Spain has one ice dance berth at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and two teams are vying for it.
In August, the Spanish skating federation advised Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin and Olivia Smart and Adrián Díaz that they must compete at the same three competitions — Finlandia Trophy, the national championships and the European Championships — and whichever team earns the highest combined score from those three events will get both the 2022 Olympic and World Championships berths.
Hurtado and Khaliavin, who train in Moscow, Russia with Alexander Zhulin, opened their season in early September at the first Challenger Series event, Lombardia Trophy in Bergamo, Italy. The duo finished third with 180.98 points.
On the opposite side of the world, Smart and Díaz, who train with Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, Romain Haguenauer and Pascal Denis at the I.AM Academy in Montréal, opened their season at the second Challenger Series event, Autumn Classic International in Pierrefonds, Québec. Smart and Díaz captured the silver medal with 191.31 points.
The duo has returned to the rhythm dance they performed in the 2016-2017 season, set to a revamped version of “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner.
“We did this rhythm dance program our first year together. It was blues-hip hop that year also,” Smart explained. “We loved the program and we ended up doing it as a gala routine at one of our first Grand Prixs. And when I was looking for music this year in the same style we kept getting drawn back to this piece of music. We were still really connected to it. We did not find anything better and we knew we could perform it really well.
“It is really cool to do it the second time around but with a whole different technique and improvement. It is a really cool transition for us and hopefully for the audiences as well.”
For the free dance they chose “The Fencing Lesson,” “The Plaza of Execution,” and “My Family is My Life” by James Horner and “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You” by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena.
Both agreed that the debut of this program went well and they were happy with how they performed and the scores they received.
Hurtado and Khaliavin chose blues and hip-hop music for the rhythm dance this year, and two pieces by the rock band Led Zeppelin, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Stairway to Heaven” for the free dance.
As Spain only had one ice dance allotment at the 2021 World Championships — which went to Hurtado and Khaliavin — this competition marked the first time Smart and Díaz had competed since the 2020 European Championships.
“A lot of teams went to Worlds this year but we did not have the chance to do so,” said Smart. “As much as we were in the country where we train, it was still fantastic to put costumes and make-up on, have our names called and perform at Autumn Classic.”
“We were really happy that we could perform again,” added Díaz who is engaged to U.S. ice dancer Madison Hubbell. “That is one of my favorite parts of skating and for the last 18 months or so it has been very tough mentally and physically. This summer we were very excited that competitions were not getting canceled and things were going back to normal. We would have the chance to travel again and participate in more events so we are very happy in general.”
Their first head-to-head at Finlandia Trophy in early October was a very tight race. Hurtado and Khaliavin finished third in the rhythm dance with 74.79 points, while Smart and Díaz sat in fifth with 72.67. The rankings flipped in the free dance with Smart and Díaz finishing fifth in the segment with 113.15 points and Hurtado and Khaliavin one place behind them with 110.78 points.
It was basically a tie in the final standings, with Smart and Díaz finishing fourth overall (185.82 points), one place ahead of Hurtado and Khaliavin (185.57) – a mere 0.25 of a point difference.
Smart and Díaz have been assigned to back-to-back Grand Prixs: Skate America and Skate Canada. Hurtado and Khaliavin are headed to NHK Trophy and Rostelecom Cup.