2018 US Nationals Senior Free Dance

GROUP 1

Klopstock/Schedl: 28.95 TES + 25.17 PCS -2.00 = 52.12  Total: 89.28

  • I like the placement of the twizzles with the music but they lost sync with each other
  • Pretty basic lift with some awkward change into the second position
  • They botched the transition in their dance spin and had a moment where they stood there
  • He bobbles on a turn in their serpentine step sequence
  • Her shoulders just seem to be a bit lifted and tight throughout this program
  • Rotational lift a bit clunky on the transition out and he falls getting into the next sequence
  • I’d like to see them develop a wider range of emotions in telling this story
  • He falls again at the end of their diagonal step sequence
  • Nice choreographic lift to end the program
  • They earned Level 4 on their lifts but only Level 1 on both step sequences
  • They earned mostly negative GOEs

Bain/Altukhov: 28.89 TES + 20.36 PCS -1.00 = 48.25 Total: 79.42 and into 2nd place

  • Exogenesis is such a subtle piece of music and really requires a level of performance that takes years to achieve and is not what I would have picked for a first year partnership
  • Off on their twizzles through all the rotations and the spacing kept changing
  • Nice opening straight-line lift with him in a squat position
  • You can see the concentration written all over her face and her entire upper body is tight
  • In the changes of hold she is really reaching for him and grabbing tight in the transitions instead of letting it flow
  • A few places where they seem to either be too far apart or too close to each other in the step sequence
  • This music is really just making their skating seem slow and clunky
  • They also need to work on their connection with each other as I don’t think she’s looked at him once this entire program
  • Some nice positions in the dance spin but almost swing to a stop a the end and a bobble
  • Level 4 twizzles, rotational lift
  • Basic level on their circular step sequence and Level 1 on diagonal step sequence

Reynolds/Reynolds: 38.19 TES + 31.81 PCS = 70.00  Total: 110.92 and into 1st place

  • Cool hydroblade lift with her in a haircutter position
  • Pretty good twizzles, just off on the last rotation of the third set
  • Nice slid entry into their dance spin; could use a bit more stretch through the positions
  • The program seems a bit slow though the middle putting both step sequences back to back
  • Some really nice transitions in and out of the lifts for them
  • They’ve really come a long way and have improved each year
  • Level 4 lifts, twizzles, Level 1 on their step sequences
  • Positive GOEs on all but one element

Biechler/Dodge: 44.01 TES + 37.83 PCS = 81.84  Total: 137.37 and into 1st place

  • Nice twizzles and I love the arm changes within the sequences
  • Love the lift around his head and then a pop to a cradle catch
  • Love the choreographic spin in this program
  • Nice placement of the step sequence with the music
  • Nice twist jump into a stationary rotational lift
  • She loses her balance in the step sequence and steps out but does not fall
  • Really enjoyed the fierceness they brought to the program and the way they attacked the step sequences
  • Looks like her blade might not be on her skate properly
  • Level 4 twizzles, spin, lifts
  • Level 1 step sequence and only negative GOE

 

GROUP 2

Pogrebinsky/Benoit: 54.61 TES + 46.96 PCS = 101.57 Total: 167.98 and into 1st place

  • Great positions from her in the dance spin
  • Great leaned back spread eagle from him in the curve lift
  • Great ease and connection from them in the first step sequence really carrying the theme of the program through
  • Good timing through all of their twizzles
  • Great step up to a stationary rotational lift
  • They truly have some stunning lift positions including the rotational lift behind his back in a full split
  • This program truly plays to the great chemistry they have as a team and really shows off all of their strengths
  • Level 4 on everything but the serpentine step sequence and all positive GOEs

Aldridge/Eaton: 47.51 TES + 45.21 PCS = 92.72  Total: 153.93 and itno 2nd place

  • Off on the timing in their twizzles
  • Great speed going into their step sequence and I love how they go into it from a behind the back position
  • Really great transition into their rotational lift just coming out of nowhere
  • I love the transitional movement of him pulling her into a camel spin, skating away, and then coming back and grabbing her foot
  • Looks like they might have had some difficult in their second lift and maybe didn’t quite get into their planned position
  • Such a fun classic program that really suited their strengths and showed why they had so much success as a team
  • Level 4 lifts, diagonal step sequence with all positive GOEs

Manta/Johnson: 50.07 TES + 42.64 PCS = 92.71 Total: 151.00 and into 3rd place

  • Level 4 lift, spin, twizzles, with all positive GOEs

McNamara/Carpenter: 55.89 TES + 50.14 PCS = 106.03 Total:  175.19 and into 1st place

  • Really nice straight-line lift with him skating backward on one leg
  • They have the right fire and passion for a tango
  • You see the effort in the program here in places and some of the transitions are more apparent then they should be
  • Their serpentine step sequence just oozes tango choreography in all the little details
  • There are places where it looks like choreography and acting and doesn’t feel genuine, but part of that is just developing more maturity
  • Lots of great details in that program and really well done from them
  • Level 4 on their lifts, twizzles, and spin and all positive GOEs

 

GROUP 3

Parsons/Parsons: 53.53 TES + 49.85 PCS = 103.38 Total: 176.07 and into 1st place

  • Interesting choreographic spin
  • Straight line lift with him on one leg in a squat and her reaching out her legs behind her
  • I love that their step sequence goes right into the spin so seamlessly
  • Like McNamara and Carpenter there is some visible effort here and some of their moves look like choreography…something they’ll get better at with time
  • Lost their unison on the third twizzles
  • Great final lift with him in a huge lean while she leans back over the ice
  • Level 4 on their lifts and spin, with all positive GOEs

Hawayek/Baker: 61.06 TES + 53.37 PCS = 114.43 Total: 187.61 and into 1st place

  • The opening of this program is so beautiful with great lines and such great connection between them
  • Love these twizzles on the crescendo
  • Love how she just steps right up into that lift and it’s so effortless in and out…maybe not the most acrobatic but the simplicity really does set it apart
  • They really take every detail into consideration in building the step sequence with the build of the music
  • Great dip rotational lift
  • You really cannot take your eyes off her in this program; everything is so elegant and so pure
  • There is just such job, beauty and incredible connection in this program that is just stunning
  • Level 4 on everything with all positive GOEs

Shibutani/Shibutani: 57.26 TES + 57.34 PCS = 114.60 Total: 196.93 and into 1st place

  • Great transition out of the spin ducking under his arm
  • Such long, deep edges in the step sequence
  • Love the first lift and the effortless changes in position
  • Really nice twizzles after a little nod to Fix You
  • Great fast position changes in the rotational spin right on the music
  • She stumbled in the second step sequence but didn’t go down…that’s going to effect their levels and GOEs
  • They had a lead coming into this but that could be the difference
  • Love the two choreographic moves at the end of this program
  • Technically it was very good but it didn’t move me the way that Hawayek and Baker’s did
  • Level 4 on everything but the step sequences with all positive GOEs

Hubbell/Donohue: 59.77 TES + 58.25 PCS = 118.02 Total: 197.12 and into 1st place

  • Super difficult twizzles with lots of things happening in each set, maybe a slight loss of unison
  • Super slick step sequence
  • Love the twist and backward entry for him into the curve lift
  • Everything about this program is so well thought out and so well placed in the music
  • There is so much passion and fire in this program and it all feels so real and so genuine
  • You truly cannot look away from this program and you do not see the elements at all…they are so seamlessly woven into the choreography
  • Level 4 on everything except diagonal step sequence and spin with all positive GOEs

Chock/Bates: 61.39 TES + 57.60 PCS = 118.99 Total: 196.60 and into 3rd place

  • Love the level changes in the opening stationary lift
  • Nice twizzles
  • A few little moments of effort in the spin changes
  • Great choreographic moments at the end of the piece
  • I couldn’t help but be transfixed by that and it truly was very uplifting and beautiful
  • Level 4 on lifts, twizzles, spin, diagonal step sequence
Place Start Name Short Dance Free Dance Total Score
Place Score Place Score
1 12 Madison Hubbell, Lansing SC
Zachary Donohue, Lansing SC
2 79.10 2 118.02 197.12
2 11 Maia Shibutani, SC of New York
Alex Shibutani, SC of New York
1 82.33 3 114.60 196.93
3 13 Madison Chock, All Year FSC
Evan Bates, Ann Arbor FSC
3 77.61 1 118.99 196.60
4 10 Kaitlin Hawayek, Detroit SC
Jean-Luc Baker, Seattle SC
4 73.18 4 114.43 187.61
5 9 Rachel Parsons, Washington FSC
Michael Parsons, Washington FSC
5 72.69 6 103.38 176.07
6 8 Lorraine McNamara, Peninsula SC
Quinn Carpenter, Washington FSC
6 69.16 5 106.03 175.19
7 5 Elliana Pogrebinsky, Peninsula SC
Alex Benoit, Skokie Valley SC
7 66.41 7 101.57 167.98
8 6 Alexandra Aldridge, Detroit SC
Daniel Eaton, Ann Arbor FSC
8 61.21 8 92.72 153.93
9 7 Karina Manta, Coyotes SC of Arizona
Joseph Johnson, Broadmoor SC
9 58.29 9 92.71 151.00
10 4 Julia Biechler, SC of Wilmington
Damian Dodge, IceWorks SC
10 54.53 10 81.84 136.37
11 3 Elicia Reynolds, Ice Line FSC
Stephen Reynolds, Ice Line FSC
11 40.92 11 70.00 110.92
12 1 Cassidy Klopstock, Centennial 7k SC
Jacob Schedl, University of Delaware FSC
12 37.16 12 52.12 89.28
13 2 Ashley Bain, North Jersey FSC
Oleg Altukhov, North County FSC
13 31.17 13 48.25 79.42

