Golden Skate

Hubbell and Donohue defend Skate America title for third consecutive win


Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue maintained their overnight lead to defend their title in Ice Dance on Saturday at 2020 Guaranteed Rate Skate America in Las Vegas, Nev. Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker won the silver, while Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko pocketed the bronze.

Hubbell and Donohue delivered a heartfelt performance to “Hallelujah” earning high Grades of Execution (GOE) for their combination curve lift and choreographic slide. The rotational lift, twizzles, and combination spin were all graded a level 4 and the 2019 World bronze medalists earned 126.09 for first place in the Free Dance and overall (211.39).

“Tonight was a successful first step into the competitive season,” said Hubbell. “It’s a program that Zach and I are very passionate about. We already feel like we almost have an easy time skating it because every part feels purposeful and there’s something about each part that we enjoy. While there are many things to improve going home, we’re really happy with the performance this evening and we hope that everyone enjoyed it.”

The song “Hallelujah” was used by Hubbell and Donohue for their exhibition routine when they first moved to Montreal.

“It felt like a way of re-starting our career,” explained Hubbell. “We used it like a moment of forgiveness to each other and all of the things we went through together as a team. It felt really hopeful. We kept coming back to that music for exhibition because of monumental moments in our career, that song feels like it’s ‘us’.”

“This off-season, we looked at different music, but inevitably we were drawn to the idea of marrying the two versions by k.d. lang and the version that Zach used to sing to me which is by Jeff Buckley,” she continued. “I think it really shows a different side to ‘Hallelujah’—something that maybe hasn’t been explored as much on the ice—kind of a raw, intimate quality. Something that is definitely part of our partnership. That was where the idea came from, and luckily Scott Moir was onboard. So far, it’s been smooth sailing and probably our favorite creative process yet.”

“It’s like another restart for us in a way,” agreed Donohue. “Working with Scott and revisiting the program on our terms with the desire to expand on it and having a new understanding of our relationship makes it magically transformed.”

Hawayek and Baker were awarded a new personal best of 121.32 after their ethereal dance to “Heart of Glass” by Philip Glass & Blondie. Their routine featured level 4 one-foot steps, rotational lift, diagonal steps,  combination curve lift, and combination spin. The total score was 202.47.

“Tonight was a really special night for us,” said Hawayek. “I think this performance, at least this point in our career, feels like the most focused and strongest we’ve had. One of the things we worked really hard on this year, is being a 100 percent committed to our story and to our focus from the very beginning of the program. I think we felt like that was a really big success tonight because we stayed invested every moment and it made it fly by.”

Hawayek and Baker have had this music in their back pocket for a few years.

“We felt such a connection to the music,” said Hawayek. “It’s funny because the original Blondie song is so upbeat, and even though the words are the same, it resonated with us so much differently with the Philip Glass piece. When we were creating it, we wanted to create a story for ourselves to perform and a story that was universally understood by anyone watching.”

“I always like to use the analogy that figure skating and ice dance should be like a painting at a museum,” she explained. “That the artist who paints it has the story and idea that they want to portray. Ultimately, when the person goes to the museum, their impression is what they take away from it. So this program for us is really powerful and important to our own story and we’re just really hoping that no matter what other people see, that they are moved as well.”

Carreira and Ponomarenko scored 107.15 points for their expressive routine to Dr. Zhivago which featured a level 4 combination curve lift and rotational lift. Their total score was 185.78.

“We’re a little disappointed with how today went,” said Carreira. “We left a lot of points on the table and made a few mistakes. There’s a lot of things we want to improve and change when we get back home to make this program as special as it can be. We love the music and our choreography,”

“We’re thankful for the opportunity to skate here,” added Ponomarenko. “Not a lot of skaters in our sport can have this opportunity, so we are happy to be here and thankful for everything that US Figure skating has done this week.

“When we finished last season, we wanted to go with something that was more well-known and that had a clear story,” explained Carreira of their free dance music. “Dr. Zhivago was a classic movie and classic piece of music and we wanted something that not only the audience could understand, but something we could portray. We loved the movie so much and what the story represents.”

“I think that Dr. Zhivago was skated to so many times before, so we used a little bit of new soundtrack that hasn’t been done before from 2002,” added Ponomarenko. “We even had some ideas of expanding on that, but we really enjoy this piece of music.”

Caroline Green and Michael Parsons finished fourth in the Free Dance and Overall (103.07 / 178.05) after their upbeat routine to music by Prince.

Molly Cesanek and Yehor Yehorov, who are making their Grand Prix debut, maintained fifth overall (168.09), followed by Lorraine McNamara and Anton Spiridonov (159.89).