Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the odds-on favorites to capture a third consecutive Skate America title, did not disappoint in Las Vegas. The ice dance duo opened their campaign on Friday night with an energetic debut of their “Burlesque” rhythm dance that earned them 85.30 points. Hubbell said she and Donohue had missed competing and were happy to get back into the “swing of things.”
“Although there was no live audience, we did feel some of this familiar adrenaline,” she said. “We certainly took a long time during the summer to make the final decision about what we wanted to do. Zach and I really love the challenge of a new project and as much as we loved ′Marilyn,′ we didn’t feel there was much left to squeeze out of the program. We wanted to take all of the things that we learned from that character and apply it to something that is a little bit more modern, sexy, powerful.”
The Montréal-based duo carried that momentum into their “Hallelujah” free dance, earning Level 4s for the rotational lift, twizzles and combination spins. Hubbell received a Level 3 for the one-foot step sequence, while Donohue’s effort was graded a Level 4. The team earned 126.09 points for the free dance and their total tally of 211.39 gave them a comfortable lead and the victory over the rest of the field.
“Tonight was a successful first step into the competitive season,” said Hubbell. “In the off-season we looked at different music and ended up marrying two versions … it has kind of a raw, intimate quality. Luckily Scott Moir was really on board — he did the choreography — and it is probably our favourite creative process yet.
“This is a program that Zach and I are very passionate about, and we already feel like we have almost an easy time skating it because every part feels purposeful, and there is something about each part that we enjoy. While there are many things to improve, we are really happy and we hope that everyone enjoyed our performance.”
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker have kept their “Saturday Night Fever” program from last season. They finished second in the rhythm dance with 81.15 points. “This program is such a joy and so much fun to not only perform but also to train,” said Hayawek. “It doesn’t feel like work. It was really easy for us to choose to keep it because we love it so much.”
The new free dance for Hawayek and Baker — a selection of music by Philip Glass — seems to fit them like a glove. They earned Level 4s for the lifts, combination spin and step sequences and racked up 121.32 points for the segment. With a combined total of 202.47 points overall, they captured silver, their first Skate America medal.
“Tonight was a really special night for us,” Hawayek said. “This performance at least at this point in our career feels like the most intentional, focused, strong performance we have had. One of the things we have really worked hard on this year was staying a 100 percent committed to the story. We felt that was a really big success tonight and that made it fly by. We can take a step back and appreciate it now.
“When we were creating it we wanted to do a story for ourselves, and this program for us is important and powerful for us for our own story.”
Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko opted to keep last season’s rhythm dance — “Too Darn Hot” from “Kiss Me Kate” — because they felt the program still has room to grow. Their performance had them in third place with 78.63 points. “We wanted to improve our Finnstep. I think we felt this was our weaker element last season,” said Carreira.
The Michigan-based team opted for music from “Doctor Zhivago” for their free dance this season. Their debut performance garnered Level 4s for the lifts, and Level 2s for the twizzles and the combination spin. They closed out the competition with 185.78 points and captured their first medal at a Skate America competition.
“We are a little bit disappointed with how today went. We left a lot of points on the table,” Carreira admitted. “There are a lot of things we want to improve and change when we get back home to make this program as special as it can be. It is a story that is easily told and we look forward to developing it.”
Caroline Green and Michael Parsons finished fourth with 178.05 points, ahead of Molly Cesanek and Yehor Yehorov (168.09). The new team of Lorraine McNamara and Anton Spiridonov rounded out the top six with 159.89 points.