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U.S. Figure Skating Championships ice dance preview: rivals’ last dance-off

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Skate America

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 24: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States skate in the Free Dance during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Skate America at Orleans Arena on October 24, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Matthew Stockman - International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images)

International Skating Union via

This week’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships marks the last competition to determine the U.S. Olympic team. Three ice dance couples will be chosen by a committee to compete in Beijing. A look at the contenders (listed in order of best single total score this season) ...

One last time, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates will duel for the U.S. ice dance title.

Hubbell and Donohue, winners of three of the last four national titles, plan to retire from competition after this season. But not after they bid to win the Olympic medal that slipped away in 2018 after free dance errors dropped them to fourth place.

Hubbell and Donohue and Chock and Bates (who made the last nine nationals podiums) are expected to lead the U.S. Olympic ice dance team. The third and final couple will be Olympic rookies as 2018 bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani stepped away from competition after PyeongChang.

Madison Chock/Evan Bates
2015, 2020 U.S. champions
Two-time world championships medalists

Overtook Hubbell and Donohue with the best score for a U.S. couple this season at their most recent competition in November, but only by 1.24 points. Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue, who train together in Montreal, have finished within five points of each other at each of the last four nationals. Bates, who went to the 2010 Olympics with Emily Samuelson, is bidding to become the first U.S. figure skater to compete in four Olympics.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS PREVIEWS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance | Broadcast Schedule

Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
Three-time U.S. champions
Three-time world championships medalists

Announced last year that this would be their final Olympic push. After finishing third or fourth at every nationals from 2012-17, broke through for gold in 2018 and have been the top U.S. couple for most of this Olympic cycle. Hubbell and Donohue and Chock and Bates each competed three times so far this season, and those total scores are the six best among U.S. couples, with a near 20-point drop to the third Americans. Beat Chock and Bates in their lone head-to-head so far this season, by 1.31 points at Skate America.

Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
Three-time U.S. bronze medalists

Won the 2014 World junior title and were ticketed to be the next great U.S. dance couple. But they’ve had to wait their turn and overcome significant obstacles, including a concussion for each skater (Hawayek’s this past July). They finished third at every nationals in this Olympic cycle, and another bronze should be enough to get to the Olympics. Train with Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue in Montreal.

Caroline Green/Michael Parsons
2021 U.S. Championships, fourth place

Each won a junior national title with a sibling before partnering in spring 2019. The third-ranked U.S. couple this season until Hawayek and Baker posted a higher score by 2.89 points at a December event. At last year’s nationals, Hawayek and Baker distanced Green and Parsons for bronze by 20.16 points.

Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko
2020 U.S. Championships, fourth place

The 2018 U.S. junior champions have been within range of Hawayek and Baker for the coveted third spot in this Olympic cycle, but the Canadian-born Carreira is still in what has been a years-long process to gain U.S. citizenship and thus not Olympic eligible at the moment. Focus is on 2026 Olympics. Seven points behind Hawayek and Baker at nationals in 2019 and 2020, then missed last season’s nationals due a direct contact with a COVID-positive person. They haven’t gotten the momentum back this season, trailing Hawayek and Baker’s top score by 13.05 points. Ponomarenko is the son of the 1992 Olympic ice dance champions from Russia.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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