U.S. Nationals Senior Dance Preview

The only “sure thing” at this year’s nationals is that Davis and White will win their fourth consecutive national title.  They’ve had a historic year, becoming the first U.S. team to win an ice dance World Championship, leading the first North American sweep of the World ice dance podium and becoming only the second team to win three consecutive Grand Prix Final titles.  Their Die Fledermaus free dance is stunning and 100% captures who they are as skaters and while they’ve been performing it solidly, there is still potential to improve.  While the title is almost certainly theirs, don’t expect them to phone in a performance here, as they’ll be using the opportunity to tune up for their next competition against their rivals and training mates Virtue and Moir.

The Shibutanis are also having a historic year, becoming the first team to medal in both their Grand Prix events in their senior debut last season and becoming the first U.S. team to medal in their World’s debut.  They won their first Grand Prix gold this season and earned their first trip to the Grand Prix Final.  They have great speed and personality on the ice and some of the best twizzles in the world.  However, they have received some criticism this season for their free dance, with many saying it is too similar to last season.  They’ve also had a slow start and were beat on the Grand Prix circuit by teams they topped at Worlds.  If last season is any indicator, they’ll continue to improve and nationals will showcase where they stand and how much they’ve improved.

None of the other teams in this field came close to the results the top two teams had and will be battling it out for the last two spots on the podium.  Three new teams formed in the off-season and had the opportunity to compete internationally.  Hubbell and Donohue won gold at their first international event, Nebelhorn Trophy and went on to finish 6th at Skate America with a 3rd place finish in the free dance.  They already look very polished and Madison Hubbell is finally able to show off the more sensual side of her skating that she had to keep under wraps while skating with her brother.  They have a great connection on the ice and really know how to entertain.

Chock and Bates are another new team this season and train with Shpilband and Zoueva in Canton, Michigan.  They finished 4th and 5th at their two Grand Prix assignments, solid results for such a new pairing. While their free dance came across as a little dull on the Grand Prix circuit, they’ve had time to work on their programs and will hopefully bring a little more spark to San Jose.

Samuelson and Gilles had only been training for a few weeks before they made their Grand Prix debut at Cup of China, finishing 8th.  With additional training time, they were able to pull off a gold medal finish at Pacific Coast Sectionals, scoring 30 points higher than their international results.  They seem to really enjoy skating together, were in much better shape at Sectionals and have really shown their potential as a team.

Kriengkrairut and Giuletti-Schmitt just missed the podium last season after a disappointing fall in their free dance.  They are a lovely team to watch with great lines and expression on the ice, but their scores internationally were slightly lower than some of the newer teams.  They are gunning for a medal and a spot on the Worlds team and that fire may give them the extra push they need to land on the podium.

Lichtman and Copely are the reigning Junior Champions and World Junior bronze medalists.  While their Austin Powers Free Dance should suit them perfectly, things haven’t been clicking for them this season.  They seem to be struggling more with their 1 inch height difference which puts them at a disadvantage with other teams when it comes to lifts and holds in the step sequences.  They placed 7th at their Grand Prix debut in China, just ahead of Samuelson and Gilles, but finished 14 points behind them at Sectionals.

Other teams debuting at the senior level include Junior bronze medalists Cannuscio and McManus and Junior pewter medalists Olson and Cowan.  Schmucker and Munday are making the jump to the senior level after finishing 6th as novices last season.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Davis/White
Silver: Shibutani/Shibutani
Bronze: Hubbell/Donohue
Pewter: Chock/Bates

