U.S. Olympic figure skating pairs and ice dance nominees announced
Newly crowned U.S. ice dance champions Madison Chock of Redondo Beach and Evan Bates were nominated to the U.S. Olympic team on Sunday, the final day of the U.S. championships in Nashville. The Beijing Games will be their third Olympic appearance as a couple and the fourth for Bates, who competed at the 2010 Games with a different partner. He will become the first four-time figure skating Olympian.
“It never gets old. It’s special each time,” Bates said during a news conference.
Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, who placed fourth at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and were the runners-up at this year’s national championships, also were nominated to the Beijing team. The third ice dance nomination went to Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who will be first-time Olympians. All three ice dance teams train in Montreal. “We’re excited to go with this team,” said Hubbell, who plans to retire from competition after this year’s world championships.
Also on Sunday, pair champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc and 2021 champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier were nominated to the two allotted U.S. pair berths.
Knierim and Frazier train at Great Park Ice in Irvine. They had to petition the U.S. figure skating selection committee for their nomination because Frazier had tested positive for the coronavirus before the competition, leaving them unable to skate. Frazier was still in isolation Sunday and said he was unsure when he’d be released and allowed to train again.
Because of his isolation he was unable to celebrate his Olympic nomination with Knierim. “I hugged the crap out of that pillow,” Frazier said of his celebration.
Jessica Catalang and Brian Johnson, who also train in Irvine, were named the first pair alternates for Beijing.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, who are based in the Dallas area, previously won the U.S. pairs title in 2019. They finished third and fourth in their two Grand Prix competitions this season and were ninth at the 2019 and 2021 world championships. “I feel like each competition this season we’ve been getting better and better,” LeDuc said. “We still have room to grow.”
National champion Mariah Bell will be joined by Karen Chen and Alysa Liu on the U.S. figure skating team competing at the Beijing Olympics.
Knierim finished 14th at the Pyeongchang Olympics with her husband, Chris. When he decided to end his competitive career she teamed up with Frazier, who had previously skated with several other partners.
“I believe the best is yet to come,” she said. “We were so ready and prepared to compete here this week. It was devastating for us but obviously right now we’re on cloud nine.”
The Irvine rink is the Ducks’ practice facility and also is the training site of U.S. women’s champion and Olympic nominee Mariah Bell and three-time men’s world champion Nathan Chen, who leads the men’s field entering Sunday’s free skate competition. Knierim said the training environment, created in part by Jenni Meno and Todd Sand — former U.S. pair champions who coach them — has given them a secure and stable base. She said they’ve taken special precautions to keep skaters safe, including designating entrances and exits only the skaters can use.
“When the building was established to be a training site for figure skating, the purpose was to be an elite training facility and have a very professional training environment,” Knierim said. “From the pairs side, we’re very fortunate that Todd and Jenni run the camps, and with all of their experience over their competitive years and coaching years they do just about everything right in terms of making sure that all of the athletes have priority ice time, safe ice time and communicate with rink management daily to make sure we have what we need.”
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