Chock/Bates lead Hubbell/Donohue as the longtime ice dance rivalry nears its end
As one of sport’s friendliest rivalries comes to a close, it’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates who hold an impressive lead over Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue at the halfway point of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
The two ice dance teams, made up of Montreal training mates and childhood friends, have battled it out for podium spots at nearly every event the sport has to offer since both formed over a decade ago. When it comes to the U.S. Championships, they have been the sole contenders for the title each year this Olympic quad.
Chock and Bates, the 2020 national champions, entered as slight underdogs as Hubbell and Donohue won the title in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
But with an event record of 91.94 points for their Billie Eilish blues/hip-hop rhythm dance, Chock and Bates are 2.55 points ahead entering Saturday’s free dance.
“It is certainly not out first rodeo but it’s our favorite rodeo,” Chock told Andrea Joyce on the USA broadcast. “We love doing the U.S. Championships. The audience is incredible, we really felt their energy and their support out there. It was just such a pleasure to perform. I loved every second of it.”
The margin may not seem significant in an event that is expected to see a 220-plus point total, but it is the widest rhythm dance gap between the two at this competition since 2016.
Chock and Bates led by a mere 0.41 points after last year’s rhythm dance, but Hubbell and Donohue took the win by 1.63 points overall.
If they can hold on, Chock and Bates will win a third U.S. title, seven years after their first.
“We know that we just have to trust ourselves and stick to our process -- we’ve got everything we need right here between the two of us,” Chock said as she looked at Bates, her partner off the ice as well.
While Chock and Bates earned the best rhythm dance score of their careers, Hubbell and Donohue were less than pleased with their performance to a Janet Jackson medley that garnered 89.33 points.
“Zach and I are a little bit disappointed today,” Hubbell shared. “We’ve been practicing really well. ... We’re a little bit confused -- there were a lot of mistakes that don’t usually happen.”
A victory for Hubbell and Donohue would be especially meaningful as they have made clear this is their final season competing.
The U.S. will send three ice dance teams to next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics, and while Chock/Bates and Hubbell/Donohue -- with five world medals between the teams -- are no-brainers to return to the Games, drama befell the race for that third spot on Friday.
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker have been clear frontrunners, earning bronze the past three U.S. Championships, but for the first time this quad are in fourth going into the free dance.
They trail Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, in just their third season together, who scored 80.85 points -- still 8.54 out from the top two but 1.46 ahead of Hawayek and Baker.
Hawayek, who suffered a concussion in July 2021, stumbled during their twizzle sequence at the start of the program. In their 10th season together, she and Baker are eager for what could be their Olympic debuts.
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