by Anne Calder | Photo by Jay Adeff (U.S. Figure Skating)
The 2021 U.S. National Championships for the senior level was held January 9 -17 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eleven ice dance couples competed virtually but supported by familiar cardboard faces and pumped-in applause.
The rhythm dance pattern (Finnstep) and theme (Musicals) remained the same for a second straight season. While many of the dancers chose to keep their 2019-2020 programs, a few broke out new ones.
Madison Chock & Evan Bates won the rhythm dance with a US Championship record-breaking 90.10 score to last season’s “Too Darn Hot” from Kiss Me Kate. It earned level 4 for all five elements.
The Program Component marks were mostly above 9.50, including two 10s for music interpretation.
The 2020 U.S. National Champions skipped Skate America in October to concentrate on their training in Montreal, Canada. They hadn’t competed in eleven months and were a bit apprehensive about returning to competition.
“We try not to think about it too much, but I’d be lying to you if I said that we were not a little bit extra nervous today,“ Bates said.
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue were a close second with 89.66 points. All the elements earned level 4, except the Finnstep, which had a timing deduction. The couple performed their Burlesque program that had made its debut at Skate America, but with a much different costume.
“We feel that we really attacked the performance and look forward to another chance to compete tomorrow,” Hubbell said.
Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean Luc Baker scored 85.28 points with last season’s disco dance medley from the 1970’s hit movie, Saturday Night Fever. A missed key point in the Finnstep earned it a level 3, but the other elements were all level 4.
Hawayek spoke about using a program for the second time and keeping it fresh.
“We kept our FD program for two years several seasons ago. We hit a point in the second season where we felt flat with it – finding it hard to reenergize the real emotion in the program. I haven’t felt that way with this program. The coaching staff is pushing us to different levels of awareness. There’s still so much more growth in the program.”
Caroline Green & Michael Parsons competed for a second-time at the US Championships together as a team. The duo scored 80.10 for a new program to music from Thoroughly Modern Millie. They earned level 4 for all their elements. Parsons spoke about the joy they showed during the performance.
“Skaters have their own specialties – the styles they’re best at. This type of program is what is more comfortable for me. It let me enjoy myself on the ice – enjoy my new partner on the ice. I think we grew a lot because of it.
Molly Cesanek & Yehor Yehorov scored 71.11 in their senior debut at the Championships.
“We tried to stay very connected throughout this week,” Cesanek said. “The entire performance went by so quickly. We both felt every moment. We’re proud of our delivery.”
What a difference a day makes. Chock & Bates took a slight .44 lead over Hubbell & Donohue into the Free Dance. Bates made a slight bobble in the twizzles; Hubbell & Donohue skated clean and reclaimed the Championship title.
Hubbell & Donohue introduced a new program to “Hallelujah” choreographed by Olympic and World Champion, Scott Moir. Hugo Chouinard arranged the music, a combination of Jeff Buckley and k.d.lang vocals with a short piece by Karl Hugo that connected the two versions. It was a collaborated team effort that also included their coach, Marie-France Dubreuil.
The mesmerizing performance scored 134.90 points, enough to slip them past their Montreal training mates. The lifts, spin, twizzles and One-foot Step were rated level 4. The opening perfectly in-sync Choreographed Step Sequence was breathtaking and scored a perfect 4.15 GOE with the seven judges awarding it all 5s.
“Third-time National Champions has a real nice ring to it,” Hubbell said at the Press Conference. “We worked really hard this year and through all the struggles, it’s been a really productive year for us. It wasn’t the easiest performance tonight. We had to keep calm and stay on, but we couldn’t be happier to be here and accomplish this big goal.”
Chock & Bates performed their very popular “snake dance” from last season. It was the first time the team skated in competition since winning the 2020 Four Continents in Seoul, South Korea last February. All the elements, but Bates’ twizzle earned level 4. The segment scored 132.83; the total was 222.93.
“I’m really proud of us for being here and putting it out there,” Bates said at the Press Conference. “We really did a lot of great things in both performances. I think there’s a lot of positive things we showed – of growth in our skating, commitment to improving, and that we continued training all year long without the opportunity to compete.”
“We’re going to be optimistic and stay positive and focus on what we did well,” he concluded.
Hawayek & Baker won the Bronze medal for the third straight Championships with a new program to a Phillip Glass medley. The Montreal based duo was the only team to earn level 4 for all its elements. The segment scored 127.27 points; with a 212.55 total.
“Today we’re quite proud of our performance,” Baker told the Press. “We trained really hard this season working with a lot of adversities and obstacles – but who hasn’t. It’s been real exciting.”
Green & Parsons was another team that performed a new program. The Pewter medalists danced to a fast-paced Prince medley. The lifts, spin, circular step and man’s one step sequences rated level 4. Parson’s stutter-stepped on the second twizzle, resulting in level 2 and negative GOEs. The segment scored 112.29 and totaled 192.39.
The team worked on the program after Skate America even changing the rotational lift after struggling with it at the event.
“After Skate America, we realized what we wanted this program to do,” Green explained. “We had time between the competitions to break everything down.”
Parsons added, “We learned a lot about the intention of our programs, and we can definitely apply that to the coming season.
Cesanek & Yehorov danced to last season’s “Make It Rain” and “Take Me to Church”. The program earned level 4 for all the elements except the Diagonal and One-Foot Step Sequences that were rated level 3. The technically strong program earned a 106.29 score, a 177.40 total and fifth place. The couple made their senior Championship debut and skated in the final fleet.
Cesanek shared their thoughts about the experience. “To be in the final group is just so exciting for us. It was a dream come true [to being introduced on the same ice as World medalists]. We are so inspired by them.”
Remaining Placement Order:
- (162.86) Lorraine McNamara & Anton Spiridonov
- (154.93) Eva Pate & Logan Bye
- (131.10) Livvy Shilling & Alexander Petrov
- (122.68) Hillary Asher & Ryan O’Donnell
- (100.76) Breelie Taylor & Tyler Vollmer
- (096.91) Cara Murphy & Joshua Levitt
Visit the Virtual Fan Experience and enjoy the competition.