This week, Detroit, Michigan hosts the 2019 U.S. National Championships. The best teams at the juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior levels will take the ice to fight for podium positions. For the teams at the novice, junior and senior levels, more is at stake. Novice teams can earn opportunities to represent Team USA at international competitions, while three junior couples will be named to the World Junior Championships team.
The United States has three berths at both the Four Continents Championships and the World Championships, and with the 2019 Four Continents Championships taking place in Anaheim, California, teams could have the opportunity to skate at home. Placements at the U.S. Championships as well as additional criteria are used by the International Selection Committee when determining who will comprise Team USA’s roster at each event. In non-Olympic seasons, it has been customary for the same three teams to compete at both events.
The 2019 National Championships marks the final time that all five levels will compete at one location/event. A new qualifying structure, approved at last May’s USFS Governing Council, will go into effect starting next season and only the junior and senior levels will be contested at the 2020 U.S. National Championships in Greensboro, NC. Team IDC will be publishing more information on the new qualifying structure at a later date.
Twelve teams make up the senior roster. Team USA set a new record during the Grand Prix series with five different teams earning medals. Three of the medalists from the 2018 podium will compete in Detroit and all three of those teams are now training with the same coaches.
Reigning U.S. Champions, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, won all four of the international events they entered, including the U.S. Classic and back-to-back Grand Prix events at Skate America and Skate Canada. They capped 2018 with their first medal and win at December’s ISU Grand Prix Final.
“We take it competition by competition,” Hubbell said. “There is a momentum knowing that our equation is working, that what we are doing here in training is working and continually proving what we are capable of, but it isn’t a momentum because at the end of the day it’s a different competition, a different panel and a different group of competitors every time. So, we’re not taking winning our last four competitions is making us unbeatable at Nationals”
“It’s always nice to look back and see your hard work bear fruit,” Donohue added. “It gives you a boost of confidence. Honestly it just motivates us for more. Once you’ve had a taste of achieving your dream it’s hard to shy away from that. It’s definitely motivating.”
Heading into the U.S. Championships, the team has changed some of the elements around to make the program flow more with the story.
After the 2017-18 season, Kailtin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker relocated to Montreal and are now coached by Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer. Hawayek & Baker earned their first Grand Prix gold at NHK Trophy. They also gained valuable experience after competing at their first Grand Prix Final, where they finished sixth. Their free dance has changed
“One of the things we took from the GPF is how very important it is to focus on the levels and the technical side of the scores,” Hawayek said. “We have been working on that, of course, especially in the Rhythm Dance. One of the things we took away was the quality of the elements we do and how a single increase in a GOE for an element boosts he score a lot, so we have been working on that a lot. Some elements have been changed a bit to increase the quality and cleanliness of it. Those we didn’t change we worked on increasing the quality of them as well. Plus the information we got back.
Madison Chock & Evan Bates missed most of this season while Chock recovered from a foot injury that plagued her last season. Like Hawayek & Baker, the team relocated to Montreal to train with Team Gadbois.
“The move to Montreal has been good for us on a lot of levels,” Bates said. “Things can get stagnant after a while and for us we’ve been training in Michigan – for me, my entire life and for Madison, 13 years. We needed a change to be invigorated for the next four-year cycle. Obviously, there’s something going on in the camp in Montreal. You see the success they’ve had especially at the Olympics. We knew if we could move there, that would be the place that would spark our passion again and give us the daily competition we were craving.”
Earlier this month, they handily won Mentor Torun Cup, where they received scores that were comparable with other top teams in the world.
“It [Torun Cup] was our first competition in 10 months and it felt really great skating in competition again,” Chock said. “We had a really good first outing. We are really excited about our material this season. Our main goal is to get people excited about our skating again as much as we do We have such a new found passion and inspiration for skating again we haven’t found in a long time, so we are ready to share that with everyone this season.”
Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons and Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko are former U.S. junior champions and each team earned their first Grand Prix series’ medals this season.