(L-R) Zachary Donohue and Madison Hubbell compete at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 19, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue had a breakout 2018 season, winning the U.S. title and a world silver medal while also placing fourth in their Olympic debuts at Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
As they prepare for Skate America, the first ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating event of the season this week in Everett, Washington, the pair is treating their best season together as old news.
With rule changes that come after every Olympics, even their best skate of 2018 won’t win them a medal in 2019, they say, so the 27-year-olds will have to continue to push to stay at the top of the ice dancing world.
“Every year feels different,” Hubbell said on a teleconference with reporters last week. “It would be foolish to try to recreate exactly what we did last year, thinking we would get the same success. The nature of the sport is that it's evolving. There are many, many teams behind us that were watching us last season, and they want to be in the same place that we were in February and in March.”
Both Hubbell and Donohue cited being on the podium at the world championships as their favorite moment of the 2017-18 season, but not just because of the medal that was hung around their neck.
“Not necessarily for the accomplishment, but because it was the point where I turned to now, my present,” Hubbell said. “It's the moment I was able to leave that season behind me and go into the future.”
“As much as our own personal accomplishment, it was pretty incredible being on the podium with training mates, and having literally everyone from our training center skate the best programs of the season, all at the same competition, was pretty incredible,” he said.
When selecting the music for their free dance, Hubbell and Donohue often think outside the box. They used the bluesy “Caught Out in the Rain” mix for the 2017-18 season. In 2015-16, the pair used “Adagio for Tron” by Daft Punk.
This season, they are putting their spin on a timeless piece often used in figure skating: Romeo and Juliet. Hubbell and Donohue are using music from the 1996 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The pair looked at different music but found this to be a selection they agreed would work for them.
“We started from a clean slate, and we generally have liked to challenge ourselves with new genres,” Hubbell said. “Looking at the list of what we have done, we have never done a classic story that people already knew, that people had already attempted on the ice.”
The weekend after competing at Skate America, Hubbell and Donohue will travel to Laval, Quebec, for Skate Canada, knocking out both of their ISU Grand Prix assignments early.
“We were able to look and make a plan, based on our options,” Donohue said. “For us, this was the best possible plan for preparing ourselves to be ready for the grand prix, and really re-look at things once they're over, evaluate and move forward, while still taking time to recover.”
The U.S. Figure Skating Championships follow in January in Detroit, with the world championships in March in Japan.
During the offseason, the American ice dancing teams of Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, moved to Montreal to train with the same coaches as Hubbell and Donohue. These coaches, highlighted by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, also work with Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the defending world champions and Olympic silver medalists from France. Donohue is not worried that the ice is getting too crowded; instead, he said the added teams bring extra motivation.
“We've honestly been using the energy between the three of us to kind of motivate and push each other,” Donohue said. “We’ve all got separate journeys that we're on, in addition to competing with each other. And the coaches make it really easy for us to keep our heads in the game and focus on our own thing. That allows so much time and energy for us to support our friends, because that's what they are, while they're on their journey as well.”
Maggie Hendricks is based in Chicago and has covered Olympic sports for more than 10 years for USA Today and Yahoo Sports. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.