Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue reclaim ice dance national title

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The battle between Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue — two of the top ice dances teams in the country and the world — continued Saturday night, this time with Hubbell and Donohue reigning supreme.

After losing the national title to Chock and Bates last year, Hubbell and Donohue reclaimed what they had won in 2018 and 2019 with a 134.90 free dance score for their “Hallelujah” program and 224.56 total at the 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Both scores are championship records.

“You can’t tell because we’re wearing these masks, but right now we’re smiling like a monkey with a new banana,” Donohue told reporters during a virtual press conference.

Hubbell continued, “Third-time national champion has a really nice ring to it. We worked really hard this year, and through all the struggles it’s actually been a really productive year for us. It was not the easiest performance for us tonight, we definitely had to keep calm and skate on, but we couldn’t be happier to be here and have accomplished this big goal.”

For the third year in a row, Hubbell, Donohue, Chock and Bates were joined on the podium by their Ice Academy of Montreal training mates Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results | TV Schedule

Hubbell and Donohue are the first dance team to win three U.S. titles since 2014 Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won six from 2009 to 2014.

Chock and Bates won in 2015 and continued working their way toward another title for the next five years. They were in position for a repeat, leading after the rhythm dance, but Bates’ stumble on their twizzle sequence may have cost them the victory. Their snake charmer free dance notched 132.83 points for a 222.93 total.

“Even reflecting back on it, I didn’t feel like I did something to make it go haywire, but it certainly did go haywire,” Bates said. “It was obviously costly. … Part of being an athlete and competing for many years is that you succeed sometimes and fail other times. I wouldn’t say today is a failure by any means, but certainly wish I had not made the mistake. I did and I own that, and I’m going to make sure that we still keep a positive mindset and outlook, and it’s certainly not the end of the world.”

“And let me just say that I am super proud of you because I know it was not an easy road getting to this competition,” Chock chimed in, “but I think we did a really good job, and I love you.”

Just competing was a victory in itself for Chock and Bates, who had not competed since the Four Continents Championships, which they won last February. Chock suffered a concussion over the summer, falling while out for a walk on a hot day, that kept her off the ice for a month and the team out of this season’s two prior competitions.

“Madi and Evan had quite a difficult time preparing for this competition,” coach Patrice Lauzon said. “We weren’t sure if they were going to be able to come, so I was very proud of the performance that they put on the ice. I think it was actually quite amazing they both performed at that level.”

Hawayek and Baker were also dealing with some adversity this week after Hawayek collided with another skater during Thursday’s practice. She said she jammed her neck up, which she felt the effects of during Friday’s rhythm dance.

They totaled 212.55 points, besting their 2020 score by 11 points.

“I think this year was incredibly special for our creative process just because in previous years we have wanted to tell a story so badly that we poured so much into creating these specific characters and images that we wanted everyone to understand so clearly,” Hawayek explained. “The thing we really embraced this year was letting go of that a little bit and allowing ourselves just to create art and create something that came from within us, and not having any any expectations for how other people viewed it and allowing them to take what they wanted from our program.

“It’s a lot more rewarding at the end of the day for us to finish a program and feel like it came from within us out onto the ice and through our bodies than to hope that people understood a program, so that was the biggest step for us this year and its been really rewarding.”

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Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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