever had, and we have to be 100% committed. The SD is forgotten.”

The reigning World silver medalists skated last and approached the free dance with reckless abandon. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, they mesmerized the audience with their level 4 lifts, twizzles and spin. They easily swept in and out of transitions and elements while feeling every note of the Rachmaninov Concerto music.

“We enjoyed every second of our program; we just enjoyed skating together,” Chock said.  “It felt really good to be out there, and the audience was great”

Chock & Bates were rewarded with a personal best 107.59 points and second in the free dance. The total score of 174.64 guaranteed the silver medal.

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poge (CAN) went to Taipei City to defend their 2015 Four Continents title. They danced the classic “Blue Danube Waltz” and earned level 4 for the lift, twizzles and second Ravensburger pattern.

After the short dance the top two scores were quite tight. Their second place 72.42 score was within reach of the top step. The seasoned veterans felt anything was possible.
 
“We’re going to attack (the free dance) full force, and that’s the same whether we are in first place or tenth,” Weaver said.

The 2015 Grand Prix Final Champions skated second to last to a medley including “This Bitter Earth” by Dinah Washington.

“We had a few distractions, mainly the ice quality, which took our focus away from the normal things,” Poje said. He later added, “But we’re all competing on the same sheet of ice.”

The straight-line and curve lift earned level 4, but unfortunate mistakes on the twizzles and spin lowered their technical mark and rated a fourth place 101.43 score.
 
“We just didn’t connect the way it was in practice,” Poje said. “I did stumble a couple of times, and I’m not proud of that.”

The Canadian National Champions fell to third place with a 173.85 total and the bronze medal.

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) skated an extremely delicate and ethereal   short dance to “Hallelujah”.  The hypnotizing performance earned level 4 for the partial step sequence, second Ravensburger pattern, twizzles and spin.

“We skated really strong,” Hubbell noted.  “I felt a lot of pressure to put out another strong performance of this program, but I was able to just let it all go and trust the process.”

The US bronze medalists scored a personal best 69.36 and placed third.

The team interpreted their free program to Adagio for Strings by Daft Punk (from the TRON soundtrack) with poise and maturity. However, the steady beat of the melancholy music prevented the audience interaction they had experienced with the more uplifting “Hallelujah”.

Six of the seven elements earned level 4 and the second highest technical score. Unfortunately, their lower component marks squeezed them off the podium by 1.57 points. Both the free dance (102.93) and total (172.29) were personal best scores.

Hubbell spoke about the high level of competition in ice dance and the rekindling of their spirit as a team.

“This whole season has step-by-step been an affirmation for us.  We’ve been pretty frustrated sometimes. There are so many good skaters, and sometimes you feel like you’re stuck.”

She continued, “It’s not because you aren’t progressing. It’s just that everyone else is as well.  We spent a few years losing our fire because of that and this season has been a real help in igniting our own belief in ourselves.”

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN) finished fifth with 162.19 points. Elisabeth Paradis & Francois-Xavier Oullette (CAN) placed sixth with 146.94 points.