Team USA Leads After Rhythm Dance at ISU Four Continents Championships

(2/8/19) — Two U.S. ice dance teams are in podium position after the rhythm dance at the International Skating Union (ISU) Four Continents Figure Skating Championships 2019. The day’s events also included the ladies free skate and pairs short program.

The ice dancers hit the ice for the first time on Friday afternoon in Anaheim, California. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue lead the way after scoring a season’s best 81.95 points to win the rhythm dance. The two-time reigning U.S. champions received Grades of Execution over 3.00 for two of their elements.

“We’re very pleased,” Hubbell said. “I think we’ve been putting so much work this season, and we’ve improved so much, and it’s testament to that.”

Madison Chock and Evan Bates narrowly finished in second place, scoring 81.17 points for their rhythm dance. The 2019 U.S. silver medals skated in their third straight competition after sitting out most of the fall season as Chock recovered from injury.

“We’ve done a lot of work to prepare for three competitions in a short period of time, this being the third, and I feel like we’re building each time we compete,” Bates said. “This rhythm dance is the best of the year so far.”

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker placed fifth in the rhythm dance with 74.42 points. The duo won the event last year.

Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are in third place (80.56) heading into Sunday’s free dance.

In the conclusion of the ladies competition, Bradie Tennell led the U.S. contingent, finishing in fifth place with 202.07 total points. In her 128.16-point free skate, the 2018 U.S. champion landed five triple jumps and was awarded four Level 4 spins.

“I love skating for a home crowd, the energy is so great,” Tennell said. “I am grateful to all the fans for showing their support.”

Just behind Tennell,2019 U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell placed sixth in the competition with an overall score of 193.94. The local skater scored 123.92 points in her free skate, which included an opening double Axel-triple toe combination.

“I was surprised by the fall on the [triple] loop and then I kind of had a hard time refocusing after that,” Bell said. “You live and learn, and Worlds will be better.”

Ting Cui scored 98.11 points in her free skate for a total score of 164.84 points, finishing in 11th place.

Japan’s Rika Kihira topped the ladies podium with 221.99 total points, Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan won the silver medal (207.46) and Mai Mihara of Japan earned the bronze medal (207.12). Tursynbaeva’s silver marked the first ISU Championship medal for the country of Kazakhstan.

In the pairs competition, 2019 U.S. champions Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were the top American team, scoring a season’s best 67.49 points in Friday’s short program to finish fourth.

“We did a fist pump after the program, because we were really pleased with the effort we put out today,” LeDuc said.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, who claimed the Four Continents title in 2018, are in fifth place with 66.34 points, while Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier placed seventh after earning 61.71 points.

Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro lead the pairs competition with 74.66 points, followed by the Chinese teams of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (74.19), and Cheng Peng and Yang Jin (69.48) in second and third place, respectively.

On Saturday, the men’s and pairs competition will conclude with the free skates at Honda Center. Fans can watch all segments live through the Figure Skating Pass on NBC Sports Gold, and live results and updates are available on the U.S. Figure Skating Fan Zone.