U.S. ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani notched a victory and two personal bests on their way to the top of the NHK Trophy podium in Nagano, Japan. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, also of the U.S., earned the bronze. With podium finishes, both duos are into the Grand Prix Final held in two weeks in Barcelona.
U.S. couple Madison Chock and Evan Bates already qualified for the final by winning medals at Skate America and Cup of China earlier this season, making for an unprecedented three team force in the ice dance discipline of the Grand Prix Final.
The “ShibSibs” now own the highest total score of any ice dance team in the Grand Prix circuit this season, 174.43. They were the only team to crack into the 174-barrier. Their free dance, the second component of their overall score, was also a personal best. The NHK Trophy win was the siblings’ second career Grand Prix title across six seasons on the circuit. Their previous gold medal came from the 2011 NHK Trophy.
The U.S. traditionally has strong ice dance representation at the Grand Prix Final. Last year, in their first appearance, Chock and Bates earned silver medals. The Shibutanis have competed twice in the final and finished fourth in the 2014 event. Hubbell and Donohue will make their Grand Prix Final debut this year.
U.S. Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White own five consecutive Grand Prix Final ice dance gold medals from the 2009-10 season through 2013-14. They have not competed for the past two seasons.