Ice Network

Boston beans: Hubbell dances, trains through pain

Goebel agrees with Aaron's 'less is more' strategy
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Madison Hubbell has been very open about the hip injury she's been skating through. -Getty Images

In a sport that places a premium on vivacity and precision, you pause before admitting that you're performing through pain.

When Madison Hubbell's left hip first erupted in pain this Grand Prix season, only those close to the skater, plus U.S. Figure Skating officials, knew.

"It was a hard decision: Do I make it public or keep it under wraps?" Hubbell, 22, said after Wednesday's senior ice dance practice with partner Zachary Donahue.

"We proved we were strong on the Grand Prix, despite the injury. I decided it helps to let people know where I'm coming from and understand the journey. You can overcome a lot when you want something bad enough."

Hubbell's hip troubled her before the start of the season, when the team won its second Nebelhorn Trophy title. Engaged in a tight battle for one of the three U.S. ice dance spots in Sochi, there was little time for recovery.

So, Hubbell started an aggressive series of exercises prescribed by the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Britta Ottoboni, the Detroit Skating Club (DSC) physical therapist who treats Jeremy Abbott and Alissa Czisny, oversaw her treatment.

After the team won bronze at Skate Canada in early November, Hubbell was diagnosed with a torn labrum. Shortly after, she received an anti-inflammatory cortisone injection to relieve pain.

"It has helped tremendously," Hubbell said. "Doing Skate America and Skate Canada back to back was rough. By the end of Canada, it was really a question of if I could go out and do it."

The team's head coach, Pasquale Camerlengo, said the injury doesn't limit Hubbell and Donohue's performance quality, although it has changed the way they train -- ironically, perhaps for the better.

"Madison is confident, and she is calm," Camerlengo said. "We set up a special training program to deal with the situation. They are focused on what they have to do at every single practice -- the quality, not the quantity. Each run-through, they are in a kind of mindset for competition."

Donohue, who teamed with Hubbell in 2011, is confident their chemistry -- the skaters are an off-ice couple -- plus improvements they've made to their programs since Skate Canada, can get them to Sochi.

"We're more than able to fight," the 23-year-old said. "We're not in it to slide in, we want to come in with a bang. [The injury] has no effect on the quality of what we are able to do. If anything, the impact of our skating has grown because we've had to be way more of a unit."

Hubbell, too, thinks developing the discipline needed to train through her injury has been beneficial.

"Zach and I have always had great chemistry, but we're both very free skaters and maybe sometimes enjoy the moment too much," she said. "With this injury, we need to be that precise team every time."

In the run-up to Boston, Camerlengo finetuned the team's step sequences, including the Quickstep sections in the team's short dance to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy selections. Officials provided good feedback.

"I am happy about the preparation we made," the coach said, adding that his duo offers unique qualities.  

"They are very powerful, they have nice glide on the ice, and they can skate in a very emotional way," he said. "Their free dance this year (to "Nocturne/Bohemian Rhapsody") suits them very well. Of course, there is competition. There is one top team (Meryl Davis and Charlie White) and another three or four that are very, very good."

Hubbell is counting on the teams' emotional connection to set them apart.

"We did all new lifts this year," she said. "We worked on our footwork, we worked on levels, we worked on having those tight feet.

"I think we can get what other teams' have, but they might not get what we have, which is chemistry."

- Lynn Rutherford

To Quad King, less is more

The last time the U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held in Boston back in 2001, the original Quad King was crowned the men's champion.

Tim Goebel, the first skater to land three quads in one program and the first American to land a quad, will be back in Boston this weekend to watch the 2014 edition of the Championships.

One thing he won't see is another U.S. man land three quads. Max Aaron, the reigning U.S. champion, initially had planned to do three in his free skate but recently announced he has trimmed his program to two.

As much as Goebel has been a proponent of seeing more quads in the sport, he thinks Aaron is making the right decision. With so much pressure here to make the U.S. Olympic team -- only two American men will make the trip to Sochi next month -- it is probably a better decision to have a clean program than to go for broke.

"I did the same thing for nationals in '02," Goebel said. "With the added pressure of nationals in an Olympic year, I think for those that are capable of doing multiple quads the best strategy is to do less but better. With two quads in the long, he will still have a huge advantage on the technical side."

Goebel wound up landing three quads at the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City en route to winning a bronze medal.

Interestingly, having multiple quads in a program hasn't always equated to winning a national title, as Goebel discovered. Competing in his then training town of Cleveland in 2000, Goebel landed three quads but finished second to Michael Weiss. In Boston in 2001, Goebel struggled in his free skate, landing just one clean quad -- and won the national title. At the 2002 U.S. Championships, Goebel landed one of two quad attempts. He finished with the silver medal but won the bigger prize --- a trip to the Olympic Games.

- Amy Rosewater