Photo credit Melanie Heaney/U.S. Figure Skating
Madison Chock and Evan Bates won their third consecutive and fifth total U.S. ice dance title on Saturday in Columbus.
The World champions did so despite each experiencing flu-like symptoms following Thursday’s rhythm dance.
Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko earned the silver – their best senior result at a U.S. Championships, while Emily Bratti and Ian Somerville secured their first-ever U.S. Championships medal. Caroline Green and Michael Parsons claimed the pewter medal.
Second-year team Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea captured the U.S. pairs title.
Joining them on the podium were three-first time medalists: Alisa Efimova and Misha Mitrofanov, Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez, and Chelsea Liu and Balazs Nagy.
Chock and Bates Earn Fifth U.S. Ice Dance Title
World Champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates pushed through feeling unwell to capture their fifth U.S. ice dance title and third consecutive crown.
Although not at their best, Chock and Bates did well enough to preserve their large lead they had after the rhythm dance and finished second in the segment and first overall with scores of 123.75 and 215.92, respectively.
Undefeated since the beginning of 2023, the victory marked the team’s eighth consecutive triumph dating back to the 2023 U.S. Championships. In addition, with their 12th consecutive podium finish at the U.S. Championships, Chock and Bates tied the record streak for any discipline shared by Michelle Kwan as well as pairs team Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles.
“Evan and I have always had a lot of determination and willpower and we thought, ‘Would we regret not going for it and just trying our best today?’ When the answer to that question was yes, we were like, ‘OK, let’s make it happen. Let’s step out there and give it all we’ve got,’” Chock said. “We did that today. I’m proud of Evan for pushing through despite not feeling well … If we can do this, then we can do anything.”
Chock started to feel poorly on Friday morning following the rhythm dance and Bates the night of the rhythm dance.
“I don’t know if I had a 24-hour flu bug, but I wasn’t feeling good. Couldn’t get out of bed. If the competition had been yesterday, I don’t think we would have made it to the rink,” Chock said. “I’m happy there was a gap day. We just pushed the fluids, got a good night’s sleep and said a few prayers and here we are.”
Their five U.S. titles moves Chock and Bates into a tie for second for most U.S. ice dance championships.
Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko posted a personal and event-best free dance score to claim the silver medal, their best-ever senior result at the U.S. Championships.
It was a breakout performance for the team that’s been together since 2014 and now trains in Canada. Their free dance score of 126.85 was more than five points better than their previous best score, while their overall total of 210.08 was more than 11 points better than their previous best.
Carrera and Ponomarenko’s free dance told a romantic but dark story based on the 2006 film Perfume. The couple handled the seamless and mesmerizing choreography with aplomb, winning that segment of the event. They also executed five Level 4 elements.
“We had a lot of time after the Grand Prix season to focus in and change what we needed to change and revamp the programs,” Ponomarenko said. “We are thankful for that. We pushed it to the limits and tried to perform every day like we did today.”
Emily Bratti and Ian Somerville also enjoyed a breakthrough in Columbus, finishing a career-best third in the free dance and as the 2024 U.S. bronze medalists.
Based in Canton, Michigan, they began skating together in July of 2021 and had finished fifth at the last two U.S. Championships.
Bratti and Somerville delivered a personal best free dance score of 118.80. The performance included a combination lift that was one of the highest scoring elements of the competition at nearly 14 points.
Combined with their personal best rhythm dance on Thursday, the duo recorded a personal best overall score of 196.94 to finish on the podium for the first time.
“It feels surreal,” Somerville said. “We are in a state of shock. We are extremely exhausted from all the effort we put into the performance. It’s not an easy skate and I thought we skated it as well as we can. We’re very proud.”
After the rhythm dance, Bratti and Somerville sat in fourth place but felt confident they could move up with their free dance to "Ne Me Quitte Pas" by Celine Dion.
“We didn’t have placement goals, but we knew we were capable of getting this place,” Bratti said. “It’s such a competitive field. This is a special program to us, with it being one of the last times to perform it.”
Pewter medalists Caroline Green and Michael Parsons didn’t sugarcoat their feelings when it came to answering questions about their free dance.
