Golden Skate

Hubbell and Donohue dance to lead in Vancouver

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue

USA’s Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue perform their Rhythm Dance at the 2018-19 Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating.

2018-19 Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating

Rhythm Dance

Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue dominated the Rhythm Dance to make sure their first medal at a Grand Prix Final is gold. The duo wove across the ice sensually and dynamically in their re-worked routine set to “Alevare” and “Tangata del Alba” and finished in first with a personal best score of 80.53. According to Hubbell, the team was striving for a program that would bring people to their feet and have a “roaring finish.”

“It’s a thrill to be able to put out such a good performance of a relatively new program for us,” said Donohue. “We are pretty pleased with the bar we are setting for it. We look forward to going home and figuring out what the missing magical pieces are of it.”

“We set a clear intention every time before we compete for what is our win and what is our goal beyond everything else,” added Hubbell. “Today, I proposed that our goal be to just go out and perform fearlessly. It’s hard to go into a competition knowing that you haven’t gotten those key point levels yet, knowing that it’s a tough field. What we really didn’t want to do was perform this new program for the first time trying to hold back and just get those key points, so we really went for it. I could tell when we were skating, it wasn’t my cleanest skate, but I really kept pushing myself to give everything in the emotion.”

Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri performed a powerful rhythm dance set to “Miedo a la Libertad” to finish a surprising second with 78.30 points. The Italians impressed with dynamic twizzles and a mesmerizing level four stationary lift.

“We are still in shock,” said Fabbri. “No, I mean, we are very, very happy. Tonight, I think we performed really, really well. We stepped on the ice and we immediately felt very good. We did a season’s best at the Final, among the best couples in the world. This is something really great for us, so we are really proud and happy. I mean, this is a big charge for the free program. It is always better to be in the top places and to feel excited to perform, instead of being in the lower ranks and having to fight to regain a position. We don’t feel the pressure – we feel excited.”

Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov enchanted the audience with their rhythm dance set to “Verano Porteno” by Astor Piazzolla which accentuated her long lines. The steadily-improving team landed in third position with a score of 77.33.

“We really enjoyed our skate,” said Katsalapov. “Since this is the mid-season, we are improving with each competition. I think there was a mistake – we didn’t complete the rotation in the lift. We didn’t get our season best. So, I do not think it worked out that well. Still, we think that our skate was decent, at least that is how we feel. We will work towards our best, and we hope that during the Russia Championships, we will skate our short dance even better, enjoy the skate and get a different score. We still have room to grow.”

“We were well prepared,” added Sinitsina. “We were focused. We took pleasure in performing.”

Teammates Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin skated their dramatic routine to “Malaguena” and “Tango Suite Part III” with precision and flare to finish in a surprising fourth place with 77.20 points. The two-time gold medalists on the Grand Prix series were disappointed with their ranking, but optimistic.

“We are happy with our performance,” said Stepanova. “Our coaches are happy and it was delightful to see their reactions. The crowd here is amazing, and they welcomed us even during the practice. We have our free dance, which we love, hence we will do our best. Tomorrow we hope to do even a better job than today. I think that the results are very important, but it is more important to show our maximum.”

The third Russian team of Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro skated their expressive “Besame Mucho” routine which featured a multi-position level four straight line lift. The team scored 72.98 points for the outing and finished in fifth place.

“We did well,” observed Zagorski. “We were a bit nervous during the warm up, but it went away. We already made it to the Final, so our goal was to show a good performance.”

“There were a few rough spots in the program, but overall we are happy with the program,” said Guerreiro. “Coming in sixth into the Final, we knew that our main goal was to show our best and I believe we achieved that. I believe that we were unable to achieve the full potential in the free dance yet. We are still having some difficulties with the free dance. We are hoping that tomorrow we will show off our best skate, and then we will be truly happy.”

Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker finished in sixth place with their dance choreographed to “Auelvo Al Sur. A Los Amigos” which concluded with an impressive level four circular lift. The NHK Trophy champions received 71.33 points from the judges.

“The consistency of our program has really improved since our previous season,” said Hawayek. “The Tango Romantica is a tricky beast, but we are progressing in general and we are happy with the way things are coming.”

“We are hoping to put a strong performance like we had today,” said Baker, looking forward to the free dance. “We are really grateful to be here at our first Final and hoping to make it one of many. We are really taking in this opportunity to be here and trying to learn as much as we can.”