Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue arrived in Anaheim, Calif. for the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships riding a white-hot winning streak that included their two Grand Prix events, the Grand Prix Final and their second consecutive U.S. Championships.
Their tango rhythm dance in Anaheim went pretty much as planned. Despite the loss of a few points on their steps, they narrowly led the field, including training partners Madison Chock and Evan Bates, heading into the free dance.
On Sunday, the skaters were all smiles as they left the ice after their routine to “Romeo + Juliet.” As they nestled into the kiss-and-cry next to coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, they thought, Hubbell later said, that they had won.
“There are not too many times we feel so strongly (about) a performance,” she said. “We left it all out there.”
Then, their score flashed up: 119.71 points, just fourth-best in the free dance. It dropped them to fourth overall with 201.66 points.
Chock and Bates, who train alongside Hubbell and Donohue in Montreal, performed a highly entertaining free dance to a medley of Michael Buble’s rendition of “Fever” and Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love,” highlighted by eye-catching and unique lifts, to win the free dance and their first Four Continents title with 207.42 points.
So, what happened?
Hubbell and Donohue open their free dance with a stationary lift: Donohue holding Hubbell aloft while rotating in place. As it turns out, it was not stationary enough, and the technical panel dropped it to base level, meaning it earned only a single point. That’s more than four points less than Hubbell and Donohue were counting on.
“It’s a lift we’ve done over and over again this season. They (the technical panel) saw it all week in practice,” Hubbell said. “It was definitely shocking to hear they did not count it as a stationary lift. It’s certainly unfortunate, we would have loved to stand on top of that podium. But we’re incredibly proud of our performance, that mark doesn’t change that.”
Replay of the lift shows Donohue traveling, and the technical panel – including Helena Gordon-Poltarak, chair of the ISU ice dancing technical committee – determined that was enough to drop the element down.
“We were told that it initially got called a Level 4 (the highest level), but upon review we were told that a stationary lift traveled just enough to not be called stationary, so it was dropped to base value,” Hubbell said. “That’s what we know so far.”
The couple also lost about two points or so on their spin, which gained just Level 2.
It’s a safe bet that Lauzon, a noted taskmaster, will be drilling the U.S. champions in these elements, as well as their rhythm dance step sequences, upon their return to Montreal.
The couple are putting a positive spin on the loss.
“We already know the (technical) panel who is going to be at the world championships and its tough,” Hubbell said. “This is kind of a good wake-up call.”
“My favorite thing is proving people wrong,” Donohue said.
As a reminder, you can watch the world 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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