Who will be ice dance's breakout stars in 2014-15?Our writers predict which dance teams will step to the forefront this season
In the first of a four-part series previewing the 2014-15 season, Icenetwork asked its contributors to select one U.S. team and one non-U.S. team as breakout stars in ice dance.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue should not be considered a "breakout team" in the U.S., since they have graced American ice dance for the last three seasons. Yet, they still have to break out on the world scene, and the upcoming season could well be theirs. Both are talented, bright and witty. With Madison's labrum injury behind them, they can aim for the best. In addition to being an excellent team on the ice, they also bring a unique flair to ice dancing. Their style is an international one; unlike some of their teammates, they please crowds wherever they skate, far beyond the U.S. borders. "Our programs should emphasize [our] qualities," Hubbell said about their flamenco free dance two seasons ago. "That is," Donohue explained then, "The strong relationship between a man and a woman, with a passionate quality to it." Paso doble should be a perfect fit for them.
Many Russian teams split at the end of last season, and many wonder who will be the best of the recomposed field. Meanwhile, the ground could very well open for newcomers. This might be the season of Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin. The 2013 world junior champions won the national junior gold medal in 2014 and came in sixth in the senior ranks, including a fifth-place finish in the free dance. They had to withdraw from the world junior championships afterward and have been relatively discrete since, but they could be a potential surprise in the 2014-15 season.
In the absence of Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the coming season most likely will be a very favorable time for Madison Chock and Evan Bates to take the lead in American ice dancing.
Chock and Bates were my picks for American ice dancing, and they are mine for here as well. It's their time to shine.
It seems pretty safe to say that Madison Chock and Evan Bates are going to have a good season, including a likely U.S. title. Since they started competing together in the fall of 2011, this stellar team has only won one gold medal, that coming at the 2012 Nebelhorn Trophy. They'll probably start winning international titles now. Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker also look poised for a terrific senior debut season.
It might be time for Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier to finally have their breakout, although they're not likely to beat Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. Gilles and Poirier have a fascinating, avant-garde style, honed by the great Christopher Dean.
No Meryl and Charlie means that Madison Chock and Evan Bates, a technically beautiful ice dance duo, move into the No. 1 spot in the U.S. They are ready to start knocking on the door of winning medals on the world scene.
After placing seventh in Sochi, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje had their best-ever international showing at the world championships, where they were just 0.02 points away from the gold. They step out of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's shadow this season and not only become national champions in Canada but, perhaps, world champs as well.
There is little doubt that Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the heir apparents to the hefty throne left by Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Runners-up at the U.S. championships the past two seasons and fifth in the world last year, they are in position to win their first U.S. title. Bates is a two-time Olympian, and Chock made her Olympic debut in Sochi.
One of the most bizarre splits came from Russia, where Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov parted ways. The couple was one of the most impressive in the entire Sochi competition, yet each is now skating with a new partner. It appears Katsalapov might have the early edge with his partner, Victoria Sinitsina, since they are training with Marina Zoueva in suburban Detroit. With Davis and White out of competition this season and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir not entered in the Grand Prix Series, Zoueva can spend plenty of time with this new partnership. She always seems to bring out the best in her teams.
World junior champions Kaitlin Hayawek and Jean-Luc Baker bring confidence, exceptional technical ability and fine choreography to the table. There is no question in my mind they will challenge for a spot on the U.S. world team.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates' programs and lifts look fantastic. They turned down show offers to finish their choreography and drill their elements, and should come out strong this fall and qualify for the Grand Prix Final. As Igor Shpilband's top senior team, I'm betting they make a strong run at the world podium. I'm also looking for big things from Russians Nikita Katsalapov and Victoria Sinitsina. After just a few months together, they were training a world-class short dance in Canton in July, and executing Oleg Epstein's challenging footwork drills with speed and unison.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates - 3.5
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker - 1.5
Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue - 1
Madison Chock and Evan Bates - 1.5
Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov - 1.5
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier - 1
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje - 1
Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin - 1