2018 US Nationals Senior Short Dance

GROUP 1

Manta/Johnson: 58.29

  • Just a bit stiff though the rhumba
  • Off on the timing and a few slight slips in the non touching step sequence
  • They don’t quite have the synchronicity of the top teams with little details like having slightly different arms
  • Twizzles were in sync
  • Overall this program could have a lot more Latin feel and fire to it
  • Level 4 on twizzles, rhumba, and lift
  • Level 3 on partial and non touching step sequence

Bain/Altukhov: -1.00 = 31.17 and into 2nd place

  • They just don’t seem comfortable with each other as the touches seem very forced
  • Slow, bit awkward entry to their lift
  • A bit stiff and tentative on the rhumba and the nerves really show on her face
  • Slow and really looking like they’re fighting the ice to keep moving forward
  • He definitely is the stronger performer of the pair and has some nice facials through the non touching step sequence
  • Pretty good timing through the non touching step sequence
  • Really off on the timing of the twizzles and she seemed to have a bit of trouble staying in a straight line
  • They received negative GOEs on every element
  • Level 4 on their lift, Level 3 twizzles
  • Level 1 on all the step sequences

Aldridge/Eaton: 61.21 and into 1st place

  • Love the Latin flavor at the opening of the program although I would like to see her legs a little tighter together
  • Nice speed through the Rhumba and nice long leg lines
  • Cool stretch into their lift with a great arabesque line from her into the exit
  • Nice changes of hold in the partial step sequence, long edges, use of arms and lots of expressive upper body positions from her
  • Pretty good synchronization on the twizzles
  • Love the tight spacing between them and the crossing of patterns in the non touching step sequence
  • Really nice comeback performance for them

McNamara/Carpenter: 36.98 TES + 32.18 PCS = 69.16 and into 1st place

  • This team truly performs from the second they take the ice
  • Good speed through the Rhumba but not a lot of freedom through the hold and upper body
  • A lot more freedom through the partial step sequence with long curves and use of the arms and upper body
  • Cartwheel around to their lift
  • I would have liked to see more of a choreographic change or a cleaner change in the music to go from the slow music to the fast; it seemed a bit abrupt
  • They still just look a bit junior and it looks like choreography and not effortless
  • Level 4 twizzles and lift, Level 3 rhumba and non touching step sequence

 

GROUP 2

Hawayek/Baker: 39.38 TES + 33.80 PCS = 73.18 and into 1st place

  • I love the ombre of her skirt from red to an electric pink
  • Huge pattern on the non touching step sequence with nice long edges but she looks a bit tentative in her face
  • Very in sync on the rhumba and very well timed to the music
  • Great Latin choreography from them in the transition
  • Nice secure transitions of holds in the partial step sequence
  • Set up to an arch over the ice; the second position with her arched back while sitting seems to not have quite enough time and is a bit awkward
  • She’s starting to come alive a bit after the twizzles
  • Nice clean performance, but I wish they had performed it a bit more; it was obvious they were being very cautious and really thinking through the program
  • All positive GOEs
  • Level 4 on everything except midline step sequence which earned Level 3

Chock/Bates: 39.95 TES + 37.66 PCS = 77.61 and into 1st place

  • Good timing on the twizzles
  • I love the look of her costume which matches a traditional Latin ballroom dress although the long fringe makes me nervous!
  • Great transitions and variety of holds in the partial step sequence
  • Really nice leg lines in the Rhumba
  • Twist around to a cool split position on his legs; very interesting, different lift
  • Very clean non touching step sequence
  • Level 4 on everything but the partial step sequence with positive GOEs on everything

Reynolds/Reynolds: 22.75 TES + 20.17 PCS -2.00 = 40.92 and into 6th place

  • The remixed version of this song almost sounds like it’s skipping and made it a bit hard to judge the rhumba against the music
  • Not a lot of security in the changes of holds in the partial step sequence and very stiff in the upper body
  • She falls on the twizzles and they only complete one set
  • Neat lift with her rotating all the way around his neck without him using any hands
  • They could do more to add some Latin flavor to their choreography as right now it almost looks like it could go with any music
  • Two negative GOEs
  • Level 4 on their lift and Level 3 on the partial step sequence

Hubbell/Donohue: 40.96 TES + 38.14 PCS = 79.10 and into 1st place

  • So sharp and crisp at the beginning of this program
  • Great non touching step sequence with the Latin feel throughout, great musicality and very nice timing and spacing
  • Huge pattern on the Rhumba
  • Really nice partial step sequence with some interesting hold changes
  • Curve lift with her on his blade
  • He had a little bobble on the third set of twizzles really just noticeable by his hands changing
  • Everything about that program was cool and confident and just so effortless
  • Level 3 rhumba and partial step sequence, Level 4 on everything else, all positive GOEs

ICE RESURFACING

GROUP 3

Biechler/Dodge: 29.37 TES + 25.16 PCS = 54.53 and into 7th place

  • Partial step sequence could be faster or have deeper edges
  • A few good attempts at Latin moments in the non touching step sequence but it just needs a bit more commitment and more hips
  • Rotational lift with her up around his shoulders and set down exit
  • Level 4 twizzles and lift, Level 3 partial and midline step sequence
  • Negative GOE on the rhumba

Klopstock/Schedl: TES + PCS = 37.16 and into 9th place

  • Pretty good comfort in the holds in the partial step sequence with nice long curves
  • I’d like to see them really loosen up the upper body a bit to really sell this program
  • Pretty tight in the Rhumba through the entire upper body for both of them
  • I’d like to see a bit more variety of expressions, instead of the same expression held throughout to give the program a more mature feel
  • So neat to see Cannuscio and McManus in the Kiss and Cry as coaches this year!

Parsons/Parsons: 39.89 TES + 32.80 PCS = 72.69 and into 4th place

  • Great speed into their Rhumba ; her free arm seems a bit rehearsed in places and I’d like to see it feel a bit more natural
  • Great timing on their non touching step sequence, good musicality, and some really risk taking moves with deep leans over the ice
  • A few of their transitional movements they could really draw out and hold for a bit more impact but some of that comes with time
  • Cartwheel in and out of their lift
  • Maybe just a hair off on their timing on the first set of twizzles
  • Very cool ending with the finger spin
  • They did a great job not looking like a junior team and truly showing they belong in the senior ranks
  • All positive GOEs and everything Level 4 except for the non touching step sequence that earned Level 3

Shibutani/Shibutani: 43.64 TES + 38.69 PCS = 82.33 and into 1st place

  • Great accents to start their program
  • Such long curves and perfectly in sync in the Rhumba; it truly just glides across the ice and looks effortless
  • She really uses her full arm in the partial step sequence all the way from the shoulder
  • I love the twizzles perfectly timed to the counting and then increasing in speed through the 2nd and 3rd sets
  • Great moment in the middle of their non touching step sequence that truly felt like Latin Ballroom
  • They have such a feel for their music and hit every accent perfectly
  • One arm pull up backwards to a rotational lift
  • Standing ovation for their program
  • Everything about them is so elegant, effortless, and flawless
  • In a very deep US field they truly do find a way to set themselves apart
  • All positive GOEs and all Level 4s

Pogrebinsky/Benoit: 35.48 TES + 30.93 PCS = 66.41 and into 7th place

  • Long lines on the Rhumba but if feels a bit slow and cautious
  • A lot more confidence in the partial step sequence
  • Great full split position from her in the lift with a nice turn out of it
  • Really nice unison though the first twizzles, but off through the others
  • Lefel 4 lift, twizzles
  • Level 3 on everything else
Place Start Name Score
1 12 Maia Shibutani, SC of New York
Alex Shibutani, SC of New York
82.33
2 8 Madison Hubbell, Lansing SC
Zachary Donohue, Lansing SC
79.10
3 6 Madison Chock, All Year FSC
Evan Bates, Ann Arbor FSC
77.61
4 5 Kaitlin Hawayek, Detroit SC
Jean-Luc Baker, Seattle SC
73.18
5 11 Rachel Parsons, Washington FSC
Michael Parsons, Washington FSC
72.69
6 4 Lorraine McNamara, Peninsula SC
Quinn Carpenter, Washington FSC
69.16
7 13 Elliana Pogrebinsky, Peninsula SC
Alex Benoit, Skokie Valley SC
66.41
8 3 Alexandra Aldridge, Detroit SC
Daniel Eaton, Ann Arbor FSC
61.21
9 1 Karina Manta, Coyotes SC of Arizona
Joseph Johnson, Broadmoor SC
58.29
10 9 Julia Biechler, SC of Wilmington
Damian Dodge, IceWorks SC
54.53
11 7 Elicia Reynolds, Ice Line FSC
Stephen Reynolds, Ice Line FSC
40.92
12 10 Cassidy Klopstock, Centennial 7k SC
Jacob Schedl, University of Delaware FSC
37.16
13 2 Ashley Bain, North Jersey FSC
Oleg Altukhov, North County FSC
31.17

2018 US Nationals Senior Dance Preview

Three teams qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the third year in a row.  This is the one discipline where the US is consistently a medal threat and is the best bet for the US at the Olympics.

As a group, they have 43 national medals.  They have won five Worlds medals, 10 Four Continents medals, and eight World Junior Medals.  They won 7 Grand Prix medals and 6 Challenger Series medals this season.  The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 10th place finishers from last season will be competing here.  Only the 1st, 3rd, 12th place finishers from last year’s junior event moved up.  The short dance will be held on Friday, January 5th with the free dance on Saturday, January 6th.

