FIGURE SKATING: Chen & Hubbell/Donohue win at Grand Prix Final

American Ice Dance duo Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue

The U.S. scored two victories in the ISU Grand Prix Final in Vancouver (CAN), as both Nathan Chen and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue scored season-best scores to win the Men’s and Ice Dance competitions.

Chen defended his title in this event from 2017 with a Free Skate program that included four quad jumps (a quadruple Lutz was under-rotated) and said afterwards, “I am definitely not happy with the Lutz, I stepped back on the toe so that I would not miss out on a combo. I definitely need to bump this up to next level, this is not quite where I wanted it to be.

“I mostly wanted to improve on what I already had in the last competition in improving whether it be adding a new jump or cleaning things up. For the next competition, I will be working on completing the (quad) Lutz.”

Hubbell and Donohue won both the Rhythm Dance and the Free Dance and won by almost four points. “Going into this event, Zach and I had a goal to put 100 percent into our performance and not be afraid of losing some technical levels and that’s what we did in both programs,” Hubbell said. “We lost some technical levels but the performance carried us to achieve our first title. We are incredibly grateful to each other for that commitment.”

The shocker came in the women’s event, where Japan’s 16-year-old Rika Kihira upset reigning Olympic champ Alina Zagitova, also 16, in both the Short Program and Free Skate for a 233.12-226.53 victory. It was a lifetime best for Kihira despite a crash, while Zagitova was almost 12 points short of her seasonal best score.

“Right after I made a mistake on my first triple Axel, I knew I had to jump all the other ones after properly as this is the Grand Prix Final and I have no other choice but to land successfully,” said Kihira afterwards.

“I told myself after the mistake that this is a challenge I need to overcome. Looking back on this season, I was able to get a great result at NHK. I realized that if I were to do two clean programs with no mistakes (here), the podium would be available for me. I’m really satisfied, and the key to good results is having consistent performances.”

France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres won the Pairs with a superb Free Skate after standing only fourth following the Short Program, to overtake China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin, 219.88-216.90.

Next up the schedule is the European Championships in January, the Four Continents Championships (in Anaheim, California) in early February and the 2019 World Championships in mid-March in Satiama City (JPN). Summaries:

ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix Final
Vancouver (CAN) ~ 6-9 December 2018
(Full results here)

Men: 1. Nathan Chen (USA), 282.42 (1+1); 2. Shoma Uno (JPN), 275.10 (2+2); 3. Junhwan Cha (KOR), 263.49 (4+3); 4. Michal Brezina (CZE), 255.26 (3+4); 5. Keegan Messing (CAN), 236.05 (6+5).

Women: 1. Rika Kihira (JPN), 233.12 (1+1); 2. Alina Zagitova (RUS), 226.53 (2+2); 3. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS), 215.32 (3+3); 4. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN), 211.68 (4+4); 5. Sofia Samodurova (RUS), 204.33 (5+5).

Pairs: 1. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA), 219.88 (4+1); 2. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin (CHN), 216.90 (1+2); 3. Evgenia Tarasova/ Vladimir Morozov (RUS), 214.20 (3+3); 4. Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert (RUS), 201.07 (2+4); 5. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA), 187.63 (5+6).

Ice Dance: 1. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA), 205.35 (1+1); 2. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS), 201.37 (3+2); 3. Charlene Guignard/Narco Fabbri (ITA), 198.65 (2+3); 4. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin 9RUS), 196.72 (4+4); 5. Tiffani Zagorski/Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS), 184.37 (5+6). Also: 6. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA), 184.04 (6+5).