San Jose, Calif. — A flower bouquet cradled in her left arm, beaming as she stood atop the podium, Madison Hubbell of Okemos glanced down for a quick look at the gold medal around her neck.
She might not have seen this surprising national title coming a couple of days ago.
With an entertaining and seductive performance that could practically have melted the ice, Hubbell and partner Zachary Donohue (Lansing Skating Club) pulled off an ice dancing upset to close the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Sunday.
The team beat out two-time defending champion sibling tandem Maia and Alex Shibutani from Ann Arbor with a score of 197.12, edging the Shibutanis’ 196.93.
Hubbell and Donohue should be headed to their first Olympics. A federation committee later Sunday was set to decide the three duos named to the team going to South Korea.
“Before the free dance, Zach and I made an agreement that despite any marks, our win tonight would be to be present and not be distracted by the audience and all of their amazing support and just keep it in our control,” Hubbell said, fighting tears.
“So as soon as the music finished, we realized we already won in our mind, so that was kind of our moment to let in everything and thank the audience for their support.”
Striking in dark evening-wear costumes, Hubbell and Donohue skated to “Across the Sky” in which their lifts were both lovely and sultry for a 118.02 score.
They came into the free dance in second place after the short program Friday.
After the awards ceremony, Hubbell took her victory lap around the ice waving her flowers and showing off her championship hardware.
The Shibutanis floated across the ice so light on their feet they appeared to not touch it at all, but didn’t receive marks from the judges high enough to make it three straight U.S. championships.
Still, the brother-sister team all but locked up a trip to a second consecutive Olympics next month in Pyeongchang.
In four delightful minutes, 23-year-old Maia and Alex, 26, proved to be a potential contender for the Olympic podium. As did Hubbell and Donohue.
With an elegant performance beautifully synchronized and skated to “Paradise,” the siblings clad in garnet red were so spot-on they appeared to be shadows of each other whenever separate across the ice at SAP Center.
Their rotational lifts were an exceptional combination of speed and intricate step sequences that highlight a variety of twizzles in perfect unison.
Despite posting the highest score in the free dance at 118.99, Madison Chock and Evan Bates were third overall at 196.60. They skated to “Imagine” and also figure to make the Olympic squad.
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Dance: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Lansing Skating Club
Pairs: Alexa Scimeca-Knierim, DuPage FSC, and Christopher Knierim, Broadmoor SC
Ladies: Bradie Tennell, Skokie Valley SC
Men: Nathan Chen, Salt Lake FSC