by Anne Calder | Photo by Melanie Heaney

The podium included: Madison Chock & Evan Bates (gold), Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (silver), and Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (bronze).

The free dance event was held Sunday afternoon on February 10. Earlier, the couples had drawn for skating positions according to their Rhythm Dance placement. There were three groups of four teams each. The Japanese husband and wife team, Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto opened the competition. The next seven teams danced their programs followed by a Zamboni ice-make.

Excitement began to build throughout the arena as the four last couples took center ice and were introduced before their warm-ups. Even the celebrated groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, had no chance of predicting the skating shuffle that occurred.

Chock & Bates didn’t look like a team that was off ice for ten months due to surgery and rehab. They used “Fever” and “Burning Love” as fast-paced vehicles to execute the level 4 lifts, combination spin, and twizzles plus level 3 diagonal step sequences.

The reigning US silver medalists tied with Weaver & Poje for the highest base values – 45.08. Alone, they earned the highest TES (69.95) of the event.

“If you had told us that we would win Four Continents back when we pulled out of the Grand Prix four months ago, I think we would be very surprised,” Bates said. “We’re so proud of our performance; we keep building.”

The couple felt incredible, but definitely tired after their performance.

“This is our third competition in five weeks, so we felt a little bit nervous today just knowing that we were running on fumes a little bit,” Bates said.

Canadian silver medalists Weaver & Poje skated their emotional dance, “S.O.S. d’un terrien en detresse” as a dedication to Kazakhstani skater, Denis Ten, who was killed in July 2018.

“It is a very emotional piece,” Weaver said. “It was the last program he (Denis Ten) performed. He was a very dear friend of ours, so every time this music plays, we think of him. It is a great inspiration; we just hope to give our best to him through this.”

The spin, lifts, twizzles and her one-foot step sequence earned level 4; the diagonal footwork and his one-foot step sequence were level 3.

At the beginning of the season, the reigning World bronze medalists opted to skip the Grand Prix Series and instead performed in the 27 cities cross-country tour, Thank You Canada.

“It’s our first international competition back, and we are just trying to get the feel for our experience again,” Poje said. “We were more connected today than yesterday’s performance,”

The couple scored 123.37 for a third place free dance finish. The 203.93 total points were enough to boost them into second place overall and their first Four Continents’ silver medal.

Gilles & Poirier skated a second place free dance to “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)“ that mesmerized the audience and scored 124.20 points. The combination spin, lifts, and twizzles earned level 4; the footwork was level 3. The program component scores included five 10’s and a 56.65 score.

“We’re really proud of the free dance,” Poirier said. “We created a moment that was reflected in the scores – by far the highest components we’ve ever gotten. It’s really exciting for us. It’s the step we wanted to take at this event. It shows us that we’re on the right track, and where we can to do better.”

The total 202.45 moved them into third place and the bronze medal – their second at Four Continents.

Hubbell & Donohue had a slim lead going into the free skate. The 2018 GP Final gold medalists had an unfortunate error in the opening stationary lift and earned a level “B” with a 1.00 value. It received a 0.62 GOE. Their spin was level 2. Their TES scored 62.50, fifth in the competition, while the program components were 57.21 – the highest.

“We’re very pleased with the performance over all, but our first lift (stationary) is considered to have travelled too much that we didn’t get any level or GEO for that element,” Hubbell said. “Maybe it’s a good wake-up call to make sure that everything is good at Worlds.”

The team tumbled to fourth place and finished off the top of the podium the first time this season. The free dance score was 119.71; the total was 201.66, less than a point out of reach of the bronze medal.

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker of the United States, the 2018 Four Continents’ gold medalists, scored 189.87 for fifth place; Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolai Sorensen finished sixth with 186.91 points.

ICE CHIPS

  • The roster included teams that won a total of 14 Four Continents’ medals – five gold, four silver, and five bronze.
  • Chock & Bates medalled at all five of their appearances and won their first gold in Anaheim.
  • Weaver & Poje skated in the most events – nine and won five medals.
  • Three teams made their debut – Chen & Sun, Ning & Wang and Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen who skated in five Europeans representing Denmark.
  • Nine of the couples scored season best free dances. Andrew Dodds earned six season best scores in men’s and dance.
  • Komatsubara & Koleto train with Romain Haguenauer in Montreal and with his former student, Rie Arikawa, in Japan.

 

PREPARING FOR WORLDS – IN THEIR OWN WORDS

  • Chock & Bates: “We haven’t had the opportunity to make any changes since our debut in Poland (in January). We can finally digest all of the feedback, and if we need to make any changes, we can do that now.”
  • Weaver & Poje: “Our goal is really for Worlds; this is just a test for our emotions and technical components to get the feedback we need for the World Championships.”
  • Gilles & Poirier: “We’re feeling the momentum; our goal is to be on the podium in Saitama.”
  • Hubbell & Donohue: “Our goal is to go similar to last year, level four on all elements, and give two strong performances. With that, we could end up at the top of the world.”
  • Hawayek & Baker: “Last year we were tenth. The field is very steep in front of us, but we believe we belong in that group, so we’re going to push as much as we can in the next five weeks and do everything we can to push up.
  • Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen: We want to feel good about the programs and show who we are – let the emotions come across as good as possible so the audience enjoys our performance.”
  • Wang & Liu: “We want to improve and try to achieve higher scores at Worlds.”
  • Komatsubara & Koleto: “We’re really excited to have that “Worlds at Home” feeling. We feel a bit of pressure to make sure we qualify for the free dance and uphold the reputation of Japan.”
  • Kerry & Dodds: “We have five weeks of training and then Worlds. Our focus is going to be pushing through that free skate.”