Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue successfully defend ice dance national title

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DETROIT — Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue successfully defended their ice dance national title, defeating two teams that train with them in Montreal in order to do so on Saturday night.

The 2018 Worlds silver medalists and Grand Prix Final champions scored 131.32 in the free dance to tally 215.88 total points.

“This performance more than ever before, Zach and I were really connected,” Hubbell said before receiving the team’s medals. “We kept looking into each other’s eyes. We created a bubble… to open our bubble and see everybody standing, it was really special.”

“[We] have really been on a journey of recreating who we are… coming into this it was a whole new event; a whole new nationals,” Donohue added.

Hubbell and Donohue mentioned over the course of the season so far that their free dance had been evolving to better tell the story of Romeo and Juliet.

Here at nationals, they received six 10s for their program component score (PCS) under “interpretation of the music/timing.” They received three additional 10s for “performance.” No other PCS score was below 9.50 points.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, competing for just the second time this month after being out for 10 months due to injury, finished with silver medals. The 2015 national champions scored 129.19 in the free dance for a total of 211.52 points.

Chock and Bates were both spotted lip syncing throughout their free dance.

“We didn’t mean to do that,” Chock admitted. “I was just having so much fun, and I enjoyed the song. It’s just such a fun, different piece of music. You don’t see too many upbeat pieces in the free dance… I think it’s just really nice to show that contrast and really dance because our program is so much about dance.”

“I honestly have not had as much fun on competitive ice before,” Bates added. “I feel like we’re skating from a place of gratitude more so than ever and I think it’s coming through with our skating.”

The third Montreal-based team, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, won the bronze. They had never finished higher than fourth place at a U.S. Championships. The last skaters of the night, Hawayek and Baker earned 120.18 in the free dance for a total score of 196.95 points.

Results: Ice dance final

Before the event, the families of the top teams gathered outside Little Caesars Arena for a tailgate party. With the top teams in Montreal, opportunities for the Detroit-area families to see their relatives compete were slim.

U.S. ice dance champions of the past were on hand during the medal ceremony, where the top three teams plus pewter medalists (fourth place) finishers Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter received flowers, congratulations, and their new hardware.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the 2014 Olympic ice dance gold medalists, Tenith White (formerly Belbin) and Ben Agosto, the 2006 Olympic silver medalists, and two-time Olympians Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow were all part of the awards show for the ice dancers.

MORE: Papadakis, Cizeron win fifth consecutive European ice dance title

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”