To be competitive internationally, these teams need at least 71 points in the short dance, 107 points in the free dance, and 177 points overall.
The Shibutanis have the 3rd best total score internationally, set at Skate America.  They have consistent earned Level 4s on most of the elements in the short dance, finally achieving Level 4 on their non-touching step sequence at the Grand Prix Final, but dropping their Rhumba from a Level 2 to Level 4.  In the free dance, they have hit Level 4s on everything except for their step sequences which have been earning Level 3.  The only anomaly was their second step sequence earning a Level 2 at the Grand Prix Final.
Hubbell and Donohue have the 5th best score internationally, but they have set personal best segment scores at different competitions.  They have earned a Level 4 on every element of their short dance, but they’ve been vacillating between Level 3 and Level 4 on individual elements between events and have never earned Level 4 on everything.  In their free dance, they’ve been hitting Level 4 on their first step sequence, but have lost a level on one random element elsewhere in the program, dropping their spin to Level 3 at NHK Trophy and their last lift to Level 3 at the Grand Prix Final.
Chock and Bates have the 6th best score internationally, set at the Grand Prix Final.  They have been bringing their levels up throughout the season, achieving a Level 4 on their Rhumba at the Grand Prix Final.  They have never earned a Level 4 on the partial step sequence or the non touching step sequence.  In the free dance, they’ve been fairly consistent with achieving Level 4s on everything except for their step sequences.
While this is the deepest and most competitive discipline in the US it is also fairly predictable.  The Shibutanis, Chock and Bates, and Hubbell and Donohue have dominated the scene for the last 2.5 years and it would be a major upset if any other team were to steal one of the top three spots.  But there are several teams vying for that final spot on the podium and the placement of the top three teams is not set in stone.
Hawayek/Baker, McNamara/Carpenter and Parsons/Parsons are all former World Junior Champions and none have medaled on the Grand Prix this season.  Hawayek and Baker have been up in the senior ranks the longest and have the most experience, but they’ve also made fluke errors.  Pogrebinsky/Benoit are the reigning Pewter Medalists, landing on the podium in their first season as seniors last year.
Chock and Bates look like they might have trouble holding on to their silver medal this year.  They set a season’s best score at the Grand Prix Final where the Shibutanis and Hubbell/Donohue did not have their best events, yet they still finished behind both teams.  They have had problems hitting their Levels, including never achieving a Level 4 on some of their elements this season.  Their best technical score in the short dance is behind Hubbell and Donohue and the Shibutani’s worst score from the season, and they don’t fare much better in the other areas.
The Shibutani’s have three of the top five short dance TES scores, three of the top five short dance PCS scores, one top five free dance TES score, and three top five free dance PCS scores, putting 10 of their 12 possible scores in the top 5 for the US for the season.
Hubbell and Donohue have two of the top five short dance TES scores, one top five short dance PCS score, three top five free dance TES scores, and one top five free dance PCS scores, giving them a total of 7 top five scores.
Chock and Bates have one top five short dance PCS score, one top five free dance TES score, and one top five free dance PCS score, giving them 3 top five scores.
Even with their worst performance of the season, the Shibutanis managed to come out ahead, and their short program has been their biggest strength this season.  Hubbell and Donohue have put out stronger free dances, so it is entirely possible to see them split the two segments.  Keys to this event are going to be the Shibutanis’s lead after the short dance and if anyone can upgrade to Level 4 step sequences in either program.
Top 10 TES Scores, Short Dance
Shibutani/Shibutani: 41.30 (SA)
Shibutani/Shibutani: 40.85 (GPF)
Hubbell/Donohue: 40.57 (SC)
Hubbell/Donohue: 40.30 (NHK)
Shibutani/Shibutani: 40.23 (RC)
Hubbell/Donohue: 38.22 (GPF)
Chock/Bates: 38.08 (GPF)
Chock/Bates: 37.07 (IDF)
Chock/Bates: 35.97 (CoC)
McNamara/Carpenter: 34.30 (CoC)
Top 10 PCS Scores, Short Dance
Shibutani/Shibutani: 37.88 (SA)
Shibutani/Shibutani: 37.24 (GPF)
Shibutani/Shibutani: 37.07 (RC)
Chock/Bates: 36.69 (CoC)
Hubbell/Donohue: 36.59 (GPF)
Hubbell/Donohue: 36.51 (SC)
Chock/Bates: 36.48 (IDF)
Chock/Bates: 36.28 (GPF)
Hubbell/Donohue: 36.01 (NHK)
Hawayek/Baker: 31.51 (SA)
Top 10 TES Scores, Free Dance
Shibutani/Shibutani: 57.95 (SA)
Hubbell/Donohue: 57.64 (NHK)
Hubbell/Donohue: 57.47 (SC)
Hubbell/Donohue: 57.42 (GPF)
Chock/Bates: 57.25 (GPF)
Chock/Bates: 56.27 (CoC)
Shibutani/Shibutani: 56.01 (RC)
Shibutani/Shibutani: 54.15 (GPF)
Chock/Bates: 53.47 (IDF)
Hawayek/Baker: 53.05 (SC)
Top 10 PCS Scores, Free Dance
Shibutani/Shibutani: 57.12 (SA)
Shibutani/Shibutani: 55.93 (RC)
Hubbell/Donohue: 55.88 (SC)
Shibutani/Shibutani: 55.76 (GPF)
Chock/Bates: 55.57 (CoC)
Chock/Bates: 55.54 (GPF)
Hubbell/Donohue: 55.17 (GPF)
Chock/Bates: 54.83 (IDF)
Hubbell/Donohue: 54.40 (NHK)
Hawayek/Baker: 49.05 (SC)

My podium predictions:

Gold: Shibutani/Shibutani

Silver: Hubbell/Donohue

Bronze: Chock/Bates

Pewter: Hawayek/Baker

 

Bios of the competitors:

Aldridge/Eaton: She is 23 and represents the Detroit Skating Club he is 25 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club.  They are the 2014 Four Continents Bronze Medalists and 2012 and 2013 World Junior Bronze Medalists.  They finished 6th in 2015, 5th in 2014, are the 2013 Junior Champions, 2012 Junior Champions, finished 5th in juniors in 2011 and are the 2010 Novice Champions.  They won gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Bain/Altukhov

Biechler/Dodge: She is 19 and represents the Skating Club of Wilmington and he is 23 and represents the Peninsula Skating Club.  They finished 8th at the US International Figure Skating Classic and 17th at Finlandia Trophy.  They placed 7th last season, 5th as juniors in 2016, 8th at juniors in 2015, 7th as juniors in 2014 and 9th as juniors in 2013.

Chock/Bates: She is 25 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and he is 28 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club.  They finished 7th at Worlds and are the reigning Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  They won silver at Cup of China and silver at Internationaux de France to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 5th.  They are the 2015 World Silver Medalists, 2016 World Bronze Medalists, 2015 and 2016 Four Continents Silver Medalists, and 2013 Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  They are the reigning Silver Medalists, 2016 Silver Medalists, 2015 Champions, 2014 Silver Medalists, 2013 Silver Medalists and finished 5th in 2012.  They have the 8th best short program, 5th best free skate, and 6th best total scores internationally.

Hawayek/Baker: She is 21 and represents the Detroit Skating Club and he is 24 and represents the Seattle Skating Club.  They finished 4th at Skate Canada and 5th at Skate America.  They won silver at the US Figure Skating Classic and bronze at Golden Spin of Zagreb.  They are the 2014 World Junior Champions.  They finished 5th last season, 5th in 2016, are the 2015 Pewter Medalists, 2014 Junior Champions and 2013 Junior Silver Medalists.

Hubbell/Donohue: She is 26 and he is 27 and they represent the Lansing Skating Club.  They placed 9th at Worlds and 4th at Four Continents last season.  They won bronze at Skate Canada and silver at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 4th.  They won gold at the US International Classic.  They are the 2014 Four Continents Champions.  They are the reigning Bronze Medalists, 2016 Bronze Medalists, 2015 Bronze Medalists, 2014 Pewter Medalists, 2013 Pewter Medalists and 2012 Bronze Medalists.  They have the 6th best short program, 4th best free skate, and 5th best total scores internationally.

Klopstock/Schedl: She represents the Centennial 7k Skating Club and he represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  They finished 12th as juniors last season.  They won bronze at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Manta/Johnson: She is 21 and represents the Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona and he is 23 and represents the Broadmoor Skating Club.  They placed 14th at Nebelhorn Trophy.  They finished 8th last season, 7th in 2016, and 10th as juniors in 2015.

McNamara/Carpenter: She is 18 and represents the Peninsula Skating Club and he is 21 and represents the Washington Figure Skating Club.  They placed 7th at Junior Worlds last season.  They placed 5th at Cup of China.  They finished 5th at the Autumn Classic International, 8th at Finlandia Trophy, and won silver at Warsaw Cup.  They are the 2016 World Junior Champions and 2015 World Junior Silver Medalists.  They are the reigning Junior Bronze Medalists, 2015 and 2016 Junior Champions, 2014 Junior Silver Medalists, 2013 Junior Bronze Medalists, 2012 Junior Bronze Medalists, finished 9th in Junior in 2011, 6th in Novice in 2010, are the 2009 Intermediate Pewter Medalists and 2008 Juvenile Pewter Medalists.

Parsons/Parsons: She is 20 and he is 22 and they represent the Washington Figure Skating Club.  They are the reigning World Junior Champions.  They placed 7th at Rostelecom Cup and 9th at Skate America.  They won silver at Ondrej Nepela Trophy and finished 8th at Golden Spin of Zagreb.  They are the 2016 World Junior Silver Medalists.  They are the reigning Junior Champions, 2016 Junior Silver Medalists, 2015 Junior Silver Medalists, 2014 Junior Bronze Medalists, 2012 Junior Pewter Medalists and 2011 Novice Champions.

Pogrebinsky/Benoit: She is 19 represents the Peninsula Skating Club and he is 22 and represents the Skokie Valley Skating Club.  They placed 7th at Cup of China and 7th at Internationaux de France.  They won bronze at Tallinn Trophy.  They are the reigning Pewter Medalists, 2016 Junior Bronze Medalists and 2015 Junior Bronze Medalists.

