Four years after winning the World Junior title, Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA) returned to the top of the podium at an ISU Championship, winning gold at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships Thursday in Taipei.
Canadians Carolane Soucisse/Shane Firus clinched the silver medal in their Championships debut, while bronze medalists Kana Muramoto/Chris Reed of Japan became the first non-American ice dancers on an ISU Championship podium.
Dancing to “Liebestraum” by Franz Liszt, Hawayek/Baker turned in a smooth performance elevated by interesting lifts and intricate footwork. The 2014 World Junior champions earned a level four for the twizzles and the lifts and a level three for the step sequences and the combination spin to score a season's best of 105.21 points. They totaled 174.29 points.
“We set out to give solid performances this week, and to come and show the consistency that we’ve been training for, and I think we did a great job on that. Being on top of the podium is just the icing on top of the cake. It’s a great honor,” Hawayek said.
Soucisse/Firus, who debuted at the championship level, performed to “I Won’t Dance” and “Cheek to Cheek”, delivering five level-four elements. However, the team from Montreal received a deduction of two points for an illegal element after doing a small jump in their choreographic twizzle sequence. Soucisse/Firus still managed a personal best with 99.85 points in the Free Dance and moved up from third to second on 164.96 points overall.
“It’s special for us, because it is our first international medal together and for me it is my first ever international medal. We’re happy with the performances and it was a really fun experience,” Firus said.
Muramoto/Reed turned in an elegant dance about the Japanese “Sakura” (Cherry Blossom) set to music from “The Last Emperor” and “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” by Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Like Soucisse/Firus, the Japanese champions earned a level four for five elements and achieved a personal best of 98.59 points, but it could not prevent them slipping from second to third on 163.86 points.
“We skated well here for the free dance, but we know now that there is more emotion that we can add into this. It’s not fully bloomed yet,” Reed said.
"This really helps for the upcoming weeks of training before going to the Olympics. We know what additional improvements we can work on, but we’re really happy about our results here."
The 2016 World Junior champions Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (USA) came fourth with 160.12 points following a solid Tango performance. Shiyue Wang/Xinyu Liu (CHN) placed fifth on 158.21 points, followed by 2017 World Junior champions Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA), who scored 155.30 points.