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Following their victory at Skate America one week earlier, it was expected that America’s Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue would come out on top at Skate Canada. But it was not a walk in the park for the 2018 World silver medalists. Though they won the rhythm dance, they ranked second to Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov in the free.

Hubbell and Donohue laid down a characteristic Tango performance to “Alevare” and “Tangata del Alba” by Astor Piazzolla in the rhythm dance, which was highlighted by well synchronized twizzles, a curve lift and smooth step sequences. However, the first Tango Romantica sequence only garnered a Level 1. The reigning U.S. champions, who train locally in Montréal, posted a season’s best score of 80.49 points. 

“Zach and I were very excited to compete here in Laval,” said Hubbell. “We had a lot of friends and family in the audience, so we had a lot of support. We wanted to give a stronger performance than last week at Skate America and we feel like we were able to do that. We stayed in the moment and enjoyed being here in this beautiful arena.”

Sinitsina and Katsalapov’s elegant performance to “Verano Porteno” featured Level 3 Tango sequences and earned Levels 3 and 4 for the twizzles. The midline step sequence and the rotational lift were graded a Level 2. The Muscovites scored 74.66 points. “Not everything was smooth tonight, there were some small mistakes, but we improved our Tango from our previous competition in Bratislava,” Katsalapov said. “We are not super happy, but we are not upset. It was a good, working performance with full power and excellent commitment and we hope to skate well tomorrow.” 

Dancing to “A Evaristo Carriego,” Spain’s Olivia Smart and Adrián Díaz earned Level 4’s for the twizzles and straight-line lift and scored 72.35 points. “Me and Adrian are very pleased with how we performed our rhythm dance today,” Smart said. “We were very centered in ourselves and we did what we do in training every day. We know we have a lot to work on technical-wise. We know it’s step by step…a work in progress throughout the season.” 

Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac of France who performed an entertaining Tango and Foxtrot from the “Chicago” soundtrack placed fourth in the segment with 68.90 points. China’s Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu were fifth with 66.96 points, while Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada finished sixth after she slipped during a Tango Romantica sequence (66.95 points). 

FREE DANCE

Hubbell and Donohue stepped up the pace in the free dance and claimed their second consecutive Grand Prix title of the season, which also earned them the honor of being the first skaters to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. 

The American duo’s romantic “Romeo and Juliet” routine featured difficult lifts and twizzles, as well as interesting choreographic elements. They earned Level 4’s for the lifts, twizzles and spins, but the diagonal step sequence was rated a Level 3. Hubbell and Donohue scored 120.27 points, which ultimately ranked only second in the free dance, but with a point total of 200.76 they captured their second consecutive Grand Prix title.

“I guess we came in, we achieved our goal, which was another gold medal and assured the ticket to the Final,” Hubbell said. “We were feeling the two-week fatigue today. It was a pretty tough free dance, not without mistakes, but overall we were very pleased with how we were able to face these challenges.”

Sinitsina and Katsalapov put out a soft and flowing program to “Air” by Johann Sebastian Bach, executing Level 4 lifts and twizzles, but their serpentine step sequence merited a Level 2. They narrowly edged their American rivals for first place in the free dance with 120.51 points, but remained in second overall with 195.17 points.

“We are very pleased with how this competition went for us,” Katsalapov said. “It wasn’t without little mistakes, but overall we are improving and moving forward. Our next event is the Grand Prix in France. We have a month and we’ll work a lot on the Tango and the free dance. We’ll work day and night to get these key points (in the Tango Romantica) and also will work on all the other elements.”

Gilles and Poirier rallied from sixth after their unfortunate error in the rhythm dance to claim the third step of the podium. Their program, “Vincent,” set to “Starry Night,” included excellent lifts and smooth footwork. The Canadians earned a season’s best of 120.02 points and with 186.97 points overall captured the bronze.

“We were able to put the rough short dance behind us. We felt really present in our performance and it was really enjoyable to finally perform this free dance in front of a big audience at home in Canada,” Poirier said at the post-event press conference.

Lauriault and Le Gac finished fourth with an upbeat dance to a medley of Bruno Mars tunes (180.32 points). Smart and Díaz delivered a solid performance to a Beatles medley but a few low levels dropped them into fifth with 176.57 points. Wang and Liu placed sixth (165.88 points).

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