Reynolds/Reynolds: She is 27 and he is 24 and they represent the IceWorks Skating Club.  They finished 10th last season, 13th in 2016, 11th in 2015, and 14th in 2014.

Shibutani/Shibutani: She is 23 and he is 26 and they represent the Skating Club of New York.  They are the reigning World Bronze Medalists and reigning Four Continents Silver Medalists.  They won gold at Rostelecom Cup and gold at Skate America to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won bronze.  They are the 2016 World Silver Medalists, 2011 World Bronze Medalists, 2016 Four Continents Champions, 2011 Four Continents Silver Medalists, 2015 Four Continents Bronze Medalists, and 2009 World Junior Silver Medalists.  They are the reigning Champions, 2016 Champions, 2015 Silver Medalists, 2014 Bronze Medalists, 2013 Bronze Medalists, 2012 Silver Medalists, 2011 Silver Medalists, 2010 Junior Champions, 2009 Junior Silver Medalists, 2008 Junior Pewter Medalists, 2007 Novice Champions, 2006 Intermediate Champions and 2005 Juvenile Silver Medalists.  They have the 3rd best short dance, 3rd best free dance, and 3rd best total scores internationally.

Short Dance

  1. Virtue/Moir, CAN: 82.68 (Skate Canada)
  2. Papadakis/Cizeron, FRA: 82.07 (Grand Prix Final)
  3. Shibutani/Shibutani, USA: 79.18 (Skate America)

Free Dance

  1. Papadakis/Cizeron, FRA: 120.58 (Internationaux de France)
  2. Virtue/Moir, CAN: 118.33 (Grand Prix Final)
  3. Shibutani/Shibutani, USA: 115.07 (Skate America)

Total (one score per team listed)

  1. Papadakis/Cizeron, FRA: 202.16 (Grand Prix Final)
  2. Virtue/Moir, CAN: 199.86 (Skate Canada/Grand Prix Final)
  3. Shibutani/Shibutani, USA: 194.25 (Skate America)

 

2017 Skate America Dance Preview

Half of the spots in the Final have been taken by Papadakis and Cizeron (30 points), Virtue and Moir (30 points) and Chock and Bates (26 points).  Hubbell/Donohue (24), Bobrova/Soloviev (24), and Weaver/Poje (22) round out the current top 6.

Mathematically, six of the teams here can qualify for the Final, however, the qualification scenarios for most of these teams are slim.  The Shibutanis are the most likely to qualify as they need a 1st-4th place finish to make the Final.  Cappellini and Lanotte can guarantee their spot with a gold medal.  If the Shibutanis win gold, and Cappellini and Lanotte win silver, they need 181.03 points to qualify.  If any other team wins gold, Cappellini and Lanotte can also qualify with a silver medal if they score 191.23 points.  Sinitsina/Katsalapov, Gilles/Poirier, Hawayek/Baker, and Zagorski/Guerreiro all need a gold medal to qualify for the Final.

Shibutani and Shibutani won gold at Rostelecom Cup.  They earned Level 4 on everything but their non touching step sequence in the short dance with all positive GOEs worth 8 points.  Their program components were in the low to mid 9s.  Their free dance received Level 4 for their spin, lifts, and twizzles, with Level 3 on both step sequences.  They again earned all positive GOEs worth a whopping 14 points and their program components were in the low to mid 9s.  They have the 4th best short dance, 5th best free dance, and 5th best total scores.

Cappellini and Lanotte won the bronze medal at NHK Trophy.  Their short dance there included Level 4 twizzles, partial step sequence, and lift, with Level 3 on their non touching step sequence and rhumba.  They earned all positive GOEs worth 8 points and had program components in the high 8s to mid 9s.  Their free dance received Level 4 for their lifts, twizzles, spin, and diagonal step sequence with Level 3 on their serpentine step sequence.  They again earned all positive GOEs, netting nearly 13 points, and had program components in the high 8s to mid 9s.  They have the 7th best short dance, 8th best free dance, and 6th best total scores.

Sinitsina and Katsalapov finished 4th at NHK Trophy with personal best scores in all segments of competition.  They earned Level 4 on their twizzles and lift with Level 3 on their non touching step sequence, rhumba, and partial step sequence.  They earned all positive GOEs worth 7 points and had program components in the mid to high 8s.  They received Level 4 on their twizzles, two lifts, and spin in their free dance, with Level 3 on their step sequences and final lift.  They had all positive GOEs worth 10 points and had program components in the mid 8s to low 9s.  They have the 9th best short dance and 10th best total scores.

Gilles and Poirier finished 4th at Rostelecom Cup.  Their short dance earned Level 4 for the twizzles and lift with Level 3 for the partial and non touching step sequences.  They have yet to achieve a Level 3 or higher on their rhumba this season.  They had all positive GOEs and had program components in the mid 8s.  Their free dance had a Level 4 spin, lifts, and twizzles, with Level 3 on the step sequences.  They had all positive GOEs, totaling 10 points and had program components in the mid 8s.

Hawayek and Baker finished 4th at Skate Canada.  They earned Level 4 on their lift and rhumba in the short dance with Level 3 on their non touching and partial step sequences.  They did earn negative GOEs on their twizzles but had program components in the mid to high 7s.  Their free dance received Level 4 for the twizzles, lifts and spin with Level 3 on their two step sequences.  They had all positive GOEs, worth 12 points, and had program components in the high 7s to mid 8s.

Zagorski and Guerreiro placed 4th at Cup of China.  Their short dance received Level 4 for the twizzles, rhumba, and lift, with Level 3 on the partial and non touching step sequences.  They earned all positive GOEs and had program components in the high 7s to low 8s.  Their free dance earned Level 4 for their lifts and twizzles with Level 3 on the spin and step sequences.  They earned all positive GOEs worth 8 points and had program components in the high 7s to low 8s.

Most of these teams are executing the same level of elements.  One way to set themselves apart is to achieve Level 4 on the step sequences in the short dance, especially the non touching section which is worth the most points, and on one or both of the step sequences in the free dance.  The other way is through GOEs and program components.  Because many of these teams have been performing the exact same technical elements so far this season, the difference between medaling and not is going to come down to the quality with which everything is executed.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Shibutani/Shibutani

Silver: Cappellini/Lanotte

Bronze: Sinitsina/Katsalapov

 

Bios of the competitors:

Gilles/Poirier, CAN: They placed 8th at Worlds and 6th at Four Continents.  They finished 4th at Rostelecom Cup.  They are the 2014 Four Continents Silver Medalists. Their personal best is 182.57.  She is 25 and he is 26.

Wang/Liu, CHN: They finished 16th at Worlds and 7th at Four Continents.  They placed 6th at Cup of China.  Their personal best is 158.36.  She is 23 and he is 23.

Tobias/Tkachenko, ISR: They placed 12th at Worlds and 4th at Europeans.  They finished 6th at Skate America and 5th at Trophee de France last season.  Their personal best is 177.80.  She is 26 and he is 30.

Cappellini/Lanotte, ITA: They finished 6th at Worlds and are the reigning European Silver Medalists.  They won bronze at NHK Trophy.  They are the 2014 World Champions, 2014 European Champions, 2015 and 2016 European Silver Medalists, and 2013 European Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 186.84.  She is 30 and he is 32.

Muramoto/Reed, JPN: They finished 23rd at Worlds and 9th at Four Continents.  They placed 9th at NHK Trophy.  Their personal best is 159.30.  She is 24 and he is 28.

Sinitsina/Katsalapov, RUS: They placed 10th at Europeans.  They finished 4th at NHK Trophy.  Their personal best is 177.15.  She is 22 and he is 26.

Zagorski/Guerreiro, RUS: They placed 4th at Cup of China.  Their personal best is 173.02.  She is 23 and he is 26.

Hawayek/Baker, USA: They finished 4th at Skate Canada.  They are the 2014 World Junior Champions.  Their personal best is 177.36.  She is 21 and he is 24.

Parsons/Parsons, USA: They are the reigning World Junior Champions.  They placed 7th at Rostelecom Cup.  They are the 2016 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 164.83.  She is 20 and he is 22.

Shibutani/Shibutani, USA: They are the reigning World Bronze Medalists and reigning Four Continents Silver Medalists.  They won gold at Rostelecom Cup.  They are the 2016 World Silver Medalists, 2011 World Bronze Medalists, 2016 Four Continents Champions, 2011 Four Continents Silver Medalists, 2015 Four Continents Bronze Medalists, and 2009 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 191.85.  She is 23 and he is 26.

