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USA rocks dance with gold, bronze in Taipei City

Hubbell, Donohue rally for title; Murakami leads Japanese surge in ladies
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Soaring above the rest of the field in the free dance were Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, who registered a career-best 97.20 points in the segment. The Americans leaped over short dance leaders Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier to pilfer the gold, their second such medal at an international competition this season (Nebelhorn Trophy). -Getty Images

The 2014 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships continued Thursday in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei, with the free dance and ladies short program.

Hubbell, Donohue rally for gold

Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue danced to the gold, overtaking Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada. The bronze went to Team USA's Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton.

Hubbell and Donohue performed extremely well to "Nocturne" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," completing difficult steps and lifts. The couple picked up a Level 4 for the lifts, the twizzles and the circular footwork, while the spin and the diagonal step sequence were rated as Level 3's. Hubbell and Donohue improved their personal best by almost five points, collecting 97.20 points for the segment and accumulating 158.25 points overall.

"It means a lot," Hubbell said. "We've learned a tremendous amount about our partnership this season. We had a pretty stellar year our first year together, and since then, it has been a little bit of a struggle to find our way. I feel that we finally have proven ourselves as a strong, consistent team that deserves to be at the top. We can't wait until next season and keep pushing higher."

Gilles and Poirier chose a dark theme with music from the Hitchcock and Psycho soundtracks. They impressed with a stationary lift and two rotational lifts but lost a few points on a straight line lift and the diagonal steps that garnered a Level 2. The Canadians got a season's best of 91.33 points but slipped to second at 153.72 points overall.

"We've had a season's best in both programs; that's definitely more than we can ask for," Poirier said. "I think today, the performance was a bit tight compared to the times we've done it in the past, but there were some positive things to take out of this. We're going to take this competition with us because it taught us a lot about resilience and about being able to come back so quickly after nationals.

"Overall, it's been a really positive experience, and we are pleased with the result," he added.

Aldridge and Eaton's Bollywood dance was highlighted by interesting lifts and Level 3 step sequences. The 2013 world junior bronze medalists collected a Level 4 for four elements and a Level 3 for three elements and were awarded a new personal-best score of 87.30 points. Overall, they totaled 144.95 to claim bronze in their Four Continents debut.

"We're so excited and so honored to just be on the podium," Aldridge said. "We couldn't ask for much more, this being our first season as a senior team."

Canadians Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill remained in fourth place with 137.03 points, and Canadians Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams came in fifth with 133.42 points.

Americans Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt wound up in sixth place with 130.05 points.

Murakami, Japan dominate ladies short program

Kanako Murakami of Japan won the ladies short program, with China's Zijun Li coming in second and Haruka Imai, also from Japan, ranking third.

Murakami put out a solid performance to "Violin Muse" by Ikuko Kawai, landing a triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple flip and double Axel. Her spins and footwork all merited a Level 4, and the 2013 Four Continents bronze medalist scored a season's best with 64.73 points.

"I didn't want to come to Four Continents, but now I'm glad I came here," Murakami said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the free skate, but I'll try my best, and I'm aiming at a specific number that I have in my head."

Skating to a Tango, Li produced a triple flip-triple toe combination, a triple Lutz and two Level 4 spins as well as Level 4 steps. She earned 62.84 points, which was a new personal-best score for the 17-year-old.

"I'm really excited because I never landed that combination in competition," Li said. "I prepared a long time for the Four Continents Championships, and it is thanks to my training that I was able to perform so well."

Imai, who skated last out of the 21 ladies, turned in a strong performance to "Song Without Words" by Felix Mendelssohn that featured a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination, a triple loop and two Level 4 spins. The 20-year-old achieved a personal best as well with 62.72 points.

"Even before my performance, I could hear the applause, and it made me feel that I'm not alone but that my fans are with me," Imai said. "I got more than 60 points for the first time, and it was like a triumph for me."

Satoko Miyahara of Japan sits in fourth at 60.27 points, with Hae Jin Kim of Korea landing fifth with 57.48 points.

Americans Samantha Cesario (57.40 points) and Courtney Hicks (56.36 points) finished sixth and seventh, respectively. U.S. bronze medalist Mirai Nagasu settled into ninth place with 55.39 points.

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