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Shibutanis Lead the Pack

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Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani fulfilled expectations in the short dance, taking the lead. The brother-sister team are attempting to win the national title for the third consecutive season. Maia and Alex are the favorites for the gold coming into this event, but they made a few minor mistakes at the Grand Prix Final, which called their consistency into question. Maia and Alex have put those doubts to rest by skating a fabulous short dance at the U.S. Championships. They are currently in first place with a score of 82.33 points.

“I think it was our strongest performance of the season so far, which is only natural as we progress and get comfortable with the program,” Alex said according to a U.S. Figure Skating press release. “We’ve made a lot of progress throughout the year, even though we started the season really strong in Russia. So just a great feeling to be back here at U.S. Nationals.”

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have spent the last six U.S. Championships finishing in third or fourth place (they have captured the bronze four times and finished in fourth twice). If there is any year for them to finally make a move up on the podium it is this year. Donohue made a slight mistake at the end of their third twiddle sequence, but other than that they delivered a strong short dance. Hubbell and Donohue managed to pull ahead of Chock and Bates and are currently sitting in second place.

“One of our goals was staying really present in the moment, because we’ve had some performances where we get ahead of ourselves,” Madison said. “We did a pretty good job today, a few calls that were not necessarily expected, we’ve gotten Level 4s (footwork) on every outing so far but not today, so we left some points on the table, but it’s done and we’re really proud of how we did to start this championship and we’re looking forward to the rest of the event.”

Madison Chock and Evan Bates are currently in third place. They are 1.49 points behind Hubbell and Donohue. These teams are so close together that there is no room for mistakes. Chock and Bates have won the silver at the last two U.S. Championships, but it would not be surprising to see them switch places on the podium with Hubbell and Donohue.

“We’re all capable of being in the podium in PyeongChang, and I think that this competition shouldn’t determine who medals in a month,” Evan said. “Obviously, it’s important though. Every time we’re all together at a competition it brings out the best in us. But I don’t think that this competition will determine the Olympic results.”

Currently holding onto fourth place is Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker who delivered an energetic short dance. When this team is on, they are just fantastic. Hawayek and Baker’s strength is in the short dance, so hopefully they can keep it together and deliver a strong free dance.

“You know, I think we really pushed ourselves with our program this year, it’s a physically demanding number,” Kaitlin said. “Everyone’s is, but I think we really tried to up the game in terms of the intensity, the expression and that kind of posed some room for errors in our past competitions with this program, and just to do it the way we were intending and do it the way we always dreamt today, it was just happiness coming out at the end.”

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