2017 Skate Canada Dance Results

Short Dance

Pl. Name Nation TSS
=
TES
+
PCS
+
SS TR PE CO IN Ded.
StN.
1 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 82.68 43.91 38.77 9.50 9.50 9.93 9.68 9.86 0.00 #8
2 Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE CAN 77.47 40.69 36.78 9.04 9.00 9.32 9.25 9.36 0.00 #9
3 Madison HUBBELL / Zachary DONOHUE USA 76.08 40.57 36.51 8.96 8.93 9.29 9.14 9.32 1.00 #10
4 Olivia SMART / Adria DIAZ ESP 64.34 34.53 29.81 7.36 7.21 7.61 7.46 7.61 0.00 #2
5 Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKER USA 63.10 32.47 30.63 7.57 7.43 7.75 7.68 7.86 0.00 #5
6 Alla LOBODA / Pavel DROZD RUS 62.60 31.98 30.62 7.68 7.50 7.71 7.71 7.68 0.00 #7
7 Carolane SOUCISSE / Shane FIRUS CAN 57.77 29.23 28.54 7.04 6.96 7.29 7.21 7.18 0.00 #1
8 Kavita LORENZ / Joti POLIZOAKIS GER 56.41 28.41 28.00 6.93 6.75 7.14 7.07 7.11 0.00 #3
9 Natalia KALISZEK / Maksym SPODYRIEV POL 55.92 28.17 28.75 7.11 7.14 7.07 7.32 7.29 1.00 #6
10 Alisa AGAFONOVA / Alper UCAR TUR 54.74 26.75 27.99 6.93 6.89 7.00 7.18 7.00 0.00 #4

Free Dance

Pl. Name Nation TSS
=
TES
+
PCS
+
SS TR PE CO IN Ded.
StN.
1 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 117.18 58.48 58.70 9.61 9.57 9.89 9.89 9.96 0.00 #8
2 Madison HUBBELL / Zachary DONOHUE USA 113.35 57.47 55.88 9.11 9.14 9.50 9.32 9.50 0.00 #10
3 Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE CAN 112.54 57.90 55.64 9.04 9.11 9.39 9.39 9.43 1.00 #9
4 Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKER USA 102.10 53.05 49.05 8.04 7.86 8.43 8.18 8.36 0.00 #7
5 Alla LOBODA / Pavel DROZD RUS 93.12 46.98 46.14 7.68 7.50 7.79 7.68 7.79 0.00 #3
6 Carolane SOUCISSE / Shane FIRUS CAN 92.50 46.66 45.84 7.50 7.39 7.71 7.71 7.89 0.00 #4
7 Olivia SMART / Adria DIAZ ESP 90.47 43.97 46.50 7.54 7.46 7.89 7.86 8.00 0.00 #6
8 Kavita LORENZ / Joti POLIZOAKIS GER 89.67 45.68 43.99 7.18 7.00 7.50 7.43 7.54 0.00 #5
9 Natalia KALISZEK / Maksym SPODYRIEV POL 88.86 44.64 44.22 7.21 7.21 7.43 7.46 7.54 0.00 #2
10 Alisa AGAFONOVA / Alper UCAR TUR 86.09 43.61 42.48 6.93 6.96 7.18 7.18 7.14 0.00 #1

Total

FPl. Name Nation Points SD FD
1 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR
CAN
199.86 1 1
2 Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE
CAN
190.01 2 3
3 Madison HUBBELL / Zachary DONOHUE
USA
189.43 3 2
4 Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKER
USA
165.20 5 4
5 Alla LOBODA / Pavel DROZD
RUS
155.72 6 5
6 Olivia SMART / Adria DIAZ
ESP
154.81 4 7
7 Carolane SOUCISSE / Shane FIRUS
CAN
150.27 7 6
8 Kavita LORENZ / Joti POLIZOAKIS
GER
146.08 8 8
9 Natalia KALISZEK / Maksym SPODYRIEV
POL
144.78 9 9
10 Alisa AGAFONOVA / Alper UCAR
TUR
140.83 10 10

2017 Skate Canada Dance Preview

Four teams at this event are making their Grand Prix debut, including reigning World Junior Silver Medalists Loboda and Drozd, while two of these teams qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season.  All Loboda is the youngest female competitor at 18, while both Tessa Virtue and Kaitlyn Weaver are 28.  Pavel Drozd is the youngest male competitor at 21, while Alper Ucar is 32.  Three teams have scored over 180 points, while two teams have scored over 190 points.

Virtue and Moir are the unquestioned favorite at this event, so the real competition will be for silver and bronze and to see how close they can get to Virtue and Moir.  As with any ice dance event, this will come down to levels, especially on the all important step sequences.  By the Olympics, top teams will want Level 4 on all of their elements and some of these teams have even been earning Level 2 on their step sequences.  Given that there can be up to a 1.5 point difference between levels, this can be a huge hit on the technical score.

Virtue and Moir will compete for their 8th season on the Grand Prix and have medaled 13 times, including 10 consecutive gold medals.  They have qualified for the Final six times, winning a medal five times.  Their first gold medal at the Final came last season.  After returning to competition last season, they were undefeated, and only lost a segment of competition once, the free dance at this event.  They won gold at the Autumn Classic International to start this season.  They earned Level 4 for their rhumba, twizzles, and lift in their short dance, with Level 3 on their non touching step sequence and partial step sequence.  They earned all positive GOEs, many of them +3, for a total of 11 points.  Their program components were in the mid 9s, and included two 10.00 scores.  Their free dance received Level 4 for their lifts, twizzles, and spin, with Level 3 on both step sequences.  Their program components were all positive, netting 16 points and their program components were in the mid 9s.  For this program, they earned three 10.00 marks.  They have the best short dance, best free dance, and best total scores.

Hubbell and Donohue are returning for their 7th season the Grand Prix, and have won 7 total medals.  They have qualified for the Grand Prix Final each of the last two seasons.  They won gold at the US Figure Skating Classic to kick off their season.  They earned Level 4 on their rhumba and Level 3 on their non touching step sequence and lift in the short dance.  They had all positive GOEs, earning 9 points, and had program components in the high 8s and low 9s.  Their free dance received Level 4 for their twizzles, spin, and lifts with Level 3 on their diagonal step sequence.  They earned all positive GOEs, earning 14 points, and had program components in the high 8s and low 9s.  They lost one point for an extended lift.  They have the 7th best short dance, 6th best free dance, and 6th best total scores.

Weaver and Poje are competing for the 11th season on the Grand Prix and have medaled 15 times.  The last time they failed to medal at a Grand Prix event was back in 2010 when they finished 4th at Skate America.  They have qualified for the Final five times, including winning gold twice, but they did not make the Final last season.  They won silver at the Autumn Classic International to start their season.  For their free dance, they are returning to Je Suis Malade, the program that put them on the map and was a breakout moment for their careers.  Their short dance featured Level 4 twizzles, and Level 3 partial step sequence, rhumba, non-touching step sequence, and lift.  They earned a slightly negative GOE on their twizzles and had program components in the mid 8s.  Their free dance received Level 4 on their lifts and twizzles with Level 3 on their spin and step sequences.  They had all positive GOEs, totaling 12 points and had program components in the mid 8s.  They have the 10th best short dance, 8th best free dance, and 8th best total scores.

Loboda and Drozd are making their Grand Prix debut after winning two medals at the Junior World Championships.  They competed for four seasons on the Junior Grand Prix, winning 8 medals and qualifying for the Junior Grand Prix Final three times (winning silver each time).  They made their senior debut at Lombardia Trophy where they won the silver medal.  Their short dance earned Level 4 on their twizzles and lift along with a Level 3 on their non touching step sequence.  They earned all positive GOEs and had program components in the mid 7s.  Their free dance received Level 4 for their lifts, twizzles, and spin with all positive GOEs and program components in the mid 7s.

Hawayek and Baker are starting their fourth season on the Grand Prix and have won one medal in their career: a bronze at NHK Trophy in 2014.  They won silver at the US International Figure Skating Classic earlier this season.  They earned Level 4 on their lift in the short dance and had program components in the mid to high 7s.  They also earned a one point deduction for a fall.  Their free dance received Level 4 for the twizzles, lifts and spin.  They had all positive GOEs, worth 10 points, and had program components in the high 7s to low 8s.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Virtue and Moir

Silver: Hubbell and Donohue

Bronze: Weaver and Poje

 

Bios of the competitors:

Soucisse/Firus, CAN: This is their Grand Prix debut.  Their personal best is 154.60.  She is 22 and he is 23.

Virtue/Moir, CAN: They are the reigning World Champions and reigning Four Continents Champions.  They won gold at Skate Canada and gold at NHK Trophy last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won gold.  They are the 2010 Olympic Champions; 2014 Olympic Silver Medalists; 2010 and 2012 World Champions; 2008, 2011, and 2013 World Silver Medalists; 2009 World Bronze Medalists; 2008 and 2012 Four Continents Champions; 2009 and 2013 Four Continents Silver Medalists; 2006 and 2007 Four Continents Bronze Medalists; 2006 World Junior Champions; and 2005 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 198.62.  She is 28 and he is 30.

Weaver/Poje, CAN: They finished 4th at Worlds and 5th at Four Continents.  They won bronze at Rostelecom Cup and silver at Cup of China last season.  They are the 2014 World Silver Medalists, 2015 World Bronze Medalists, 2010 and 2015 Four Continents Champions, 2012 and 2016 Four Continents Bronze Medalists, and 2007 World Junior Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 190.56.  She is 28 and he is 30.

Lorenz/Polizoakis, GER: They placed 19th at Worlds and 14th at Europeans.  This is their Grand Prix debut.  Their personal best is 155.34.  She is 22 and he is 22.

Kaliszek/Spodyriev, POL: They finished 14th at Worlds and 8th at Europeans.  They placed 5th at Cup of China and 7th at NHK Trophy last season.  Their personal best is 157.15.  She is 21 and he is 23.

Loboda/Drozd, RUS: They are the reigning World Junior Silver Medalists.  They won gold at JGP Russia and gold at JGP Estonia last season to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where they won silver.  This is their Grand Prix debut.  They are the 2016 World Junior Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 164.37.  She is 18 and he is 21.

Smart/Diaz, ESP: They placed 18th at Worlds.  This is their Grand Prix debut.  Their personal best is 155.56.  She is 20 and he is 27.

Agafonova/Ucar, TUR: They finished 17th at Worlds and 11th at Europeans.  They placed 9th at Rostelecom Cup.  Their personal best is 163.00.  She is 26 and he is 32.

Hawayek/Baker, USA: They finished 6th at Skate Canada and 4th at NHK Trophy last season.  They are the 2014 World Junior Champions.  Their personal best is 177.36.  She is 20 and he is 24.

Hubbell/Donohue, USA: They placed 9th at Worlds and 4th at Four Continents.  They won silver at Skate America and silver at Trophee de France last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 5th.  They are the 2014 Four Continents Champions.  Their personal best is 180.82.  She is 26 and he is 26.

