by Liz Leamy
(20 January 2020) Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, the reigning two-time U.S. champions and two-time World medalists (silver in 2018 and bronze in 2019) seem to be as pinpoint-focused as ever in regard to the prospect of capturing a third consecutive gold medal at the U.S. Championships in Greensboro.
Hubbell, an Okemos, Michigan native and Donohue, who grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, look to be as much on top of their game as ever in regard to their skills, power, expression and flow, among other vital things - characteristics that collectively ought to help them rack up some hefty points next week.
Last December, this top-seed team, who train with Marie France-Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer in Montreal, once again demonstrated their first-rate form when they took bronze at the International Skating Union Championship Grand Prix Finals in Turin, Italy.
At that memorable ISU event, Hubbell and Donohue finished third to victors Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron of France, the 2018 Olympic silver medalists, and Madison Chock & Evan Bates, the 2015 U.S. titlists and 2015 World silver medalists and 2016 World bronze medalists, who placed second.
Notably, all of these top-three finishers train together on a full-time basis with France-Dubreuil and Lauzon in Montreal, a situation that Hubbell and Donohue describe as an incredibly motivating factor in regard to their skating.
“We’re all following each other and inspiring each other,” said Hubbell. “At the end of the day, that’s what works for us.”
In regard to the intensity of competition next week, Hubbell & Donohue seem poised to face off against their decorated American colleagues, Chock & Bates at the U.S. Championships as well.
“Madison and Evan will always be tough competitors for us,” said Hubbell. “We have a lot of respect [for them].”
For this driven dance duo, it’s not a comparison game.
Instead, the main goal for this team is to consistently pursue their highest personal skating standard together as a team.
“It was really great to be up on the [Grand Prix] podium,” said Hubbell in a pre-Nationals media teleconference call. “We want to continue to improve our performances and skating. If your goal is to be the best, you have to skate amazing no matter what.”
One key component in regard to this team’s success over the years has been their incredible ability to effectively portray an extensive and varied selection of different musical themes and narratives in a truly compelling fashion.
This season, the team has chosen Cole Porter’s ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy,’ sung by the legendary Hollywood movie star, Marilyn Monroe and ‘Let’s Be Bad’ by Smash for their short dance, along with various selections from the hit film soundtrack ‘A Star Is Born’ performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper for their free dance.
“We’re looking forward to coming in front of the American crowd and telling [these stories],” said Hubbell. “It’s been a lot of music we enjoy listening to and we’re both people who connect with people’s voices and lyrics.”
In regard to training this past year, the team said they took a bit of a different approach in regard to their training plan.
“We took a little more time this summer to build the programs and work on our skills,” said Hubbell. “We worked hard knowing that everybody was skating so well.”
Donohue elaborated that he and Hubbell worked a great deal on their technicality as a means to help boost the overall effectiveness of their performances.
“It comes down to technicality,” said Donohue, who said that this past year, he and Hubbell have been particularly focused on footwork. “Our focus has been to maintain a high level of execution while working on our performance.”
Since the Grand Prix Final, this team has also been concentrating on further strengthening the quality of their choreographic step sequence, twizzles and fly moves.
“We’re looking to maximize the [point scoring] opportunities,” said Hubbell.
Hubbell & Donohue, who train with the 2019 U.S. bronze medalists, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker in Montreal under the guise of Lauzon and France-Dubreuil, seem to be all about making the most of opportunities, that’s for certain, a reason their outing next week in Charlotte ought to be one for the books.