Bios of the competitors:
Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus: She is 19 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  He is 21 and represents the Skating Club of Boston.  They placed 7th at Junior Worlds last season.  They finished 5th at Ondrej Nepela Memorial.  They finished 10th in Juniors in 2009, 7th in Juniors in 2010 and are the reigning Junior bronze medalists.  They won silver at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Isabella Cannuscio/Ian Lorello: She is 21 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  He is 21 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  They placed 7th at Skate America and won silver at Ice Challenge.  They are the 2007 Novice pewter medalists, finished 9th in Juniors in 2008, 5th in Juniors in 2009, are the 2010 Junior pewter medalists and finished 6th in 2011.  They won gold at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Ginna Hoptman/Pavel Filchenkov: She is 22 and represents the IceWorks Skating Club.  He is 25 and represents the IceWorks Skating Club.  They placed 10th in 2011.  They won bronze at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Meredith Zuber/Kyle Herring: She is 21 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  He is 22 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  They placed 9th in 2011.  They won the pewter medal at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Carina Glastris/Kevin Allison: She is 16 and represents the DuPage Figure Skating Club.  He is 23 and represents the Skokie Valley Figure Skating Club.  They placed 11th in Juniors in 2011.  They won bronze at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue: She is 20 and represents the Detroit Skating Club.  He is 21 and represents the Detroit Skating Club.  They placed 6th at Skate America and won gold at Nebelhorn Trophy.  They won gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 10th best free dance score internationally.

Charlotte Lichtman/Dean Copely: She is 18 and represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club.  He is 22 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They are the reigning World Junior bronze medalists.  They placed 7th at Cup of China.  They placed 9th in Juniors in 2009, 8th in Juniors in 2010 and are the reigning Junior Champions.  They won bronze at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Anastasia Olson/Jordan Cowan: She is 19 and represents the Detroit Skating Club.  He is 21 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They placed 6th at Nebelhorn Trophy.  They are the 2008 Novice pewter medalists, 2009 Novice silver medalists, placed 5th in Juniors in 2010 and are the reigning Junior pewter medalists.  They won silver at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Emily Samuelson/Todd Gilles: She is 21 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club.  He is 25 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They placed 8th at Cup of China.  They won gold at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Brittany Schmucker/Adam Munday: She is 19 and represents the Tulsa Figure Skating Club.  He is 24 and represents the Stars Figure Skating Club of Texas.  They placed 6th in Novice in 2011.  They won pewter at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Madison Chock/Evan Bates: She is 19 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  He is 22 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club.  They placed 4th at Skate Canada, 5th at Trophee Eric Bompard and won bronze at Finlandia Trophy.  They have the 9th best free dance and 10th best total scores internationally.

Meryl Davis/Charlie White: She is 25 and represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club.  He is 24 and represents  the Detroit Skating Club.  They are the reigning World and Four Continents Champions.  They won gold at Skate America and Rostelecom Cup to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won gold.  They are the 2010 Olympic silver medalists, 2010 World silver medalists, 2009 Four Continents Champion, 2008 Four Continents silver medalists and 2006 World Junior bronze medalists.  They are the 1998 Juvenile silver medalists, 1999 Intermediate Champions, finished 6th in Novice in 2000 and 2001, are the 2002 Novice silver medalists, finished 7th in Juniors in 2003,  are the 2004 Junior silver medalists, 2006 Junior Champions, 2007 bronze medalists, 2008 silver medalists, 2009 Champions, 2010 Champions and reigning Champions  They have the best short dance, free dance and total scores internationally.

Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt: She is 23 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  He is 26 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club.  They placed 6th at NHK Trophy and won gold at Ice Challenge.  They are the 2007 Junior bronze medalists, finished 9th in 2008, 8th in 2009 and 2010 and 5th in 2011.

Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani: She is 17 and represents the Skating Club of New York.  He is 20 and represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club.  They are the reigning World bronze medalists and Four Continents silver medalists.  They won silver at Cup of China and gold at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 5th.  They also won silver at Finlandia Trophy.  They are the 2009 World Junior silver medalists.  They are the 2005 Juvenile silver medalists, 2006 Intermediate Champions, 2007 Novice Champions, 2008 Junior pewter medalists, 2009 Junior silver medalists, 2010 Junior Champions and reigning silver medalists.  They have the 6th best short dance, free dance and total scores internationally.