2017 US Nationals Senior Dance Preview

Ice Dance is by far the United States’ most competitive event.  Three teams qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the second year in a row, and these same three teams all placed in the top 6 at Worlds last season.  This is the one discipline where the US is consistently a medal threat and there is the potential of walking away from Worlds with two medals.

As a group, they have 28 national medals (although 12 of them belong to the Shibutanis).  They have won four Worlds medals, seven Four Continents medals, and two World Junior Medals.  They won seven Grand Prix medals and seven Challenger Series medals this season.  The 1st-5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, and 13th place finishers from last season will be competing here.  Only the 3rd and 5th place finishers from last year’s junior event moved up.  The short dance will be held on Friday, January 20th with the free dance on Saturday, January 21st.

To be competitive internationally, these teams need at least 72 points in the short dance, 107 points in the free dance and 180 points overall.
While this is the deepest and most competitive discipline in the US it is also fairly predictable.  The Shibutanis, Chock and Bates, and Hubbell and Donohue have dominated the scene for the last 2.5 years and it would be a major upset if any other team were to steal one of the top three spots.  But there are several teams vying for that final spot on the podium and the placement of the top three teams is not set in stone.
The Shibutanis are coming off a World Silver medal and the first US senior title of their career.  They have the 3rd best short dance, 3rd best free dance and 3rd best total scores.  They have struggled a bit with their levels this year, earning a Level 2 in the short dance on their partial step sequence at Skate America and Cup of China and a Level 2 on the non-touching step sequence at Skate America.  However, their GOEs have more than made up for the technical deficits, earning between 8.5 and 9.5 points between events.  Their program components have been strong throughout the season, and their best short dance components came at the Grand Prix Final where they received 9.11-9.36.  They have perhaps the best execution of the combination of Blues and Hip Hop of any team this season.  After last season’s iconic Fix You program, I thought it would be difficult for them to top that free dance, yet they have been successful.  Again, they’ve had Level issues, receiving a Level 2 on one of their step sequences at Cup of China and the Grand Prix Final.  They earned 15.5 points from GOE at all of their events and at Cup of China and the Grand Prix Final their program components ranged from 9.21-9.50, even receving a few 10s from the judges.
Chock and Bates established themselves as the #1 team in the US after Davis and White retired following the 2014 Olympics.  They won a national title, medaled at Worlds and had never lost a competition to any of their US teammates.  However, they were overtaken by the Shibutanis last season at nationals and haven’t been able to catch up.  They have the 4th best short dance, 4th best free dance, and 4th best total scores internationally.  They have done something no other team has done this season, beating Virtue and Moir in the free dance at Skate Canada.  However, their scores have been steadily slipping throughout the season and they finished 6th at the Grand Prix Final behind the Shibutanis and Hubbell and Donohue.  They have consistently dropped Levels in the short dance with all but one of their elements receiveing Level 4 at Skate Canada, while only two received Level 4 at the Grand Prix Final.  They earned 9 points from GOE at Skate Canada, but only 6.5 points and the GPF.  Their best program components for the short came at Rostelecom Cup, where they earned 8.93-9.36.  Their free dance was fairly similar between Skate Canada and the Grand Prix Final with Rostelecom Cup being a bit of a blip in the road.  At their two best events they earned Level 4 on everything but the step sequences (and they earned one Level 4 step sequence at Skate Canada).  They earned between 12.5 and 14 points from GOEs with their best program components ranging from 9.07-9.29.  Interestingly, their best program components came at Rostelecom Cup, which was their weakest technical performance.
Hubbell and Donohue have steadily moved up in the world standings, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final two years in a row, and placing 6th at Worlds last season.  They even bested Chock and Bates for the first time at the Grand Prix Final.  They have they the 8th best short dance score internationally.  They have been improving throughout the season, with their best short dance coming at the Grand Prix Final where they received Level 4 on everything but the partial step sequence and earned 7 points from GOE.  Their best program components were also at that event, scoring 8.61-8.79.  While their free dance had better Levels at Skate America and Trophee de France, their program components were much better at the Grand Prix Final, scoring between 8.75 and 9.14.  They consistently scored around 13 points from GOE in the free dance.
Hawayek and Baker had a bit of a disappointing season last year.  They won the pewter medal in their senior debut in 2015, but fell to 5th place last year.  They had a free dance they were very passionate about and invested in, but they couldn’t find the scores to move them forward.  They have had some Level issues this year, receiving Level 2 on the partial step sequence in their short program at Skate Canada and Level 2 on the non-touching step sequence at NHK Trophy.  They earned between 5 and 6 points from GOE at their two events and their best program components were at Skate Canada where they scored 7.64-8.00.  Their free dance improved throughout the season.  While they earned Level 2 for their twizzles at Skate Canada, they received Level 4 at NHK Trophy.  Their GOE in this segment at that event earned them 13 points and their program components were 8.07-8.43.  However, they may be closer to the top 3 after a strong performance at Golden Spin saw them score only 2 points less than Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue.
Pogrebinsky and Benoit are the reigning US Junior Bronze Medalists and placed 4th at Junior Worlds last season.  They still had junior eligibility but decided to make the jump to the senior ranks where they earned two Grand Prix assignments and won a medal on the Challenger Series.  Their best short program came at Rostelecom Cup where they improved the levels on their twizzles and the non-touching step sequence and earned 4 points from GOE.  Their program components are a bit low, but on par with a first year senior team.  Their best short dance program component marks came at Skate Canada where they scored 7.00-7.29.  For the free dance, their Skate America levels were better, earning 2 and 3 on their step sequences and 4 on everything else.  Their GOE and program components were similar at their two GP events, earning +9-9.5 and 7.21-7.61.
Cannuscio and McManus had a breakout season last year, winning the pewter medal at nationals.  Like many of the teams here, they’ve struggled with some of their levels this season.  Their best short dance came at Cup of China where they earned Level 4 on their lift, Level 3 on their twizzles and Level 2 on the step portions.  Their program components were a little low ranging from 6.57-7.04 at NHK Trophy.  They had similar performances in their free dance, earning Level 4 on everything but the step sequences, which earned Level 2.  They earned between 6 and 7 points from GOE and had program components ranging from 6.57-7.36.
Biechler and Dodge are making their senior debut after placing 5th in juniors last year.  At Eastern Sectionals, their short dance earned Level 4 on the twizzles and Level 3 on everything else.  They received 4.5 points from GOE and their program components scored 6.42-7.00.  They earned Level 4 on the lifts and spin in their free dance and Level 3 on the twizzles and steps.  They earned 11 points from GOE and had program components ranging from 6.42-6.92.
Manta and Johnson also had a strong showing at Sectionals.  Their short dance received Level 4 on the twizzles and lift, Level 3 on the non-touching step sequence, and Level 2 on the Blues and partial step sequence.  They earned 4.5 points from GOE with program components from 6.63-7.31.  They earned Level 4 on the lift, twizzles and spin in their free dance with Level 2 on the step sequences.  They were awarded 7 points from GOE with program components ranging from 6.58-7.25.
What this event is going to come down to is program components.  The Shibutanis were under marked in this category for years and even though they were exceptional technicians, they couldn’t keep pace on the artistic side.  Now, their levels have been holding them down a bit this season, but their GOEs and program components are keeping them on podiums.
Top 5 TES Scores, Short Dance
40.85 Shibutanis, Grand Prix Final
40.61 Chock/Bates, Skate Canada
38.35 Chock/Bates, Rostelecom Cup
37.66 Hubbell/Donohue, Grand Prix Final
36.87 Shibutanis, Cup of China
Top 5 PCS Scores, Short Dance
37.12 Shibutanis, Grand Prix Final
36.83 Shibutanis, Skate America
36.69 Chock/Bates, Rostelecom Cup
36.36 Shibutanis, Cup of China
35.60 Chock/Bates, Skate Canada
Top 5 TES Scores, Free Dance
57.44 Chock/Bates, Skate Canada
56.95 Shibutanis, Skate America
55.59 Shibutanis, Rostelecom Cup
55.45 Shibutanis, Grand Prix Final
54.88 Hubbell/Donohue, Trophee de France
Top 5 PCS Scores, Free Dance
56.31 Shibutanis, Cup of China
56.18 Shibutanis, Grand Prix Final
55.76 Shibutanis, Skate America
55.30 Chock/Bates, Rostelecom Cup
54.59 Chock/Bates, Skate Canada
Note that despite receiving lower levels in the short dance and free dance than their other competitors, the Shibutanis are receiving much higher GOE marks, giving them technical scores equal to or better than the other teams here.  Add on to this the higher program component marks and scores that are trending upward, and they are on the right track to repeat their national title.

My podium predictions:

Gold: Shibutani/Shibutani

Silver: Chock/Bates

Bronze: Hubbell/Donohue

Pewter: Hawayek/Baker

 

Bios of the competitors:

Biechler/Dodge: She is 18 and represents the Skating Club of Wilmington and he is 22 and represents the Peninsula Skating Club.  They finished 4th at Lombardia Trophy.  They placed 5th as juniors last season, 8th at juniors in 2015, 7th as juniors in 2014 and 9th as juniors in 2013.

Cannuscio/McManus: She is 24 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club and he is 26 and represents the Skating Club of Boston.  They placed 7th at Cup of China and 8th at NHK Trophy.  They finished 7th at Ondrej Nepela Memorial.  They are the reigning Pewter Medalists, finished 5th in 2015, 7th in 2014, 6th in 2013, 6th in 2012, are the 2011 Junior Bronze Medalists, finished 7th in juniors in 2010 and 10th in juniors in 2009.

