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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