The team that also trains in Canton, Michigan, simply didn’t have it on this day. They were unable to maximize their levels on certain elements and settled for a free dance score of 112.92 and an overall total of 193.83. They arrived as the defending U.S. silver medalists.
Performing to compelling contemporary cello compositions, Green and Parsons created interesting shapes and fine edges, but Parsons bobbled on their twizzle sequence.
“That was a disappointing skate to put it very bluntly,” Parsons said. “We know we can do a lot better than that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our day. Now it’s about resetting and working as hard as we can for China [Four Continents Championships] because we’ll be able to put out a much better skate there.”
The strength of U.S. ice dance, Parsons said, is obvious.
“This is what happens if you don’t skate your best – someone else will,” Parsons said. “We need to be better and we will be.”
It was the team’s third U.S. pewter medal and fourth straight podium finish in their career that started in 2019.
Kam and O’Shea Soak Up The Moment
In just their second season together, Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea captured their first U.S. pairs title, finishing second in both segments and edging first-year team Alisa Efimova and Misha Mitrofanov by less than one point.
Kam and O’Shea, who train in Colorado Springs, Colorado, finished with a personal-best free skate of 123.19 points and a personal-best overall total of 187.76.
“I was talking with Ellie as they called the names to go out for the medal ceremony to soak up the moment, live in the moment and enjoy it because you never know when you’ll get an experience like this again,” O’Shea said. “It’s been eight years since the last time I stood up there [with 2016 U.S. champion with Tarah Kayne]. “I can’t be more grateful to be here again.”
Kam and O'Shea, skating to music from the Nocturnal Animals soundtrack, struggled on both of their throw elements, but had a Level 4 opening triple twist and three Level 4 lifts. They also landed their triple Salchows.
Kam, who is new to pairs skating, said the past two seasons have been a process in learning about each other through the daily grind of training and the ups and downs of competition.
The free skate included 10 teams, as two had to withdraw. One of those teams was the short program leaders, Emily Chan and Spencer Howe.
They issued this statement after the short program on Thursday: “Tonight was a big success for us and a huge milestone to our comeback, but we feel we want to take this time to continue to get healthy and set ourselves up for success,” Howe said.
Efimova and Mitrofanov, who train in Boston and are in their first season together, delivered the top free skate of the event to vault from fifth after the short program to second.
Skating to “Iron 2021” by Woodkid, they overcame an early mistake on a jumping pass to finish almost mistake free for the rest of the performance. They posted scores of 126.43 for their free skate and 186.91 overall, both personal bests. Efimova and Mitrofanov qualified for the U.S. Championships by finishing second at the U.S. Pairs Final in November.
“Tonight showed how difficult it is with the field being so wide open; you never know what’s going to happen,” Mitrofanov said. “We are all just grateful for these opportunities when we get them.”
Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez, who train in Canton, Michigan, also posted personal best free skate and overall scores of 117.85 and 181.03, respectively, to clinch the bronze and their first senior U.S. Championships medal.
They performed to “The Man, The Legend, The Touchdown” from the Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack and “Hold My Hand” by Lady Gaga.
“We have been working so hard the past few years to get to this point and it’s just surreal,” Fernandez said. “It was a great opportunity for everybody, and it was nice to go out there and just fight.”
Chelsea Liu and Balazs Nagy rebounded from a disappointing short program to finish third in the free skate and as the pewter medalists.
Liu and Nagy, who train in Irvine, California, began their partnership last May and had competed three times internationally before arriving in Columbus.
They finished sixth after the short program, but rallied with a free skate score of 118.70 en route to an overall score of 178.83.Both are personal bests.
“I felt a little less nervous than before the short,” Nagy said. “I think it was a little bit frustrating that we weren’t able to show off our throws like they’ve been in training. I think since the new year our throws have come into their own, and I think Chelsea and I are both frustrated that we weren’t able to put what we have at home right now on the ice. I was happy with skating, twist, most of it.”
Liu agreed: “For the short program, we both put a lot of pressure on ourselves. For the long where we had nothing to lose and goal to progress a little more each time we get out on the ice.”
The team skated to “A Thousand Times Goodnight” by Abel Korzeniowski. Their opening triple twist received Level 4, as did two lifts and one spin.
Competition concludes Sunday with the men’s free skate.
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