Everything’s coming up Team USA.
With three days of competition at the 2016 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in the books, U.S. athletes have four medals under their collective belts.
Leading the charge – and topping the podium – were ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani. The newly crowned U.S. champions put up personal best scores in both the short dance (72.86) and the free dance (108.76) to earn their first-career Four Continents title with a total of 181.62. The Shibutanis are nearing the end of a breakout season that saw them win medals at both of their grand prix assignments – a silver at Skate Canada and gold at NHK Trophy. These finishes earned them a spot at the Grand Prix Final where they placed fourth, in spite of Alex competing through illness. They followed that up with their first senior U.S. title.
“This was a great way for us to continue our momentum this season,” Maia told U.S. Figure Skating. “We haven’t had that much time since nationals, but we feel like both programs have really reached a new point in the season and a new level. We’re very proud of what we did this week.”
Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the U.S. silver medalists, struggled slightly in their short dance, earning 67.05 to put them in fourth place before the free dance. A personal best free dance score of 107.59 helped vault them onto the podium and earn silver with 174.64. Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue also put up a personal best in the free dance; their 102.93 was the third-highest score of the event, giving the U.S. the top three free dance performances. Hubbell and Donohue finished fourth with a score of 172.29, while the Canadian duo of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje rounded out the podium in third with 173.85.
On Saturday, Mirai Nagasu turned in her highest-ever finish at Four Continents, claiming silver in the ladies event. After several up-and-down seasons, Nagasu finished fifth at the NHK Trophy and fourth at the U.S. championships before earning 193.86 points for Four Continents silver behind Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, who took gold with a score of 214.91. Rika Hongo, also of Japan, earned bronze with 181.78. After a tough short program that landed her in ninth, Gracie Gold finished fifth with 178.39. Karen Chen was 12th, earning 161.52.
In pairs, the engaged team of Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim rounded out the U.S. medal haul with another silver. They turned in the best free skate of their career – a 140.35 performance, topping their previous high by more than 12 points – to earn a personal best score of 207.96 points. This silver medal follows their second-place performance at the U.S. championships, second at Skate America and third at the NHK Trophy.
“I didn’t know if we could even score a 140 in our whole career!” Scimeca told U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m speechless. For once, I’m speechless.”
Taking gold was the Chinese duo of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong with a score of 143.40. Another Chinese pair, Yu Xiaoyu and Jin Yang, took bronze with 187.33. Reigning U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea finished fourth with 182.02, and 2014 Olympian Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran placed sixth with 175.08.