Golden Skate

Hubbell and Donohue take narrow lead at Four Continents

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2020 Four Continents

Rhythm Dance

The 2020 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships kicked off with the Rhythm Dance in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday with USA’s Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue taking a narrow lead over teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are currently in third, followed by Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu of China.

Hubbell and Donohue were rock solid in their playful and flirtatious “Marilyn Monroe” routine, showing very good level 4 Finnsteps in which all four key points were met. The lift and twizzles were also graded a level 4, while the midline and pattern steps were graded a level 3. The 2019 World bronze medalists were awarded a personal best of 85.95 to edge out their teammates.

“We put out the performance we wanted and had a lot of fun out there,” said Donohue.

It was a fast turnaround between nationals and the Four Continents for the U.S. teams, in particular. For Hubbell and Donohue, there were no adjustments or changes coming into this event.

“We only skated for four days and the main objective of course, was to make our physiology, prepare, recover and also to keep the cardiovascular strength,” said Hubbell. “We didn’t put out our best performances at Nationals in either program. So our main focus was the mental aspect, staying focused and really putting out a performance that would be competitive here in this field and we accomplished that goal today.”

The slight lead between the top two teams “doesn’t change anything,” said Hubbell. “Sometimes you get a big lead ahead in the short dance and that doesn’t mean you’re going to keep it for the free dance. We take it as two separate events. Today we won and we’re happy with that and tomorrow we’ll have a different goal and we’re going into tomorrow fresh, not expecting that that 0.20 will help.”

“It’s not about them,” agreed Donohue, regarding their teammates. “They’re going out to do their best and we’re going out to do our best. Honestly, when it comes down to these top few spots, especially when they get close and you get all these amazing skaters, it’s not about the competition anymore. It’s about how in focus you can be and where you put your energy, because we’re not going to go faster than them and win by a second. It’s about our performance and what we put on the ice.”

Chock and Bates nearly matched their their friendly rivals element for element in their lively performance to selections from Too Darn Hot. Both the lift and twizzles garnered a level 4, as did the Finnsteps (all key points were also met), and the defending champions also earned a new personal best (85.76).

“Our performance felt great, felt really good actually,” said Chock. “I feel like this is the best we’ve performed our short dance so far this season, and that’s what we’ve been working towards. Keep building our performance, speed and fun program.”

“Our preparation coming into this after U.S. Nationals was challenging to recover from,” said Bates. “It’s an important event, a bit emotional, and investment into it afterwards. We’re really happy to be here, we’re happy with our performance. We’re looking forward to competing tomorrow and just taking it one performance at a time.”

Defending bronze medalists Gilles and Poirier are currently in third with a new personal best of 83.92 after their engaging dance to music from Mack and Mabel. Both the lift and twizzles were graded a level 4, while the midline and pattern steps were a level 3. The Finnsteps only garnered a level 2.

Gilles felt that coming to Seoul was pretty low risk in regards to the corona virus.

“Everybody here in Korea has been so good about making sure that our rooms are disinfected, everybody is wearing masks,” she observed. “We’re just prepared and I think all of us are really healthy and trying not to let anything like that affect us, because it’s out of our hands at the end of the day, we still have to skate. We feel healthy right now and I think that’s all we really can focus on. We just came here to do what we need to do.”

Wang and Liu also took a personal best for fourth place (77.45) with their dance, which featured level 4 twizzles and rotational lift.

“I was really satisfied with our performance,” said Liu. “We did our best in training, so that’s why we got good scores in this competition. Our score is getting better and better. We have improved our program more and more and we got a good result. We are still in our process of learning, so we want to grow step by step.”

Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha and Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus are currently in fifth (76.43) and sixth place (73.32), respectively, followed by USA’s Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (71.93).

The Americans suffered a fall during a curve lift which resulted in a two-point deduction. Hawayek and Baker’s blades clicked during the dismount, and both ice dancers went down.

“It was just a fluke thing that happened,” said Hawayek. “Our feet got taken out from underneath us, but the lift itself was very solid.”

“It was a really good performance other than one mistake, which is quite costly,” added Baker. “Just with the two falls (deductions) and minuses on the GOE (grades of execution), we lost a lot of points on the lift. We are not too super happy with that mistake, because we were only focusing on that one thing. But if we take a step back, the actual performance itself was quite good.”