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.

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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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Svetlana Romashina, seven-time Olympic champion artistic swimmer, retires

Svetlana Romashina
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Russian Svetlana Romashina, the most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history with seven gold medals, announced her retirement at age 33.

Romashina entered seven Olympic artistic swimming events and won all of them, starting in 2008. She won four Olympic titles in the team event and three in the duet (two with Nataliya Ishchenko and one with Svetlana Kolesnichenko).

The Tokyo Games marked her last major competition.

Romashina is the only woman to go undefeated in her Olympic career while entering seven or more events. The only man to do so was American track and field athlete Ray Ewry, who won all eight of his Olympic starts from 1900-08, according to Olympedia.org.

Romashina also won 21 world championships medals — all gold, second in aquatics history behind Michael Phelps‘ 26.

She took nearly two years off after giving birth to daughter Alexandra in November 2017, then came back to win three golds at her last world championships in 2019 and two golds at her last Olympics in 2021.

Romashina is now an artistic swimming coach, according to Russian media.

Russian swimmers swept the Olympic duet and team titles at each of the last six Olympics.

Russians have been banned from international competition since March due to the war in Ukraine.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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