2018 U.S. National Championships
29 December - 7 January 2018, San Jose, CA
U.S. Olympic Team nominations(1) and World Team selections following the National Championships roughly followed order of finish, though with one unsurprising exception. The guiding principle for Olympic selections is to choose those skaters who are most likely to gain the U.S. the largest number of medals at the 2018 ISU Olympic Winter Games. The guiding principle for World and World Junior selections is to choose those skaters who are most likely to gain the U.S. the largest number of entries for the subsequent 2019 ISU Championships.
For the men, silver medalist Ross Minor was bypassed for Adam Rippon (pewter medal) for the Olympic and World Championships. Minor was assigned to the Four Continents Championships but withdrew on 12 January 2018, and as a further slap in the face was named only the second alternate for the Olympic Team.
For the ladies, it was speculated that pewter medalist Ashley Wagner might be selected over one of the higher placing ladies, but it was ultimately thought by the International Committee of U.S. Figure Skating that Wagner had a lesser body of work for the season and was not selected to the Olympic or World Teams. She was assigned to the Four Continents Championships, but on 12 January 2018 U.S. Figure Skating announce she too had withdrawn from that competition.
In a quirk of the Olympic rules, the U.S. has two entries for the 2018 World Championships, but only one for the Olympic Winter Games. As expected Knierem & Knierem were named the sole nomination for the Olympic Team.
In Dance, the top three teams, who have been at each others heels all season, were named to the Olympic and World teams.
(1) U.S. Figure Skating nominates Olympic Team members to the USOC which actually selects the entire Olympic Team representing the U.S. in the Olympic Winter Games. U.S. Figure Skating selects the team members to the various ISU Championships.
No Surprise Here: Junior Dance Title Goes to Carreria & Ponomarenko
Christina Carreria & Anthony Ponomarenko stole the show in the Junior Dance event, scoring 90.48 points in the free dance for a total score of 159.18 in Thursday morning’s event. The team started the event strong in the short dance, skating a feisty performance to “Conga”. The reigning 2017 U.S. Junior silver medalists won the portion of the event by more than 5 points with a score of 68.70.
The undisputed favorites of the event have had a remarkable showing all season, winning both of their Junior Grand Prix events and placing 2nd in the Junior Grand Prix Final. Carreria and Ponomarenko performed a captivating free dance to the soundtrack from W.E., which was mesmerizing from start to finish. The GOEs on every element they performed were either 2s or 3s, boosting the base value of their elements by 7.57 points. They achieved level 4s on 4 of the 5 elements they completed. Carreria & Ponomarenko are one of the most talented teams in the U.S. right now, and they certainly have a bright future ahead of themselves!
Siblings Caroline & Gordon Green came in second with a free dance score of 83.58 points and a total score of 146.72, improving upon their 5th place showing in the previous year. Their enchanting free dance to Sarah Brightman’s “Strangers in Paradise” included level 4s on their two lifts, twizzles, and combination spin. The team’s twizzles were the best in the event, gaining a huge 8.23 points for the single element. Placing 3rd in both of their Junior Grand Prix events this season, this duo has demonstrated the potential to be a top Senior team in the near future.
Capturing the bronze medal with a score of 143.21 points was the team of Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye. Lewis and Bye won the 2013 U.S. Novice title, and has placed 6th, 7th, 6th, and 4th at Junior in the following years, respectively. It was nice to see them improve upon their placement this year by placing in the top three. Their free dance performed to a “Coeur de Pirate” medley was highlighted by a level 4 straight-line lift and a level 4 twizzle sequence. However, the team lost points in their component score, which was nearly 6 points below the champions of the event.
Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville placed 5th in the free dance, but their short dance score was enough to help them win the pewter medal. They earned 77.77 points in the free dance with a combined score of 138.90 points. They placed 6th in last year’s event.
Camden Pulkinen Crushes it in Junior Men
Junior Men Medalists: Dinh Tran, SC of San Francisco (2), Camden Pulkinen, Broadmoor SC (1), Maxim Naumov, SC of Boston (3), Ryan Dunk, Baltimore FSC (4)
Camden Pulkinen in Junior Men's Short Program
Alysa Liu Take 2018 Junior Ladies Title
The Junior Ladies title was won by Alysa Liu, a wunderkind who is exactly what U.S. Figure Skating needs - a 12-year-old with all the triples through triple Lutz, a clean Triple Lutz - Triple Toe loop combination, and the style and personality to go with it. She won both the short and long, and ran away with the title with a 17.65 point margin of victory.
In the short, skating to "Spanish Flame", Liu landed triple flip - triple toe loop, triple Lutz and double Axel. All three spins were level four while the step sequence was level three. Except for an edge attention on the flip, it was a clean, dynamic skate with no insecurity. In the long, the student of Laura Lipetsky, with choreography by Cindy Stuart, skated to music from Le Miz, she landed seven triples and two double Axels. Only an opening double Axel was in the first half of the program. Two spins were level four, while the the third and the step sequence where level three. For both programs her components were in the mid-sixes, though some judges had her in the high sevens.
Pooja Kalyan gave two mature performances to finish second. She edged out Ting Cui by 1.02 points. Cui was eleventh in the short and second in the long. In the short she fell on double Axel and had only triple toe loop - double toe loop for her combination In the long she landed seven triples and two double Axels, with all three spins level four and the step sequence level three. Kalyan had six triples in the long and two double Axels, with two level four spins. Hannah Harrell placed fourth. She landed five triples and fell on two others. She also singled an Axel. She had three level four spins and level three on the step sequence.
Junior Ladies Medalists: Pooja Kalyan, Ozark FSC (2), Alysa Liu, St. Moritz ISC (1), Ting Cui, Baltimore FSC (3), Hanna Harrell, Dallas FSC (4)
Alysa Liu, St. Moritz ISC
Audrey Lu FSC & Misha Mitrofanov are 2018 Junior Pairs Champions
It was an unambiguous win for Audrey Lu & Misha Mitrofanov, who captured the Junior title with a 17.74 point margin and wins in both the short and the long. Skating to "Once Upon a December" in the short they skated with appropriate speed and nicely interpreted the music in a nearly clean program. They received just a few negative GoEs on their opening double twist due to a catch off the shoulder of Mitrofanov. Otherwise their other elements were mostly 2s and their components averaged 6.5.
In the Free Skate, their twist again received a few -1s, due to the catch not being as clean as it needs to be, though overall it had good air. Lu fell on through triple loop, but then the remainder of the program was clean. In the long their components were a bit higher, averaging just over 7.0.
They skated with solid technique and good speed, but artistically the program was odd. Their music for the long began with "Memories" from Cats, but then transitioned to "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the opera. Other than both of these were written by Andrew Lloyd Weber, they have nothing to do with each other making for a program lacking any purposeful sense.
Estimated Attendance - Current attendance estimates and comparison to previous U.S. Nationals.
Photos © 2017, 2018 by George Rossano