Sinitsina/Katsalapov win first world title as Russians take three golds at skating worlds

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Russian figure skaters earned their third gold medal – out of four up for grabs – of the 2021 ISU World Figure Skating Championships when Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov won the ice dance competition Saturday night.

The Russians, who were technically representing the Russian Skating Federation as the nation’s flag and anthem are barred from major international sporting events this season due to doping issues, claimed six of 12 total medals awarded in Stockholm.

Anna Shcherbakova won the women’s competition in a Russian sweep, while Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov topped pairs at their first worlds. American Nathan Chen won the men’s event for his third consecutive world title.

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Sinitsina and Katsalapov took their first world title in the only event that did not have a past world champion entered. They won both programs and ended with a total score of 221.17 points.

“This medal has a huge significance for us and is very dear to us,” Sinitsina said, after improving upon their silver medal at the last world championships in 2019. “We’ve been through a lot of difficulties.”

Both Sinitsina and Katsalapov contracted COVID-19 in December, withdrawing from competitions. Katsalapov revealed at the time that his was mild and Sinitsina’s worse, including “partial lung damage.”

“It’s true, it was a very difficult time, but it’s behind us now,” Sinitsina said. “I am feeling great, we are feeling great, and we worked a lot. I really missed the training and working on the ice, so every day I went to practice on the ice and I looked into the eyes of Nikita. I trust him and I trust the coaches, and I am just very happy to be here at this competition.”

The U.S. team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue performed their “Hallelujah” program and finished with silver, maintaining their ranking from Friday’s rhythm dance, with 214.71 points. They expressed disappointment and frustration for not reaching their goal of gold, but remained proud of their third consecutive world medal, after silver in 2018 and bronze in 2019.

“We know that takes a lot of work and so we’re proud of ourselves for being consistently at the peak of our performance,” Hubbell said.

With the second-best free dance performance, Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier surpassed Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who were third Friday, claiming bronze with 214.35 points.

“This is our first time on the world podium, so a very exciting milestone in our career,” Poirier said. “I think we’ve been open and unapologetic about wanting to be on the Olympic podium next year, so I think being on the world podium this year is very encouraging to the two of us.”

Chock and Bates finished fourth after a few minor errors from Bates in their popular “The Snake and the Snake Charmer” dance, missing out on what looked to be their first world medal in five years, with a 212.69.

“Madi was so excited when she finished, then she looked at me and I said, ‘Uh, I didn’t skate as well as you did, babe,’” Bates shared. “There were certainly a few seconds in the program where I made some technical errors that were obviously costly, and honestly I’m quite disappointed about it.

“That’s kind of what we love about the sport is that if it was a guaranteed thing every time and we could just show up and win the gold medal, then that’d be just very easy and fun, but the real pleasure comes from working really hard, getting knocked down and coming back stronger. We’ve been through a lot of those moments, and I think this is one moment in particular that is quite disappointing for us, but we’re still going to come back next season stronger and still with the same goals in mind.”

The combined placements of Hubbell/Donohue and Chock/Bates guaranteed the U.S. will send three ice dance teams to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics for the fifth Games in a row.

The third U.S. team, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, improved from 11th in the rhythm dance to ninth overall (188.51), tying their best worlds placement.

“We finished program feeling very happy with the end result,” Hawayek said. “There wasn’t a moment where we felt like we held back, and we felt like we performed from the beginning to end. We were certainly disappointed with the scores that we received and we didn’t necessarily think they reflected the skate that we put out, but in terms of what we could control, which is the skate, we performed very well.”

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