by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The 2018 ISU Grand Prix season officially began from October 19-21 in Everett, Washington. Ten couples representing seven countries competed for prize money and points. Four teams participated in their first Grand Prix event.

The podium included Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue from the USA (gold), Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri from ITA (silver) and Tiffany Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro from Russia (bronze). The Italians and Russians won their first GP medals. The Americans won their 10th, but first gold.

Rhythm Dance

Six points separated the top four teams; the third place Russians narrowly edged out the second Americans by .86.

Hubbell & Donohue used two Astor Piazzolla selections for their tango music then added a small hint of his operetta, Maria De Buenos Aires at the end. The segment scored 78.43.

“We found the classic Argentine style suited our skating,” Hubbell said.  “This music had a lot of variation to show our power and sensuality; it also had some moments of sharpness.”

The program began with tight level 4 twizzles that showed off their speed and ice coverage; the judges’ reward was a 2.80 GOE. The duo missed three key points, but added five points to the base value for a total 17 panel score.

Unfortunately, the program concluded with two deductions – costume and unexpected collapsed pose.

“At the end of the dance, I got a little bit overly passionate and fell on top of Zach,” Hubbell said.  “We tried to hold it like we were finished, but Zach put his hand down, and I stepped on it.”

“Tonight I learned how flexible I am, and it’s not as much as I thought,” Donohue added with a laugh.

Guignard & Fabbri danced a few steps, and then made a spectacular cartwheel entrance into their level 4 twizzles that earned 1.87 GOE. Their two patterns scored over 16 points after hitting six of the eight key points. The final element – a diagonal step sequence scored a 2.63 GOE. The Italians chose three different tango selections for their dance that earned a 75.01.

“We tried to find more modern versions of tango music and less classical – to fit into our fast and strong way of skating on the ice,” Fabbri said. “We wanted to build strong, but also passionate to show our feelings for each other.”

Zagorski & Guerreiro’s first element was their strong and tight twizzles that earned a 1.97 GOE from the judges. They hit six of eight pattern key points that scored a total 15.46. The closing midline footwork showed crisp steps and closeness that the judges rewarded with a 2.76 GOE. Their tango music included “Besame Mucho” and a selection by Astor Piazzolla. The total segment scored 73.30.

“It was the first time for us to perform the tango. I enjoyed taking a few ballroom classes,” Zagorski said.

Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter placed fourth with a personal best 72.44 score. The young Americans were the only team to earn level 4 for both patterns, which pushed their base value to the highest of the day – 32.79.

“It was a lot of fun for our first Skate America,” McNamara said.  “The crowd was amazing and gave so much energy. We wanted to feed off of our music and give what the music gives, not just a typical tango, but show the depth of our music and bring out emotion to touch the audience.”

Free Dance 

The final results were the same as the Rhythm Dance placements, except the scoring margin between first and fourth places increased to 20 points.

Hubbell & Donohue’s 200.82 edged out the 200.78 earned by Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin at the recent Finlandia Trophy for the top 2018 Total score.

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 are now historical.

Hubbell & Donohue chose both the instrumental and Des’ree vocal versions of “Kissing You” from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack for their free dance.

“We struggled to find music after last season,” Donohue said.  “Madison has always loved the song, “Kissing You”, so (Coach) Romain Haguenauer suggested we do Romeo and Juliet. We had never portrayed a well-known story and put our own spin on it. So to do something we’ve always wanted to do – why not at the beginning of the Quad?” 

“Zach and I put in a lot of work since SLC – to dive into the emotions of Romeo and Juliet and also to put more skating quality and more power into the program,” Hubbell added.

The GOEs were all +3 and +4; the component scores were all 9’s. They outscored the Italians in the segment by five points. The 122.39 free dance and 200.82 total score were personal bests.

Guignard & Fabbri chose selections from La La Land and scored a personal best 117.29. The Italian national silver medalists added a 2.59 GOE to the twizzles with a spectacular entrance lift. Their circular footwork and one-foot step sequence were rewarded with over 5.43 GOE marks. The total score was 192.30. The team was much happier with their performance than after the rhythm dance.

“We felt better than last night,” Fabbri said.  “Our legs were more tired, but we were more focused not to make small mistakes like yesterday. We will probably fix some elements, but it was a good dance for us.”

McNamara & Carpenter outscored the Russians in the FD with a 108.13 score, but missed the podium by less than a point. The total 180.57 was a personal best.

“Today, I think we were more focused on giving our best performance, and that’s the most we can do,” Carpenter said.

Zagorski & Guerreiro held off the Americans and placed third with a 181.38 total score. Their free dance was “Blues for Klook” by Eddie Louis choreographed by Christopher Dean. All the elements are new to the team, which could explain the deductions for extended lifts. This is also their first outing as Zagorski has been bothered with a knee injury.

“To be completely honest, we didn’t know what was going to happen today,” Guerreiro said.  “We have not had that many free dances under our belt. We were praying and hoping for the best and that our experience from last year would help us get through it. And it did! We didn’t fall, which was good. It was quite rough. It’s a good start.” 

“We wanted to do our program to show our new style of choreography,” Zagorski added. “By the next competition, we can add on to what we did today and not have any deductions.”

The highlight was their level 4 twizzles, which were tight and covered a lot of ice. The segment score was 108.08.

Skate Canada International will be held from October 26-28 in Montreal, QC Canada.