SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The 2018 U.S. Olympic Ice Dance Team was officially named Sunday evening at the SAP Center following the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
But it could have just as well been named over three years ago.
Since the last Olympic Winter Games ended, three ice dance teams have clearly reigned supreme in the United States and just as equally been a consistent presence on the international stage.
Those teams are Madison Chock and Evan Bates, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani.
All three have won national titles over the past four years. All three have medaled at each of their eight grand prix assignments from this Olympic quadrennial. And all three have a world championship medal of some sort.
This is by far the most decorated, and impressive, group of ice dance teams the U.S. has ever fielded for an Olympics.
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Long the United States’ weakest figure skating discipline, it returned to the forefront of the event in 2006 when Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto win silver at the 2006 Games for the country’s highest Olympic ice dance finish ever and its second-ever medal. The first was in 1976.
Four years later, Meryl Davis and Charlie White won silver in Vancouver. In 2011, they won Team USA’s first world title. Three years later, they secured Olympic gold in Sochi to further cement their place in history.
Chock and Bates, Hubbell and Donohue, and the Shibutanis are all eager to follow in Davis and White’s path with Olympic medals of their own, and all three teams have just as strong of a chance. In fact, they finished within 0.85 points of each other at the 2017 Grand Prix Final and 0.52 points apart at this week's national championships.
Here’s a look at just a few of the teams’ accomplishments…
Madison Chock and Evan Bates
After both having success with their previous partners – including a 2010 Olympic appearance for Bates – Chock and Bates teamed up prior to the 2011-12 season. It took just one season before the team found its footing and landed on the podium at nationals; they were fifth in 2012 before winning silver in 2013. They repeated that result in 2014 and earned a spot on their first Olympic team together, where they placed eighth. Chock and Bates then took over the spot as the top U.S. ice dance team in 2015 once six-time champions Davis and White stopped competing. With a gold medal at nationals and two grand prix golds, they went on to win silver at worlds in 2015, followed by bronze in 2016. They began dating later that year. Chock and Bates have won 10 grand prix medals over the past five seasons, and qualified for four straight Grand Prix Finals (an event only the top six teams attend), winning silver at the 2014 and 2015 editions. Bates will become the first U.S. ice dancer to compete at three Olympics.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue
The Olympic team announcement was perhaps most rewarding for Hubbell and Donohue, who just missed out on the 2014 Olympic team, finishing fourth at nationals that year while the three teams ahead of them were selected. Sunday also marked another ‘at last’ moment for the duo: They won their first national title. Hubbell and Donohue teamed up in 2011 and have finished on the podium at each of their U.S. championships, but it was always either third (four times) or fourth (twice) until 2018. They won the 2014 Four Continents title, but have truly been on a tear the past three seasons and have qualified for the Grand Prix Final in each of those seasons. The Montreal-based team finished a career-best sixth at the 2016 worlds in Boston, a few months after winning their first (and currently only) grand prix gold medal. The next season they won silver at both their grand prix assignments and finished fifth at the Final, one spot higher than 2015. At the 2017 world championships, Hubbell and Donohue won a ‘small medal’ for placing third in the short dance, but a fall by Donohue in the free dance landed them in ninth overall. They used it as an important learning experience and came back stronger than ever this season. They finished fourth at the Grand Prix Final and went on to win their first national title, beating out the previous two champion teams.
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani
The sibling duo, often referred to as the Shib Sibs, has only ever competed with each other. They won bronze at the 2011 world championships in their first year on the senior circuit, making their presence known quickly. While they struggled to get back to that level of success at worlds in the coming seasons, they have medaled at the U.S. championships eight years straight, including winning the 2016 and 2017 titles. In their eight senior seasons, they won 15 grand prix medals, including six golds (finishing fourth at the remaining event). The Shibs had another breakout season in 2015-16, when they won their first national title and then won silver at worlds. Once they defended the title the following year, they took bronze at worlds and became only the third U.S. team to have three world medals. They have qualified for the Grand Prix Final the past four years and won bronze the past two. PyeongChang will mark their second Games after finishing ninth in Sochi.