Getty Images

Three questions with Kaitlin Hawayek, Jean-Luc Baker before U.S. Championships

Leave a comment

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker made the move to Montreal this season; so far, it’s paid dividends. Despite a delay in their training time this summer due to Baker’s concussion, the ice dance team won NHK Trophy in Japan and placed fourth at Grand Prix France. It was enough for them to qualify for their first Grand Prix Final, capping off their most successful season so far.

They spoke to reporters during a media teleconference ahead of the U.S. Championships in Detroit this weekend, where they hope to continue to take steps forward on their four-year plan.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Baker says he’s essentially symptom-free from his concussion.

He said that after the Grand Prix Final, he flew to see his doctor that had originally examined him in August.

Jean-Luc Baker: “We’ve been on a recovery plan. I’ve been communicating with her since August, two or three times a week… We have another plan set for the rest of the season. When you have a concussion or multiple concussions, sometimes symptoms can linger around a lot longer than people of anticipate. I’d say the majority of the time, I’m good. There are some days where I struggle a little bit more. But the best part about being here in Montreal is that I’m not alone. I have Kaitlin; I have my support team around me. They all understand and they’re so, so intelligent in a way that maybe some days are better to push through and some days are not. I thought I knew my body. They almost understand my body more than I do.”

2. Training with two other American teams in Montreal has given them another reason to continue to work hard.

Kaitlin Hawayek: “We’re training differently than we used to because we’re in a new training environment… There are so many top athletes there. We always are on the ice with people that are working just as hard as we are, who are incredibly talented, incredibly driven. When we’re not on the ice, in between our sessions, when we’re warming up off the ice, a different group of people will be on the ice and we get to see them train and push themselves too. It’s a very motivating environment to be in.”

3. They can see changes in themselves since they moved to Montreal.

JB: “I don’t think necessarily think that we’ve changed so much as we’ve had a deeper level of understanding on who we are and why we skate. A lot of things like that. Our coaching team is very, very strict in terms of – they want us to know why we are doing what we’re doing. Having a championship mentality and being accountable for everything that we do. It’s on us at the end of the day. It really has been such an experience moving here because I think Kaitlin and I have both grown so much as people as well as skaters because we’re learning so much more about ourselves, about each other, and it’s been a big process and a great one.”

KH: “The mentality of ‘in it to win it’ is something that’s been a major influence on the way that we look at training… In the past we’ve been afraid to think of the idea of training to win in a sense because obviously it’s hard to get to the top. But if you never allow yourself to think that you can get there, you won’t be able to get there. Both of us have really changed our mentality to train win and train to be the best. That’s what we’re doing heading in nationals. The rest is out of our hands.”

MORE: Three questions with Madison Chock and Evan Bates

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. 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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

How to watch U.S. Figure Skating Championships

AP
Leave a comment

Nathan Chen sets out for his third national title, while Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are aiming to defend their title for the first time at the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships in Detroit Jan. 22-27.

It’s the first time Detroit has held the championships in 25 years, when Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by associates of Tonya Harding.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program from Detroit from junior and senior competition. Juniors starts Tuesday with the ladies’ short program, and seniors will begin Thursday with the pairs’ short program.

NBCSN and NBC will also have live coverage of senior competition throughout the weekend.

The national championships will dictate which skaters are assigned late-season competitions, including Four Continents Championships in February and the world championships in March.

Chen, the 2018 world champion, is expected to reign supreme over the men’s field. He will likely be joined on the podium by 2014 Olympian Jason Brown and 2018 Olympian Vincent Zhou.

MORE: Nathan Chen prepared to capture third national title

On the ladies’ side, last year’s champion Bradie Tennell has said this season she wants to improve her artistic side of her skating. She faces challenges in that department from Mariah Bell and 13-year-old prodigy Alysa Liu will also make a run at the podium. With Karen Chen’s and Gracie Gold’s withdrawals, the podium at nationals looks much more unclear.

MORE: Three questions with Bradie Tennell

Two-time pairs national championships Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim changed coaches after a tumultuous season thus far, and will have to fend off 2016 champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea. Also in the field are Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc. Cain recently recovered from a concussion after a scary fall in competition.

MORE: Three questions with the Knierims

The U.S.’ top three dance teams train together in Montreal: Hubbell and Donohue, 2015 U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Grand Prix Japan winners Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker.

Hubbell and Donohue most recently won the Grand Prix Final and should have no problem topping the podium in Detroit. It will be the season debut for Chock and Bates, who missed the entire autumn season with Chock’s injury. Hawayek and Baker have never been higher than fourth on the U.S. podium, but this is expected to be their breakthrough year – if it isn’t already.

