Hubbell, Donohue capture ice dance gold at Grand Prix Final
Teen Rika Kihira edges out reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova in women's event
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue wanted to skate without fear this weekend.
"We knew that to reach to the highest level and reach that world championship title, we had to stop being afraid and just start going for it when it counts," Hubbell said.
The risk paid off — the pair won gold at the competition on Saturday, posting a combined score of 205.35.
Watch the American duo Hubbell and Donahue skate to gold:
Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia took silver, tallying 201.37 points.
Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri came in third with a score of 198.65.
Hubbell said there were plenty of "little bobbles" throughout the Americans' free skate Saturday, but they were proud of their work.
Now they'll spend time finessing details and cleaning up both programs before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit in January, and world championships in Japan in March.
"It's a whole new era for us," Hubbell said. "So as much as we can, we want to go for the gold at every single competition."
The pair — who train in Montreal —finished fourth in the Pyeongchang Olympic Games and took silver at last year's world championships.
Top duos absent
This year's Grand Prix Final was missing some of the world's top ice dancing teams, including Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, who took silver at the Olympics in South Korea.
That allowed other teams to shine, said Katsalapov of the second-place Russians.
"We were able to skate with our soul and do our job," he said through a translator.
Katsalapov and Sinitsina were third after Friday's rhythm dance and slid into second on a strong free program Saturday.
"The last 10 seconds of our free dance, it was just like an explosion of happiness," Katsalapov said.
Guignard and Fabbri were also happy with their performance in Vancouver, which marked their first appearance at the Grand Prix Final.
"We couldn't think of a result like this before coming here," Fabbri said. "So it was a really big explosion of emotions. We couldn't be happier now because we performed two good programs."
Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France came from behind to take the gold in the pairs event with a breathtaking free skate Saturday.
"To win the competition, it's like a dream for us, especially with this kind of competition level. Everybody did amazing. It was really close," Cipres said.
Watch James, Cipres capture gold:
Cheng Peng and Yang Jin of China took silver with 216.90 points, while Russians Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov came in third with a score of 214.20.
Cipres and James — who was born in Scarborough, Ont. — sat in fourth place after Friday's short program, but posted a score of 148.37 in the free skate for a combined 219.88 points.
"It's hard to skate every time perfectly," Cipres said. "We did our best yesterday, but it was perfect. But the most important thing is the result and the fight we had today."
Rika Kihira takes women's gold
Earlier on Saturday, Japanese teenager Rika Kihira took first place in the women's event, capping a stunning freshman outing on the senior circuit.
She attributed the success to learning from her missteps.
"My failures from the past seasons really motivated me to do well," the 16-year-old said through a translator.
"I promised myself that I would remember them and never repeat those mistakes again."
Watch Kihira skate to gold:
Kihira led the field after the short program Thursday. She stumbled on a triple Axel in her free skate Saturday, but still managed to post a combined score of 233.12.
The tally beat her personal best of 224.31 points, which won her the NHK Trophy in Japan last month.
Kihira edged out reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia for the win.
Zagitova tallied 226.53 points after under-rotating a triple toe loop on the first combination of her free skate.
The 16-year-old said the error helped her focus on the rest of her program, but she'll spend the rest of the season working on skating cleanly.
Zagitova burst on to the senior skating scene last year, racking up wins on the Grand Prix circuit before taking gold at the European championship.
Watch full replay of the women's free skate:
This season has been more difficult and she's struggled with nerves.
"The first senior season is easier than the second one," Zagitova said through a translator. "Because when you go out the first time, there are no expectations, no one expects anything and you can just go out and skate."
Fellow Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva took third with a score of 215.32.
On Friday, American Nathan Chen took gold in the men's event while Canada's Keegan Messing placed fifth.
Thirteen-year-old Stephen Gogolev of Toronto won the junior men's event.
Watch full replay of the ice dance and pairs free skates: