American Coaching Change and Other News
Hawayek & Baker go to Dubreuil and Lauzon, Castelli & Tran lead list of pairs splits so far, and Max Aaron retires.
As May approaches, the stream of skating-related announcements that happen every summer has gotten underway. One of the broadest-reaching this week was U.S. Figure Skating releasing their International Selection Pool, from which they will make the fall’s international assignments. It is not at all in its final form. A number of the skaters currently on it will likely later declare they’re retiring, and then come off. Adam Rippon and Ashley Wagner, for instance, are on it, but haven’t made the final decision about their futures yet. A few more skaters, such as Grant Hochstein, Caroline Zhang, and Ross Miner were expected to retire, and while they are currently on it, it is more likely than not they’ll later be removed. Skaters can also get added later, usually from showing good results at the summer’s biggest club competitions, unofficial events held by skating clubs throughout the U.S.
Another big announcement this week was Patrick Chan’s official retirement, but we knew he was out a long time ago. That, however, was not the only retirement announcement this week; the ISP’s release led to another. And outside of it, the biggest American announcement was by an ice dance team that may be just getting started.
Hawayek & Baker Latest Team to Join Dubreuil’s Group
There’s been a bit of a flurry of early summer coaching changes. After student Nathan Chen won the World title, Rafael Arutunian took on a handful, most notably Marin Honda. So far the biggest came out Friday: Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker have left Angeika Krylova and Pasquale Carlemango in Detroit. They’re headed for Montreal, and Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.
They don’t say why, but that’s fairly obvious. At this point, everyone wants to be trained by Dubreuil and Lauzon. They had the two unbeatable teams these past two seasons, they retain the one of them still competing. At one point it looked like their teams might sweep the Olympic podium. At Worlds, even with the Olympic champions out, their teams still won gold and silver. The other teams they’ve coached have tended to also get very strong results, plus high praise for how well they’ve done things. Teams who want to be successful must consider the school in Montreal.
One has to feel sorry for Krylova and Carlemango. In recent years, practically their all their top teams have left them. Indeed, as more teams flock to Montreal, questions continue to come up about the health of ice dance, and what might happen the top teams are all coached by the same people, who tend to give all their teams a similar lyrical style. It’s a gorgeous one, but no one wants every single top team doing it.
Still, one can hardly blame Hawayek & Baker for the move, when next season is so vital to them. With Maia & Alex Shibutani out, they’re currently in position for the top three in the U.S., and trips to the biggest events with that. But their position is by no means secure, with two strong teams up and coming and also looking to take advantage. Dubreuil and Lauzon’s coaching could make the, good enough to secure it. It might even give them a better chance at staying in if the Shibutanis come back for the season after next.
Several Old Teams Out, One New One In
When it came down to it, the news wasn’t who was in the International Selection Pool, it was who wasn’t. Among those absent were Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran, who have been supposed to be among the top American pairs teams, and might have been the best had they not had the habit of continually missing their jumps. Word is going around they’ve broken up, but right now there’s nothing official, and no reliable word what either of their plans are.
It’s sad if they’ve given up on their partnership, but the way it’s gone, it’s understandable. At 27, they may well be retiring, though if they can find new partners quickly enough, they certainly don’t need to yet. Tran, whose only citizenship has always been Canadian, might even try to skate for another country, though U.S. Figure Skating might be reluctant to release him.
A few smaller breakups we have officially confirmed. In the case of two of them, Jessica Calalang & Zack Sidhu and Chelsea Liu & Brian Johnson, it’s because Calalang & Johnson have announced they’re teaming up:
From their social media, it appears Calalang & Sidhu’s off-ice romantic relationship continues. Between that and his long-running back problems, it’s a safe bet their on-ice partnership has ended simply because of his retirement. Liu & Johnson had results on the disappointing side, and may have split due to that; we have no idea what her plans currently are. Calalang & Johnson are both skaters with potential enough, and if this partnership lasts, it may or may not allow them to meet it.
Another pairs skater, Ernie Utah Stevens, tweeted the breakup of a fourth team:
NEWS: Caitlin Fields and I have ended our skating partnership.
We reflect with gratitude on the amazing opportunities our partnership presented us over the past four years.
We also will continue to support each other in the future.
Thank you for your support 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/7AnBgwm3dV
— Utah Stevens (@Utah_Stevens) April 15, 2018
Fields & Stevens were once fifth at the World Junior Championships, but their results were otherwise weak. They’re both young enough they’re more likely than not to at least look for new partners, but we don’t have much word on that yet.
Max Aaron Confirms Retirement
Another name absent from the ISP was Max Aaron, who was already expected to retire. He didn’t leave us hanging for long, confirming it within days. He’s going into finance and apparently leaving skating behind.
Aaron’s career was one of sporadically punching above his weight. His biggest success was in 2013, when he shocked for the U.S. National title, largely thanks to quad content which at the time was at the top level. He would ride that to seventh at the World Championships, his highest finish in four appearances, and contend for the 2014 Olympic team, which he ultimately just missed. Unfortunately he never got the harder quads, which means the field then passed him by technically. But after being criticized for lack of artistry, he did develop that. It was never his strongest thing, but he displayed enough of it to claim his biggest international win at 2015 Skate America:
He continued to be a factor throughout the quaddrennium, and was a contender for the 2018 Olympic team, though one that needed to be both lucky and perfect at U.S. Nationals, where he was neither. Still, he ended his final season with a fourth top ten finish at Worlds. All in all, he did enough to say he has no regrets, as he reiterated on Instagram:
It feels like yesterday I was just lacing up my first pair of figure skates, dreaming to be one of the best. I have certainly experienced so many amazing moments throughout my career that will last a lifetime. To end a career saying that I have lived it with no regrets is truly fulfilling. Thank you all for coming along for the ride. Couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, coaches, friends, and fans. You all made it that much more special!
Whether the other skaters in the ISP not expected to actually compete remains to be seen. However, we do have a correction to be made about one man who had been expected to retire. It turns out Michal Brezina isn’t retiring just yet after all, though we reported he was. I apologize for the error.