by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss
In 1999 the ISU established the Four Continents Championships(4CC) to allow figure skaters from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceana to compete in an international event similar to Europeans. In 2020, 16 ice dance couples representing Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, and the United States competed February 4-9 in Seoul, KOR.
The 2020 final podium included Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates (gold), Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (silver) and Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (bronze).
In addition to the podium awards, Referee Halina Gordon Poltorak presented ISU bronze, silver and gold small medals at the end of each segment (Rhythm Dance and Free Dance) to the competitors who had finished third, second, and first. Anthems weren’t played nor flags hoisted at the small medal ceremonies.
Hubbell & Donohue had a slim .21 lead over Chock & Bates after the Rhythm Dance. Both teams had identical base values, but the leaders received a higher GOE score. Gilles & Poirier were third only two points from the top spot.
China’s Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu, Canadians Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha and Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus and Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker finished fourth to seventh – all separated by less than six points.
Thirteen of the sixteen couples earned personal best scores for their Rhythm Dances.
Rhythm Dance small medals were awarded to Gilles & Poirier (bronze), Chock & Bates (silver) and Hubbell & Donohue (gold).
The next day in the Mokdong Ice Arena, it was déjà vu for the rhythm dance top two teams. Just as in last year’s event, Chock & Bates passed their Montreal training mates to claim victory and again take home the title. Gilles & Poirier were second, while Hubbell & Donohue slipped to third.
The Canadians danced first in the final group. Poirier said that they train with run-throughs in all conditions to be prepared for the leadoff position.
“We skated first in the FD in the GP Final as well, so we knew it was something we could handle.”
The 2019 Skate Canada Champions earned level 4 for all their elements except the footwork and scored 126.26. The team won silver with a personal best of 210.18 total.
Later at the Press Conference, the Toronto-based team discussed their free dance music choice.
“Since our team likes to do programs for the people, and the 2020 World Championships will be in Montreal, Canada, we wanted to skate to music from a Canadian artist,” Gilles said. “We all love Joni Mitchell, so she was the first singer on our list. Her song “Both Sides Now” immediately came to mind. It’s a story of love and hope. We kind of relate to it in so many different ways.”
“We got the best result a Chinese ice dance team has ever gotten at the Four Continents,” said Liu.
Hubbell & Donohue followed the Chinese team and scored 122.77 points for their dance to “Shallow” and “Alibi” from A Star is Born. The spin and lifts earned level 4 and all the footwork scored level 3, but the twizzles were their nemesis. The total of 208.72 secured the bronze medal. Afterward, Hubbell shared her thoughts about their free dance challenge.
“Zach and I skate with a lot of power. It takes a lot of energy for us to go full out and skate to something that’s quite powerful in the beginning with the rock vibe, and even though it seems slow for the second half, it still goes up quite high in intensity and emotion. Doing ten elements in four minutes, it can be hard to bring that along.”
“We want to show the program how we see it, which is two people navigating their rock star lifestyle and falling in love. It’s challenging to surrender to the moment while dancing together. Sometimes we struggle.”
“For me, Zach is the strongest and most powerful man on the ice, and it’s hard to skate with that when he goes full out. So sometimes it leads to errors that cost us points. That will be something to work on for the next month in order to show the program in all of its reckless abandon, but not let the program get away from us from a technical side.”
Chock & Bates were the final skaters of the evening. Their very popular Egyptian Snake Dance earned level 4s for all but the circular step sequence and received 127.42 points.
“I am a snake, and Evan is a traveling charmer,” Chock explained. “It’s very unique and something that we haven’t done before. It’s definitely my favorite program that we’ve ever done. I just love it!”
The team won gold with a personal best total score of 213.18. However, the reigning GP Final silver medalists were not completely error-free. They did have a one-point deduction for Chock’s slip on a transition between elements.
“It was a bit of a fight today in parts,” Chock said. “I scared myself. “Maybe I stepped on something. It was out of the blue. I was trying to catch myself.”
Bates added, “It was a testament on how well trained we are because we picked up quickly. Within 20 or 30 seconds, we were right back on the music and performance, but the jolt kind of took some energy away from us.”
Free Dance small medals were awarded to Hubbell & Donohue (bronze), Gilles & Poirier (silver) and Chock & Bates (gold).
The next event for many of the athletes is the World Championships March 16-22 in Montreal, Canada. Final rosters will be posted on ice-dance.com.