Officially Olympians: Buffalo’s Kaitlin Hawayek skates hard and has fun in ice dance finals (photos)

For American ice dancers Kaitlin Hawayek and her partner Jean-Luc Baker, the main goal for their first appearance at the Olympics was to put on a strong performance and have fun.

And they were having fun.

“Officially Olympians!” Hawayek wrote on her Instagram after the rhythm dance. “What an incredible experience to skate on Olympic ice tonight! Like I’ve said a million times since stepping off the ice…it was so much fun! »

The pair finished 11th overall with a total score of 189.74. There were 23 total teams competing in ice dancing; Team USA’s Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won a bronze medal after finishing fourth in PyeongChang.

Part of the discipline of figure skating, ice dancing is inspired by ballroom dancing, emphasizing footwork, artistic expression and connection to music.

No jumps or throws are allowed in ice dancing, a derogation from pair figure skating, which includes jumps, lifts and throws.

A medley of Donna Summer hits, including “Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls,” provided a fun and flirty soundtrack for Hawayek and Baker’s rhythmic dance; for their free skating, the duo performed “Prélude et Nocturne en E minor” by Frédéric Chopin.

Announcer and Olympic gold medalist figure skater Tara Lipinski complimented the couple’s “twizzle” sequence, a series of side-to-side spins performed in unison that is a hallmark element of ice dancing.

“They really ticked all the boxes,” she said.

Two-time Olympian Johnny Weir praised Baker for his curve lift, which showed “beautiful positioning and wonderful strength”.

Lipinski acknowledged the injuries the couple overcame, including Hawyek’s concussion last summer.

“It’s so nice to see them on an Olympic stage,” Tara Lipinski said after Hawayek and Baker finished their rhythm dance. “They absolutely deserved this opportunity.

“They were always held back from beyond what they could be from season to season,” she continued. “And now they can capitalize on this opportunity.”

At their home in East Aurora, Hawayek’s family and friends celebrated with watch parties, sending photos and videos to the couple via social media. The Aurora Theater dedicated its marquee to wish the team good luck.

“What an incredible Olympic experience it has been!” Hawayek wrote on his Instagram. “I am so grateful to have the opportunity to represent my country on the Olympic ice with my best friend. Thank you for the support of all at home, we felt your energy here in Beijing! I can’t wait to pass the rest of the week cheering on the rest of our amazing Team USA athletes!”

Hawayek and Baker reveled in all the Olympic Village has to offer, including taking photos in front of the Olympic rings (with Hawayek wearing a Buffalo Bills hat), celebrating at the Opening Ceremonies and seeing the best in the world compete . They cheered on the great aerial skiers and the USA hockey team with fellow figure skaters Nathen Chen, Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

She sent a shout out to five-time Olympian Shaun White, who cheered on America’s ice dancers before heading home to watch the Super Bowl in Los Angeles from the sidelines.

“You are such an inspiration and it meant so much to see you in the stands cheering as we left the ice! Hawayek wrote on Instagram.

Hawayek has been skating and dancing since the age of three. She set her sights on the Olympics as a teenager.

“He’s such a determined person,” son Jon Hawayek told a Buffalo news station. “Once she decides on something, nothing stops her.”

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