Chock/Bates:  She is 24 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and he is 27 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club.  They are the reigning World Bronze Medalists and reigning Four Continents Silver Medalists.  They won silver at Skate Canada and silver at Rostelecom Cup to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 6th.  They won silver at Nebelhorn Trophy and silver at Ondrej Nepela Memorial.  They are the 2015 World Silver Medalists, 2015 Four Continents Silver Medalists, and 2013 Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  They are the reigning Silver Medalists, 2015 Champions, 2014 Silver Medalists, 2013 Silver Medalists and finished 5th in 2012.

Hawayek/Baker: She is 20 and represents the Detroit Skating Club and he is 23 and represents the Seattle Skating Club.  They finished 6th at Skate Canada and 4th at NHK Trophy.  They won silver at Autumn Classic International and silver at Golden Spin of Zagreb.  They are the 2014 World Junior Champions.  They finished 5th last season, are the 2015 Pewter Medalists, 2014 Junior Champions and 2013 Junior Silver Medalists.

Hubbell/Donohue: She is 25 and he is 26 and they represent the Lansing Skating Club.  They placed 6th at Worlds and 4th at Four Continents last season.  They won silver at Skate America and silver at Trophee de France to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 5th.  They won gold at the US International Classic and silver at Finlandia Trophy.  They are the 2014 Four Continents Champions.  They are the reigning Bronze Medalists, 2015 Bronze Medalists, 2014 Pewter Medalists, 2013 Pewter Medalists and 2012 Bronze Medalists.

Manta/Johnson: She is 20 and represents the Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona and he is 22 and represents the Broadmoor Skating Club.  They placed 5th at the US International Figure Skating Classic.  They finished 7th last season and 10th as juniors in 2015.

Maxwell/Devereaux: She is 27 and represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club and he is 27 and represents the Pittsburgh Figure Skating Club.  They placed 6th at the Warsaw Cup.  They finished 8th last season and 9th in 2015.

Pogrebinsky/Benoit: She is 18 represents the Peninsula Skating Club and he is 21 and represents the Skokie Valley Skating Club.  They finished 4th at Junior Worlds last season.  They placed 7th at Skate America and 6th at Rostelecom Cup.  They placed 4th at Nebelhorn Trophy and won bronze at Tallinn Trophy.  They are the reigning Junior Bronze Medalists and 2015 Junior Bronze Medalists.

Ponomaryova/Altukhov: She is 28 and represents the Skokie Valley Skating Club and he is 33 and represents the North County Figure Skating Club.  They placed 11th last season, 12th in 2015, 16th in 2014 and 14th in 2013.

Reynolds/Reynolds: She is 26 and he is 23 and they represent the IceWorks Skating Club.  They finished 13th last season, 11th in 2015, and 14th in 2014.

Shibutani/Shibutani: She is 22 and he is 25 and they represent the Skating Club of New York.  They are the reigning World Silver Medalists and reigning Four Continents Champions.  They won gold at Skate America and gold at Cup of China to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won bronze.  They are the 2011 World Bronze Medalists, 2011 Four Continents Silver Medalists, 2015 Four Continents Bronze Medalists, and 2009 World Junior Silver Medalists.  They are the reigning Champions, 2015 Silver Medalists, 2014 Bronze Medalists, 2013 Bronze Medalists, 2012 Silver Medalists, 2011 Silver Medalists, 2010 Junior Champions, 2009 Junior Silver Medalists, 2008 Junior Pewter Medalists, 2007 Novice Champions, 2006 Intermediate Champions and 2005 Juvenile Silver Medalists.

 

2016 NHK Trophy Dance Result

Short Dance

 Pl. Name Nation TSS
=
TES
+
PCS
+
SS TR PE CO IN Ded.
StN.
1 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 79.47 41.58 37.89 9.36 9.25 9.68 9.46 9.61 0.00 #6
2 Gabriella PAPADAKIS / Guillaume CIZERON FRA 75.60 37.98 37.62 9.39 9.25 9.43 9.46 9.50 0.00 #3
3 Anna CAPPELLINI / Luca LANOTTE ITA 72.00 36.97 35.03 8.64 8.39 8.86 8.86 9.04 0.00 #9
4 Victoria SINITSINA / Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS 68.85 34.41 34.44 8.54 8.36 8.79 8.61 8.75 0.00 #4
5 Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKER USA 65.41 34.35 31.06 7.75 7.57 7.86 7.75 7.89 0.00 #5
6 Natalia KALISZEK / Maksym SPODYRIEV POL 59.92 31.34 28.58 7.04 6.86 7.32 7.18 7.32 0.00 #10
7 Marie-Jade LAURIAULT / Romain LE GAC FRA 58.21 30.55 27.66 7.00 6.64 7.07 7.00 6.86 0.00 #2
8 Anastasia CANNUSCIO / Colin MCMANUS USA 52.66 25.28 27.38 6.86 6.57 7.04 6.89 6.86 0.00 #7
9 Emi HIRAI / Marien DE LA ASUNCION JPN 49.37 25.80 23.57 5.96 5.75 5.93 5.96 5.86 0.00 #8

Free Dance

Pl. Name Nation TSS
=
TES
+
PCS
+
SS TR PE CO IN Ded.
StN.
1 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 116.37 58.77 57.60 9.50 9.43 9.75 9.61 9.71 0.00 #8
2 Gabriella PAPADAKIS / Guillaume CIZERON FRA 111.06 54.40 56.66 9.39 9.29 9.43 9.46 9.64 0.00 #7
3 Anna CAPPELLINI / Luca LANOTTE ITA 108.42 55.35 53.07 8.71 8.54 9.04 8.89 9.04 0.00 #9
4 Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKER USA 104.34 54.66 49.68 8.11 8.07 8.43 8.36 8.43 0.00 #6
5 Victoria SINITSINA / Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS 100.77 48.85 51.92 8.64 8.46 8.71 8.75 8.71 0.00 #5
6 Marie-Jade LAURIAULT / Romain LE GAC FRA 91.78 47.77 44.01 7.36 7.04 7.46 7.36 7.46 0.00 #3
7 Natalia KALISZEK / Maksym SPODYRIEV POL 88.01 45.70 42.31 6.93 6.82 7.14 7.18 7.18 0.00 #4
8 Anastasia CANNUSCIO / Colin MCMANUS USA 86.81 45.11 41.70 6.93 6.57 7.18 6.86 7.21 0.00 #1
9 Emi HIRAI / Marien DE LA ASUNCION JPN 70.98 36.78 34.20 5.75 5.61 5.79 5.71 5.64 0.00 #2

Total

FPl. Name Nation Points SD FD
1 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR
CAN
195.84 1 1
2 Gabriella PAPADAKIS / Guillaume CIZERON
FRA
186.66 2 2
3 Anna CAPPELLINI / Luca LANOTTE
ITA
180.42 3 3
4 Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKER
USA
169.75 5 4
5 Victoria SINITSINA / Nikita KATSALAPOV
RUS
169.62 4 5
6 Marie-Jade LAURIAULT / Romain LE GAC
FRA
149.99 7 6
7 Natalia KALISZEK / Maksym SPODYRIEV
POL
147.93 6 7
8 Anastasia CANNUSCIO / Colin MCMANUS
USA
139.47 8 8
9 Emi HIRAI / Marien DE LA ASUNCION
JPN
120.35 9 9
WD Kana MURAMOTO / Chris REED
JPN

2016 US Nationals Senior Dance Preview

Ice Dance is by far the United States’ most competitive event.  Three teams qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the first time, and these same three teams all placed in the top 10 at Worlds last season.  This is the one discipline where the US is consistently a medal threat and there is the potential of walking away from Worlds with two medals.  As a group, they have 22 national medals (although 11 of them belong to the Shibutanis).  They won seven Grand Prix medals this season and seven Challenger Series/Senior B medals. The entire podium from last season, along with the 5th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th and 16th place finishers will be competing here.  Only the 10th place finisher from last year’s junior event moved up to compete here.  The short dance will be held on Friday, January 22nd with the free dance on Saturday, January 23rd.

Chock and Bates are the favorites going into St. Paul to defend their title, even if they did have a bit of a rocky start to their season.  They won a silver at Cup of China, behind Cappellini and Lanotte, who they placed above at Worlds last season.  Their levels were also not what you would expect of a team contending for a World title.  They received better Levels at Skate America, earning Level 4 on their twizzles and lift with a Level 3 on their step sequence and one pattern of their Waltz.  They earned all positive GOEs, earning them seven points.  Their program components ranged from 8.92-9.25.  They had better free dance levels also at Skate America, earning Level 4 on their lifts, twizzles and spin with Level 3 on one of their step sequences.  They earned all positive GOEs at both events, netting 11 points at Cup of China.  Their better program components were also at Cup of China, ranging from 9.04-9.21.

Shibutani and Shibutani have actually scored better than Chock and Bates at some of their events, but have yet to beat them in direct competition.  They are known for their technical levels and lightning fast twizzles.  After struggling for several seasons to find the right type of programs for them they have struck gold this year with their Fix You free dance, which seems to be a personal story for them.  Their short dance had better levels at NHK Trophy, earning Level 4 on one pattern of the waltz, twizzles and the lift with Level 3 on the other section of the waltz and step sequence.  They earned all positive GOEs at both events, netting 6 points at NHK Trophy.  Their best program components also came at NHK where they earned 8.32-8.71. Their free dance received the same levels at both events, earning Level 4 for their lifts, spin and twizzles and a Level 3 on their step sequences.  They again earned all positive GOEs at both events, netting 13 points at NHK Trophy.  Their best program components came at NHK where they earned 8.79-9.18.

Hubbell and Donohue have solidified their place as the number 3 US team this season, earning their first Grand Prix gold medal and their first trip to the Grand Prix Final.  Their short dance to Hallelujah has personal meaning for them as it is a song he used to sing to her to calm her nerves when they first started competing together.  Because of the cancelation of Trophee Eric Bompard, they only had one full Grand Prix event before the Final.  They earned Level 4 on their waltz, twizzles and lift at NHK Trophy with Level 3 on their step sequence.  They earned all positive GOEs, netting 5 points.  Their program components ranged from 8.04-8.36.  Their free dance earned Level 4 on the twizzles, lifts and spin with Level 3 on their step sequences.  Again, they earned all positive GOEs, earning 10 points.  Their program components ranged from 8.21-8.68.

