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Hubbell and Donohue Finally Break Glass Ceiling

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Out of all of the disciplines, ice dance was supposed to be the least dramatic at the U.S. Championships this year. The top U.S. ice dance teams have been easily recognizable and established this season. The real question was not who was going to be on the podium, but in what order?

Over the last six years Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have finished consistently in third and fourth place at the U.S. Championships. They came into this event with the goal of moving up to gold. It was an ambitious goal as many thought that they could overtake Madison Chock and Evan Bates and maybe capture the silver, but gold seemed possible; a bit of a stretch.

Hubbell and Donohue were in second place after the short dance. They brought their best to the table and delivered a fantastic free dance. They were so fast, so precise and displayed so much passion. They earned a total score of 197.12 points. Madison and Zachary not only overtook Chock and Bates, but they also defeated two-time U.S. Champions Maia and Alex Shibutani. They overcame the Shibutanis by 0.19 points. It was an incredible moment for Hubbell and Donohue. All of their hard work and dedication has paid off and they are now the new national champions.

“Everyone can tell by my red cheeks that I’m very excited,” Madison said in the press conference. “We had a goal of being focused and not become distracted and make mistakes. We still think there’s a lot of room to grow, but we’ve finally been able to attain what our competitors have.”

The Shibutanis Settle for Silver

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani were in the lead after the short dance. They made some changes to their free dance following the Grand Prix Final, which did seem to help their overall performance. Maia made a minor mistake and slipped and almost fell at one point, but Alex was there to prevent a full blown fall. Honestly, they just didn’t seem to have the same momentum and flair that Hubbell and Donohue had in their free dance. They seemed incredibly disappointed when they realized that they would be settling for the silver.

“Alex and I have a lot to be proud of coming into this week,” Maia said. “Today, we had a mistake in the diagonal, but we had each other’s backs but there were a lot of things we can be proud of. And we have time to keep pushing ourselves.”

Chock and Bates Claim the Bronze

Madison Chock and Evan Bates actually won the free dance, but their score was not enough to make up the deficit from their short dance. It has to be so frustrating for this team, but at the same time they know what they need to work on. Chock and Bates have a lot of great qualities, but they just seem to be falling behind this season.

“We are proud of how we fight and how we continue to fight,” Evan said. “The results haven’t gone our way, particularly this week. The message of our free dance seems to be connecting with people and that’s the most validating thing.”

Hawayek and Baker Take Home Pewter

Taking home the pewter medal is Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. They gave such a beautiful performance. The free dance at the U.S. Championships has always seemed to be a challenge for them, but this time they stood up to the challenge and delivered. It was a great showing for this team.

Top Teams Prepare for the Olympics

The top three teams have all now been U.S. Champions at one time or another: Chock and Bates in 2015, the Shibutanis in 2016 and 2017 and now Hubbell and Donohue. These teams were separated by less than one point in their overall scores. It will be fascinating to see which teams will be selected to participate in the Olympic Figure Skating Team event.

It is significant though that Hubbell and Donohue will be going into the Olympic Games as the current U.S. Champions. Not only will it give their confidence a boost, but it will also send a message internationally that they have surpassed Maia and Alex. All three of these teams should be named to the Olympic Team.

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