by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman

Thirteen senior ice dance teams competed at the 2018 U.S. National Championships. The list included U.S. National Champions and medalists, World Champion medalists, Grand Prix Final medalists, and World Junior Champions and medalists. Results from national championships are excluded from the ISU’s Season Best and Personal Best scores.

Short Dance

The requirements were one section of the Rhumba pattern, one Pattern Step Sequence in hold, one Not Touching Step Sequence, one set of sequential twizzles, and one short (7 sec) dance lift.

The leaderboard after the SD posted: (1) Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, (2) Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (3) Madison Chock & Evan Bates and (4) Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker.

Shibutani & Shibutani danced mambo, cha cha and samba to a Perez Prado medley in outfits that were slightly different from those worn earlier in the season. Alex explained the change.

“Going into a new year we wanted to make the program fresh for us and the audience. They are really not that dramatically different, but we like them.”

The highlight was the simultaneous counting of the twizzle turns to the Spanish lyrics. Four elements earned level 4; the pattern was level 3. The 82.33 score was their highest of the season.

Hubbell & Donohue received a 79.10 score for their samba, rhumba, and samba dance. They earned level 4 for the curved lift and Not Touching footwork; the pattern, twizzles, and pattern step sequence were level 3. They were pleased with their skate, although a bit apprehensive at the start.

“We were a little nervous going in, but we stayed together as a team and created our own little bubble,” Hubbell said.

Hubbell & Donohue have competed at every U.S. Nationals since their debut as a team in 2012 in San Jose. The 2018-second place is the highest short dance position they have reached at the event.

Chock & Bates used a medley of Marc Anthony’s music for their salsa, rhumba, and samba. The 77.61 score was their highest of the season. Their twizzles, pattern, and curve lift were level 4; both step sequences were level 3.

”Afterwards we played with some puppies in the (Milk-Bone) pen, so we are feeling great,” Bates said with a laugh.

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker earned level 4 for all their elements except the level 3 not youching step sequence. The duo danced samba, rhumba, and samba to an assortment of Latin American selections.

Free Dance

The last event was held on Sunday afternoon at the Sap Center. The final five teams were introduced, followed by a  warm-up. Drama permeated the air. At the end, a new champion was crowned and only half a point separated the top three dance teams.

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker was the only team who earned level 4 for all seven elements. Their total base value (BV) was the highest – 44.90. Their total element score (TES) was also the highest – 61.06.

The podium included: Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (gold), Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (silver), Madison Chock & Evan Bates (bronze) and Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (pewter).

Hubbell & Donohue danced a steamy second place blues free dance to the instrumental, “Across the Sky” by Rag N’ Bone Man and “Caught Out in the Rain” by Beth Hart.

“The free dance at our first U.S. Nationals in 2012 (San Jose) was the blues, choreographed by Massimo (Scali), Pasquale (Comerlengo), and Angelika (Krylova),” Hubbell explained. “Now our team in Montreal has helped us re-attack the blues with a different feeling, a bit more sophistication and refined qualities.”

“We knew for the Olympic season we wanted to go back to where we felt the most connected to each other, and that is with the blues. It’s working out really well.”

All the elements except the diagonal step sequence were level 4. The judges awarded all +2 and +3 GOEs and eleven 10.00 PCS marks. The segment score was 118.02. The 197.12 total put them in first place with the gold medal.

“We had a goal of staying focused and not becoming distracted and making mistakes like we have in the past,” Hubbell said. 

Their coach, Patrice Lauzon, was overjoyed.

“I’m super happy for them. They have worked so hard for this. They have been wanting this for a long time.”

Shibutani & Shibutani performed to Coldplay’s, “Paradise” and completed the trilogy begun in 2016. It scored 114.43 points for third place in the free dance. The spin, lifts, and twizzles were level 4; both step sequences were level 3.During the diagonal footwork, Maia had a slight bobble, but Alex’s quick action avoided a fall.

“We’ve been challenging ourselves all season. Today, we had an unfortunate mistake, but we had each other’s backs out there,” Maia said.

The 196.93 total score earned by the reigning Grand Prix Final bronze medalists was enough to win the silver medal.

Chock & Bates won the free dance with an emotional and meaningful performance to John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

“The message from the program we created with Christopher Dean is connecting with people,” Bates said. “That’s more validating.”

The 2015 National Champions received all +2 and +3 GOE marks and five 10.00 component scores. The circular footwork was level 3; all the other elements earned level 4. They scored a total 196.60 and won the bronze medal.

“We know what we need to work on,” Bates explained.  “The short dance put us in a deficit that was just too much to overcome. We will be working on that in the next few weeks.”

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker kept last year’s free dance, tweaked the choreography and received a well-deserved standing ovation for their mesmerizing interpretation of Liebestraum (“Dreams of Love”). Their pewter medal total was 187.61.

ISU TEAM ASSIGNMENTS

2018 World Championships
Madison Chock/Evan Bates
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani

Alternate 1 – Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
Alternate 2 – Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter
Alternate 3 – Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons

2018 Four Continents Championships
Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter
Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons

Alternate 1 – Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit
Alternate 2 – Karina Manta/Joseph Johnson
Alternate 3 – Julia Biechler/Damian Dodge

OLYMPIC TEAM

U.S. Figure Skating announced the ice dance teams who will compete at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 as part of the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team.

 

Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the 2018 U.S. bronze medalists. They are the 2015 U.S. champions, 2016 World bronze medalists and placed eighth at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. After winning silver at both of their Grand Prix assignments this season, they qualified for their fourth-straight Grand Prix Final.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are the 2018 U.S. champions. They are four-time U.S. bronze medalists and the 2014 Four Continents champions. They stood on the podium at both of their Grand Prix assignments this season, qualifying them for their third-straight trip to the Grand Prix Final. This is their first Olympic berth, following their highest U.S. Championships finish.

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are two-time U.S. champions and reigning U.S. silver medalists. They topped the podium at both of their Grand Prix assignments this season before earning bronze at the Grand Prix Final. They are the 2017 World bronze medalists, 2016 World silver medalists, and placed ninth at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Alternates for the 2018 Olympic Team have been named as Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (first alternate), Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter (second alternate), and Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons (third alternate).