San Jose, Calif. — The ice should sizzle when dancing to a Latin beat.
Maia and Alex Shibutani, Ann Arbor Huron graduates who train in Canton, made sure it did Friday to outdistance their top competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Not that Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, or Madison Chock and Evan Bates — who live and train in Novi — weren’t smokin’. Far from it as all three couples staked early claims to the trio of berths available for Americans at the Pyeongchang Olympics next month.
With hefty competition from French and Canadian duos, only one podium spot is likely to come the Americans’ way. All of the U.S. contenders belong in consideration after their latest performances.
Latin music, including a rhumba, is required this year for the short dance. The brother-sister combination — “Shib Sibs” — showed speed and strength and even a tad of wickedness in the routine. The two-time defending champions and three-time world medalists punctuated their program with eight side-by-side twizzle turns as their music counted uno through ocho.
That was Alex’s idea, and it worked perfectly.
“It was just something we were listening to Perez Prado’s library of music and I heard ‘Mambo No. 8,’ and we’re always trying to push the boundaries of what we’re capable of doing,” he said. “Obviously, you’re only required to do four rotations per set … on the twizzles but we just thought that it would be kind of clever and fun and it would entertain ourselves.”
“And the audience,” Maia chimed in.
Hubbell and Donohue (Lansing Skate Club) have never won a U.S. title. Their short dance was alternately sultry, teasing and rocking. Their synchronization was so good they seemed to be shadows of one another, and their straight line footwork mirrored each other to perfection.
But the Shibutani siblings simply were better.
“I think we made a big statement by skating the way that we did,” Alex said.
“It’s not in our control what the judges give us.”
SHORT DANCE RESULTS
1. Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, 82.33
2. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, 79.10
3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates, 77.61
4. Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, 73.18
5. Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, 72.69
6. Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, 69.16
7. Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit, 66.41
8. Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton, 61.21
9. Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson, 58.29
10. Julia Biechler and Damian Dodge, 54.53
11. Elicia Reynolds and Stephen Reynolds, 40.92
12. Cassidy Klopstock and Jacob Schedl, 37.16
13. Ashley Bain and Oleg Altukhov, 31.17
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
When: Through Sunday
Where: SAP Center, San Jose, Calif.
Saturday: Pairs free, 4 p.m., men’s free, 8 p.m., NBC
Sunday: Dance free, 3 p.m., NBC