The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - Oct. 5

Hubbell, Donohue ready to embrace Skate America opportunity

Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue are aiming for the podium at Skate America.
Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue are aiming for the podium at Skate America. (Jacque Tiegs)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(10/05/2011) - We were delighted to see the new team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue win gold at the Nebelhorn Trophy. We talked to them on Skype this week, to hear about their trip to Oberstdorf and their upcoming competition at Skate America later this month.

"The short dance was a little shaky, but we redeemed ourselves in the free dance," added Hubbell. "We're happy with the result and glad we got the experience going into Skate America."

Hubbell noted that neither skater had ever competed the rumba before, but they're both enjoying skating the Latin rhythm short dance.

"It's nice to do Latin with somebody I'm not related to!" she said. "It's nice to express Latin the way it's supposed to be. The free dance is "I Put a Spell on You" by Joe Cocker. It's definitely developed over the course of the season already. We've changed the middle piece of music a little; the body of the program has pretty much stayed the same. It's about the relationship between two people, the ups and downs. The piece is a little bit dramatic, in an uplifting way! We're definitely very happy with it, I think the audience likes it."

Hubbell had been to Oberstdorf before, for the World Junior Championships with her brother Keiffer, and both she and Donohue enjoyed visiting the quaint little town.

"It's definitely a step back into the past, the cobblestone streets," she said. "Our big adventure was going to the gummy bear store. It's called "Bears and Friends," and it was right outside our hotel. I was warned by Maia Shibutani about it. The entire store is just gummies! They have a million different varieties. I started buying gummies for all our friends, and my brother, and I ended up trying them and they were SO good. They had a lot of weird milkshake flavors. My favorite was really fine shoestring. It's like this never-ending string."

Leaving the candy talk aside for the moment, we talked about the many partner switches this season. Will it be strange for everyone to compete against their ex-partners? "It's a little bit bizarre that everyone came to an end and then started again -- I'm kind of excited about it, to tell the truth," said Hubbell. "Keiffer and I are fine, that worked out, so there's only good things to say about it. I'd say it's an advantage for ice dance -- I think any longtime fan is going to be interested to watch. There's so much discussion about who will end up on the podium at nationals."

Hubbell and Donohue are excited for Skate America.

"It's a big thrill for our first season together," Donohue said of being selected to compete there. "We obviously want to score higher than we did in Oberstdorf. We'd like to skate a better short dance and get our levels in the rumba. Would top three be great? Heck yes!"

"We're reaching for top three, and if we fall somewhere nearby we'll be happy," added Hubbell.

Outside of training, Donohue spends most of his the rink.

"I teach for around four and a half hours, after skating," he said. "I pretty much pay for everything myself, so it's the best job I could have. I have over 20 students I'm working with now."

Both skaters get weekends off, though.

"Every single weekend I go home to Ohio," Hubbell said. "Recently I've been bringing Zachary -- my parents love him. When my mom was making the costumes I had to go home, and I'd bring him along, and he'd sit with my dad and watch movies. Zachary loves it because my mom cooks for him and does laundry."

"Oh, her mom is the best cook ever!" said Donohue.

A little burlesque
It goes without saying that we pretty much always wish we were in France. Lucky British ice dance champions Louise Walden and Owen Edwards have been training there, in Lyon, since 2008. We met up for a Skype chat with them in between their competitions at the Nebelhorn Trophy and the Ondrej Nepela Memorial. Walden is definitely the talkative one.

"She's the talker, I'm the backup," said Edwards.

"When we get difficult questions I throw them to Owen," Walden said, laughing.

How did they end up in France?

"We did one season in the UK with Joan Slater; I've been with Joan for all my 13 years of skating," Walden told us. "We just felt in order for us to move onward, to the level we wanted to skate at, we needed to be with other skaters at that level. Once the Kerrs left we didn't have anyone to train with."

Walden and Edwards work with a coaching team of four people: Muriel Zazoui, Romain Hagenauer, Olivier Schoenfelder and choreographer Diana Ribas.

"It's a team effort," Walden said. "We generally work more with Muriel and Romain. There are four people there, and two different temperments between Owen and I, so you work with the people you need the most."

This season, the ballroom dancers Darren Bennett and Lidia Kopylova did the choreography for Walden and Edwards' short dance to a Gloria Estefan medley and their free dance, to Burlesque.

Both skaters admitted that they were somewhat disappointed with their results in Oberstdorf and Bratislava.

"We feel that we skated really well for the start of the season," Edwards said, about Oberstdorf. "Both programs were almost clean, and went as well as we hoped. We were disappointed with the results and the scores -- more the scores. Each season you hope to improve on your previous season and we were quite a long way off our personal best."

"Maybe we are just not giving the judges what they want to see," said Walden. "Rest assured, we will be fighting fit and ready to go very soon."

Walden and Edwards were the only members of the British team in Oberstdorf, which didn't have a judge or a team member in the competition.

"We didn't even have a hotel the first night!" Walden said. "Thankfully, the hotel we were meant to stay in had a cousin with another hotel. We were almost in the barn with the cows, but we got saved at the last minute."

"We're never short on comedy value," added Edwards. "A week ago, we ran home from the ice rink, an hour, when I realized I'd left the keys at the ice rink."

At Ondrej Nepela, Edwards tripped and fell on steps in the short dance, leaving the team in ninth place with 38.70 points.

"These things happen and we have watched it back and it is actually hilarious!" Walden said afterward. "I mean we genuinely cried with laughter. You have to have a sense of humor after all! It's a bit embarrassing of course but we are seeing the funny side."

In January, Walden and Edwards launched an online skating supply store to fund their training, They ship worldwide, to countries as far away as Australia.

"We are 100 percent unfunded," Walden told us. "With this concept, people will be buying something from us, and getting something they need. We had an inquiry from Iran -- I didn't know anyone skated in Iran! We want to be the one-stop shop for skaters.

"The concept is to set up a trust fund, to help other athletes in the same position as us. We know how hard it is, and we know what can help people."

We'll be back soon, with reports from Harvard's Evening With Champions show.

Sarah and Drew
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