Hawayek and Baker put a lot of work into their free dance this year, inspired by The Theory of Everything, hoping it would help them climb the ranks in the US.  However, they had to withdraw from their second Grand Prix event, Cup of China, after the short dance.  Their short dance earned Level 4 on their twizzles, one section of the waltz and the lift at Skate America.  Their program components ranged from 7.13-7.54.  For their free dance, they earned Level 4 on their twizzles, two lifts, and the spin with Level 3 on their other lift and the step sequences.  They earned all positive GOEs, netting 7 points.  Their program components ranged 7.42-7.92.

Cannuscio and McManus have been slowly climbing the senior ranks, finishing a career best 5th last year.  They earned Level 4 on their twizzles and lift in the short dance at NHK Trophy with Level 3 on one section of the waltz and the step sequence.  Their best program components came at NHK where they earned 6.46-6.86.  For the free dance, they earned Level 4 on their lifts, spin and twizzles at Skate America with Level 3 on their step sequences.  They earned all positive GOEs at that event, netting 6 points.  Their program components ranged from 7.08-7.50.

Manta and Johnson are the only team to move up from juniors this season.  They had a good showing at Pacific Coast Sectionals, where they won gold.  They earned Level 4 on their twizzles and lift in the short dance with Level 3 on the step sequence.  They earned program components ranging from 6.00-6.25.  For the free dance, they earned Level 4 on the lifts and spin with Level 3 on their step sequences.  They netted 5 points from GOE with program components ranging from 5.92-6.67.

Thomas and Eaton have made big strides in their first season together.  She competed as a novice in 2014 and a junior last season and made the jump to senior this year.  Their progress earned them three international assignments this fall.  At Midwestern Sectionals, they earned Level 4 on the twizzles and lift in their short dance with all positive GOEs.  They earned program components ranging from 6.63-6.88.  Their free dance received Level 4 on the lifts and spin with Level 3 on one step sequence.  They netted 5 points from GOE and received program components ranging from 6.69-6.88.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Chock/Bates

Silver: Shibutani/Shibutani

Bronze: Hubbell/Donohue

Pewter: Hawayek/Baker

 

Bios of the competitors:

Aldridge/Blackmer: She is 21 and he is 24 and they represent the Detroit Skating Club.  They won silver at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Aronow/Brubaker: She is 24 and represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club and he is 26 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They finished 9th in 2014 and 8th in 2013.  They won silver at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Cannuscio/McManus: She is 23 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club and he is 25 and represents the Skating Club of Boston.  They placed 5th at Skate America and 6th at NHK Trophy.  They won bronze at Nebelhorn Trophy and finished 4th at Tallinn Trophy.  They finished 5th last season, 7th in 2014, 6th in 2013, 6th in 2012, are the 2011 Junior Bronze Medalists, finished 7th in juniors in 2010 and 10th in juniors in 2009.

Chock/Bates: She is 23 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and he is 26 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club.  They are the reigning World Silver Medalists and Four Continents Silver Medalists.  They won gold at Skate America and silver at Cup of China to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won silver.  They won gold at Nebelhorn Trophy.  They are the 2013 Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  They are the reigning Champions, 2014 Silver Medalists, 2013 Silver Medalists and finished 5th in 2012.  Internationally, the have the 2nd best short dance, 5th best free dance and 2nd best total scores.

Hawayek/Baker: She is 19 and represents the Detroit Skating Club and he is 22 and represents the Seattle Skating Club.  They placed 5th at Four Continents last season.  They finished 4th at Skate America.  They finished 4th at Finlandia Trophy and won silver at Golden Spin of Zagreb.  They are the 2014 World Junior Champions.  They are the reigning Pewter Medalists, 2014 Junior Champions and 2013 Junior Silver Medalists.

Hubbell/Donohue: She is 24 and he is 25 and they represent the Lansing Skating Club.  They placed 10th at Worlds last season.  They won gold at Trophee Eric Bompard and bronze at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 6th.  They won gold at the US International Classic.  They are the 2014 Four Continents Champions.  They are the reigning Bronze Medalists, 2014 Pewter Medalists, 2013 Pewter Medalists and 2012 Bronze Medalists.  Internationally, they have the 7th best short dance, 9th best free dance and 8th best total scores.

Manta/Johnson: She is 19 and represents the Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona and he is 21 and represents the Broadmoor Skating Club.  They won bronze at the Autumn Classic International.  They finished 10th as juniors last season.  They won gold at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Maxwell/Devereaux: She is 26 and represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club and he is 26 and represents the Pittsburgh Figure Skating Club.  They finished 9th last season.  They won gold at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Morell Zucker/Sitiks: She is 19 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and he is 26 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  They finished 16th last season and 17th in 2014.  They won bronze at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Patsis/Fast: She is 20 and represents the Skokie Valley Skating Club and he is 24 and represents the University Ice Skating Club of San Jose.  They finished 14th last season.  They won pewter at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Ponomaryova/Altukhov: She is 27 and represents the Skokie Valley Skating Club and he is 32 and represents the North County Figure Skating Club.  They placed 12th last season, 16th in 2014 and 14th in 2013.  They won bronze at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Reynolds/Reynolds: She is 25 and he is 22 and they represent the IceWorks Skating Club.  They finished 11th last season, 14th in 2014.  They won silver at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Shibutani/Shibutani: She is 21 and he is 24 and they represent the Skating Club of New York.  They placed 5th at Worlds and are the reigning Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  They won silver at Skate Canada and gold at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 4th.  They won bronze at Ondrej Nepela Trophy.  They are the 2011 World Bronze Medalists, 2011 Four Continents Silver Medalists and 2009 World Junior Silver Medalists.  They are the reigning Silver Medalists, 2014 Bronze Medalists, 2013 Bronze Medalists, 2012 Silver Medalists, 2011 Silver Medalists, 2010 Junior Champions, 2009 Junior Silver Medalists, 2008 Junior Pewter Medalists, 2007 Novice Champions, 2006 Intermediate Champions and 2005 Juvenile Silver Medalists.  Internationally, they have the 5th best short dance, 4th best free dance and 5th best total scores.

Thomas/Eaton: She is 16 and represents the Detroit Skating Club and he is 23 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club.  They placed 5th at the US International Classic, 4th at the Autumn Classic International and won gold at Ice Challenge.  They won gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Cup of China Dance Preview

Cappellini and Lanotte hit a bit of a slump last year after claiming their first World title in 2014.  They only competed in one Grand Prix and failed to defend both their European and their Worlds title.  They were 8 points away from gold at Europeans and 7 points at Worlds.  They started their season with a gold medal at Lombardia Trophy, receiving the same score they posted at Worlds last season.  Because this was an International B event, their score does not count towards the season’s best list, but it would be the highest score posted this season.  However, these events tend to be scored higher than a Challenger series or Grand Prix.

Ilinykh and Zhiganshin had a good debut as a team last year, finishing in the top 10 at Worlds.  They also qualified for the Grand Prix Final in their first attempt.  They started their season with a gold medal at Mordovian Ornament where they set new personal bests in all segments of competition.  They currently hold the 2nd best short dance, best free dance and best total scores of the season.  These scores should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as this event seemed to be overmarked across the board.

Chock and Bates started their season with a gold medal at Skate America.  They have now won three consecutive Grand Prix gold medals.  They can qualify for their second Grand Prix Final by winning any medal here.  They currently hold the best short dance, 3rd best free dance and 3rd best total scores of the season.

Hawayek and Baker showed improvement at Skate America over their earlier season outings.  Their free dance has been their big project this season and the program with which they hope to put themselves on the map.  At Skate America, they set a new personal best free skate score and currently have the 9th best free dance of the season.  With the top three teams skating so strongly this season, Hawayek and Baker will need a score well above their personal best to contend for the podium but another 4th place finish would be a good end to their Grand Prix season.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Chock/Bates

Silver: Cappellini/Lanotte

Bronze: Ilinykh/Zhiganshin

 

Bios of the competitors:

Cong/Sun, CHN: This is their international debut.  She is 14 and he is 20.

Wang/Liu, CHN: They placed 19th at Worlds and 7th at Four Continents.  They placed 8th at Skate America.  Their personal best is 142.31.  She is 21 and he is 21.

Zhao/Zheng, CHN: They finished 10th at Four Continents.  They placed 8th at Cup of China.  Their personal best is 115.12. She is 20 and he is 28.

Cappellini/Lanotte, ITA: They finished 4th at Worlds and are the reigning European Silver Medalists.  They won bronze at Cup of China last season.  They are the 2014 World Champions, 2014 European Champions and 2013 European Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 177.50.  She is 28 and he is 30.

Ilinykh/Zhiganshin, RUS: They placed 7th at Worlds and 4th at Europeans.  They placed 4th at Cup of China and won silver at Rostelecom Cup to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 6th.  Their personal best is 176.70.  She is 21 and he is 23.

Testa/Csolley, SVK: They finished 15th at Worlds and 8th at Europeans.  They placed 7th at Skate America last season.  Their personal best is 150.57.  She is 22 and he is 25.

Chock/Bates, USA: They are the reigning World Silver Medalists and Four Continents Silver Medalists.  They won gold at Skate America.  They are the 2013 Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 181.34.  She is 23 and he is 26.

Hawayek/Baker, USA: They finished 5th at Four Continents.  They placed 4th at Skate America.  They are the 2014 World Junior Champions.  Their personal best is 157.12.  She is 19 and he is 22.