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Since joining forces in 2011, ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have gained a reputation for being physically powerful, technically skilled, and, emotionally connected skaters.
Here’s more on the ice dancing pair as they prepare for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
1. Hubbell Began Skating at 5 Years Old
Hubbell was born on February 24, 1991 in Lansing, Michigan and got her start on the ice at age 5.
She began ice dancing at age eight, skating with first partner Nicholas Donahue for one year.
In 2001, Hubbell partnered with her one of her older brothers, Keiffer, and won U.S. titles at the juvenile, intermediate, and junior levels.
On May 12, 2011, the Hubbells announced the end of their partnership. Keiffer had experienced hip and back problems and was undecided about his future.
“For the past three years, Keiffer has been struggling with his hip, and last season with his back,” Hubbell told Ice Network. “That was partially due to his body type, he’s very flexible, and I was only a few inches shorter than him. We dealt with that, and I think it wore on him.
“Ultimately he was not really sure what he wanted to do, but he knew that he didn’t want skating as badly as I did, at least at that time. So it was actually his decision independently to quit, and we were kind of in a state of limbo. Our mom would call me and say, ‘I think you had better think about a new partner,’ but I wasn’t ready yet.”
2. Donohue First Started Skating at 11 Years Old
Zach Donohue was born January 8, 1991 in Madison, Connecticut and began skating at age 11. He was partnered with a few ice dancers, notably Piper Gilles, who now competes for Canada. Donohue and Gilles won U.S. junior ice dance bronze medals in 2009 and 2010.
Donohue split with partner Alissandra Aronow after placing 11th at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. That was the same year Hubbell’s brother decided to take a break from the ice.
Hubbell and Donohue first teamed up by coincidence when they were both 20 years old. The two happened to hit the ice during the same practice session, and coaches noticed.
“I noticed all the coaches were huddled off by themselves talking excitedly and looking in our general direction,” Donohue told Ice Network. “I figured this was kind of the start.”
Hubbell says they were “a bundle of chemistry from the start.”
Their chemistry was also apparent to judges at their first competition, the 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, which they won.
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3. They’ve Won 3 Consecutive Bronze Medals at Nationals
After the duo’s first full season together, they won a bronze at nationals in 2012.
The couple has earned three consecutive bronze medals at the U.S. Championships (2015, 2016, and 2017).
After placing fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships by just over two points, they missed a chance to compete in the Sochi Olympics. Instead, they were assigned to the 2014 Four Continents Championships, where they captured gold.
They have made three consecutive world championships appearances. In 2015, Hubbell and Donohue finished 10th and in 2016 they finished in sixth.
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4. Hubbell & Donohue Train in Montreal
In April of 2015, Hubbell and Donohue announced that they had started training with Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Haguenauer. They left their Michigan-based training facilities and moved to the Centre Gadbois in Montreal.
Hubbell and Donohue have both credited their coaches to the continued success they’ve seen in the 2016-17 season.
Leading up to the 2017 Four Continents, where they placed fourth, they felt that they had achieved personal breakthroughs in their training.
At an ISU press conference following their third place finish in the short dance at the 2017 World Chanpionships, Hubbell discussed their progress.
“In the last month since Four Continents, Zachary and I have really worked with our coaches on changing our mentality around our skating in general, but especially with this short dance. We’re always trying to do more or be more, and we had to step back and realize that we were enough, and we just had to be us, and really hone this dance.”
“I feel like we owe it to each other just much as we owe it to Marie-France [Dubreuil] in particular. She really helped us and pushed us to not give up on it. There were definitely some tough moments in the season where we felt like maybe we just needed to go with the current, the way things were going. She’s been there every day, encouraging us to embrace what we originally believed, the ideas we have, and our own creative vision. It is definitely a gratifying way to end the season and I know they’re enjoying this moment with us as well.”
They train alongside Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France.
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5. Hubbell Helps to Design Their Costumes
Hubbell helps to design and create the pair’s costumes alongside her mom, who is a seamstress.
“I was very lucky to grow up with parents who entertained all of my interests, and a mother who has enough creativity for the whole family,” Hubbell writes on their website.
She also calls herself a “total home maker” who enjoys jewelry making and baking in her free time.
Check out more Winter Olympics coverage from Heavy.