MORE: Three questions with Chock, Bates 

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

 

U.S. Championships broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)

Tuesday

Junior ladies’ short program: 5:30 p.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Junior men’s short program: 7:30 p.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

 

Wednesday

Junior pairs’ short program: 10:30 a.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Junior rhythm dance: 2:45 p.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Junior ladies’ free skate: 5:30 p.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Junior men’s free skate: 7:30 p.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

 

Thursday

Junior pairs’ free skate: 11:45 a.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Pairs’ short program: 4:30 p.m. (GOLD), begins at 5 p.m. on NBCSN | STREAM LINK

Ladies’ short program: 8 p.m. (GOLD), begins at 9 p.m. on NBCSN | STREAM LINK

 

Friday

Junior free dance: 12 p.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Rhythm dance: 3:45 p.m. (GOLD), begins at 4 p.m. on NBCSN | STREAM LINK

Ladies’ free skate: 7:35 p.m. (GOLD), begins at 8 p.m. on NBC | STREAM LINK

 

Saturday

Pairs’ free skate (groups 1-3): 9:30 a.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Men’s short program (groups 1-2): 11:10 a.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Men’s short program (groups 3-4): 1:30 p.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

Pairs’ free skate (groups 4-5): 3 p.m. (GOLD) | STREAM LINK

NBC will have coverage of the pairs’ free skate and men’s short program beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Free dance: 6:15 p.m. (GOLD), begins at 7 p.m. on NBCSN | STREAM LINK

 

Sunday

Men’s free skate: 2:10 p.m. (GOLD), begins at 3:30 p.m. on NBC | STREAM LINK

 

Saturday, Feb. 16

Skating Spectacular (gala exhibition): 2:30 p.m. on NBC

Three questions with Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue before U.S. Championships

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue broke through the U.S. ice dance field to win their first national title in 2018. This year, they come back to defend – but their resumes are so much stronger this year.

The Montreal-based team most recently won the Grand Prix Final after sweeping both their assignments earlier in the fall.

At their media teleconference ahead of nationals, they spoke candidly with reporters about how they’re preparing for the competition (“jovially,” said Donohue) and the purpose behind the tweaks to their programs audiences will see in Detroit.

The rhythm dance is Jan. 25 and the free dance is Jan. 26.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Their families are all-in on building the competitive atmosphere surrounding nationals.

Madison Hubbell: My extended family has very rarely been able to see me skate live. They were able to come to Stars on Ice at the same arena, Little Ceasars Arena, this past spring. I think my uncle, mainly, uncle and my cousin, are just obsessive sports fans. For them, to go to the Little Ceasars Arena, is like, it calls for a celebration. ‘You’re gonna skate in this big arena, and we’re gonna do it the way these other sports do it.’ They called the arena, everybody’s confirmed that it is possible for them to do a tailgate. They are arranging it and they’re also arranging it with Kaitlin Hawayek’s parents and Evan Bates’ parents.

Zach Donohue: It’s gonna be lit!

MH: It’s gonna be all of our families. We’re extending the invitation of course to the families of the other athletes who will be around that day. Hopefully we’ll get a lot of really excited family and friends coming into the arena with a lot of energy. They’ve never done this before. Unfortunately, we’ll be skating so it’s not like we can join, but it sounds really fun.

ZD: I’m just concerned that it’s gonna happen like, too nicely, and then I’ll miss one of the events. Is that acceptable? How do we feel?

MH: Maybe they’ll be like, ‘man, I’m really sorry guys, we missed you actually. We were having too much fun outside.’

ZD: ‘Sorry about that!’

2. Momentum might build up their confidence, but they still take competitions one step at a time.

ZD: I don’t know if momentum is the right word. It’s always nice to be able to look back and see your hard work come to bear fruit. I think for sure gives you a boost of confidence in your abilities. Honestly, if anything, it just motivates us for more. Once you’ve had a taste of achieving your dream, it’s kind of hard to shy away from that. I would say that it’s definitely motivating.

MH: We take it competition by competition. I agree there’s a momentum based on knowing that our equation is working, the things that we’re doing here in training are working to continue improving what we’re capable of. But it isn’t a momentum because it’s a different competition with a different panel [of judges] and different competitors every time. We’re not taking it as winning the last four competitions made us unbeatable at nationals. It’s a completely different story. But at least we know going home from Vancouver [the Grand Prix Final] that the thing we were doing in training were working. We didn’t have to change the formula.

3. Making changes to their programs helps them tell the story better, especially in their free dance.

ZD: We changed the music just to mess with you – just kidding!

MH: We don’t consider it too major, but we changed the order of elements. The one-foot section will go earlier in the program because we felt like with the story, it made more sense to finish the dance spin at the end of the program where it’s a very intimate moment between the two of us. We can be very close compared to the one-foot section where we’re separated. It felt a little incomplete to tell the story of the last moments where you’re with the love of your life and you have to let go of them. We changed those elements around in order to make more sense within the story.

MORE: Nathan Chen prepared to capture third national title

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. 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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!