September 18, 2018

Anne Calder

Salt Lake City, Utah was a whirlwind of athletic excitement last week. Figure skating claimed the attention of avid fans with the second ISU Challenger competition and the US Novice and Junior Challenge Skate.

Saturday, purple and red dominated the University of Utah campus with tailgating before their Pac 12 football opener against the University of Washington. Unfortunately, the atmosphere was darkened by the smoky skies from a huge nearby forest fire.

The 2018 US International Figure Skating Classic was held at the Salt Lake City Sports Arena – the 2002 official Olympic ice practice venue. The event included seven ice dance teams representing Bulgaria, Canada, Hungary, and the United States.

The two American teams of Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue and Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko captured gold and silver. Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto representing Japan took home the bronze. It was Hubbell & Donohue’s fourth straight US International Classic victory.

The 2018-2019 senior rhythm dance is Tango Romantica, invented in 1974 by Elena Tchaikovskaya for her students Ludmilla Pakhomova & Alexander Gorshkov and adopted in 1975 as a compulsory dance. In 2010, the compulsory dance was combined with the Original Dance and together they became the Short Dance – now called the Rhythm Dance. (RD)

Dancing to Astor Piazzolla’s “Alevare” and “Tangata del Alba”, Hubbell & Donohue jumped out to a ten-point lead over their US teammates. The twizzles and lifts were level 4, and the GOE scores were all +3, +4, and +5. The dance scored 79.11.

“We’re reaching a new level in our partnership,” Hubbell said.  “It’s fun to play with the dynamics of a new program in competition.”

Carreira & Ponomarenko danced “Tango Jalousie” by Jacob Gade and “Yo Soy Marie” (Maria de Buenos Aires) by Astor Piazzolla. The twizzles and rotational lift earned level 4. Each pattern only hit two key points. The segment score was 68.61.

“We always want to skate with as much energy as possible,” Ponomarenko said.  “We’ve been skating pretty conservative over the last couple of competitions so we really wanted to take the ice with energy.”

Canadians Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker were a distant third with two selections by Maxime Rodriguez. They earned a level 4 rotational lift, but struggled with the two patterns. The program scored 54.11.

In the free dance, Hubbell & Donohue performed a seamless interpretation of selections from the 1996 Romeo + Juliet movie soundtrack by Craig Armstrong. The 2018 World silver medalists’ twizzles, diagonal step sequence, rotational and choreographic lifts all earned +3 and +4 GOE scores. The program received a 118.31 score; their total was 197.42.

“We are proud of ourselves that after a tough season and a long Stars on Ice tour, we have pushed ourselves to be ready by this competition again,” Hubbell said.

Carreira & Ponomarenko made their senior international debut with an ethereal dance to Clair de Lune and other selections performed by pianist Tokio Myers that scored 105.43. The twizzles and curved lift earned level 4. The 2018 World Junior silver medalists had all but two +2, +3, and +4 GOE scores. Their total was 174.04.

“This free dance has a lot of areas that we can still explore,” Ponomarenko said.

Komatsubara & Koleto slipped past the Canadians to claim their second 2018-19 Challenger international bronze medal. The married couple danced to the Love Story soundtrack and “Une Histoire D’Amour” and earned 89.51. Their lifts and combination spin were level 4. The total score was 142.93 points.

With the introduction of the +5 / -5 Grade of Excellence (GOE) all statistics start from zero for the season 2018-19, and all previous statistics including personal best scores are now historical.

The next Challenger events are September 19-20. The Autumn Classic will be in Oakville, Ontario, Canada and the 26th Ondrej Nepela Trophy in Bratislava, Slovakia.