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Hubbell's scope: Balancing program tweaks, yoga

Bronze medalist from 2012 U.S. Championships shares adventures throughout Olympic season

Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue are perfecting a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy free dance.
Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue are perfecting a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy free dance. (Getty Images)

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By Madison Hubbell, special to icenetwork.com
(08/16/2013) - Ice dancer Madison Hubbell, who claimed the 2012 U.S. bronze medal with partner Zach Donohue, relays her everyday exploits and adventures throughout the 2013-14 Olympic season.

Friday, Aug. 16

Hello Readers,

Sorry it has been so long since my introduction. I don't have much of an excuse, other than being tired, but saying that makes me feel spoiled. I get to spend my days doing what I love, and reaching for the Olympic dream, and I will try to remind myself of that on the days I am exhausted. I will do my best not to complain about training, because, for my parents, reading this blog, this might very well be the only break they take from work today. Plus, I complain enough when I go home on the weekends -- they don't need to hear it all again! :)

This season is high pressure! I can only imagine how it must feel when you are at the very top and everyone is aimed right at you. I hope that someday I will know the feeling, but for now, our only goal is making the team.

After my first blog, I was asked how Zach and I will use our differences from other American teams to put us back on the podium, and on our way to Sochi.

This is the most important question we ask ourselves during the off-season. What makes us stand out? How can we fully use our strengths to beat the competition?

Well, Zach and I have a large presence on the ice. This is partly because of our height dominance over most of the U.S. dancers, but I believe that it is also about the connection that we have. Zach and I are two skaters that always knew each other, and even competed against each other, but were never friends. Once we started skating together, we found out why. We are both very passionate, emotional, dramatic people, who love to be the center of attention on the ice.

These similarities have given us a different off-ice relationship than the other U.S. teams, and this translates to an honest performance and connection. I think that there are several very strong teams with the Olympic goal this year, and each one of them has attributes. I think that creating a moment and a feeling for the audience is our strong point, and it is a pretty powerful thing to have on our side.

Most of the other questions had to do with technique. Doesn't everyone know that we can't give out all of our secrets on icenetwork.com? It is no secret, however, that the Detroit Skating Club is riddled with Olympic athletes and coaches. For the dance teams training with Pasquale Camerlengo, we are able to work with five Olympic coaches, representing four countries, spanning several decades. I believe there is no better place for me to be to reach my Olympic dreams than in the hands of this team, and I know my partner and training mates would say the same.

As for Finnstep, we are lucky to be training with the only coach who actually competed the dance, Massimo Scali. I feel that height is both a disadvantage and advantage in Finnstep. The pattern dance portion of short dance is the highest-scoring element. This means we spend most of our morning sessions working on the key points of the dance. The emphasis from the technical side is tight feet with clean edges and correct timing. Easier said than done sometimes, especially at the end of the week! :)

As for the judges, they would like to see a light, bubbly style, much like champagne. Maybe if we had a little champagne, the dance would feel easier -- probably not look any better, but definitely feel easier. As I said, height can be a bit tricky when learning this dance. Moving longer limbs quickly and with a lightness can be challenging. Once you get the hang of it, I think that the dance looks more impressive with longer lines.

But let's be honest: If it was as easy as all of that, we would be getting Level 4's on everything. The only thing we can do is practice, practice, practice, and get as much feedback as possible.

Speaking of feedback, the beginning of the season can be kind of challenging. This season we got our programs ready quite early, which was great for us, since I had to take time off for my concussion. We also got feedback early, which was extremely helpful.

What some fans do not realize is that the programs we take to competitions in the season are not always the first ideas we create in the summer. This season, Zach and I fell in love with a piece of Charleston by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, "Diga Diga Doo." We felt like Charleston was a great choice for us, since it can be very playful and entertaining. We created a program of Charleston, foxtrot and quickstep around this original piece of music. When we headed to Maryland for an early season monitoring session, the judges weren't quite on the same page as we were. What a bummer! I think it is every skater's nightmare to have the judges tell you to scrap your idea. Luckily, they all loved our original music selection, "Diga Diga Doo." So, after going back to the drawing board, and a lot of work, we have a new short dance.

I have to admit, they were right! I feel much stronger in my new program, and I can't wait to get more feedback at Champs Camp next week. Thank god we went to camp earlier than usual this season, because if I had to change my program in the month between Champs Camp and Nebelhorn, I would have been a bundle of nerves!

As for the summer, I haven't seen too much of it. The weather has been very off and on here in Michigan. One very cool thing I tried was paddleboard yoga. I have never been much into yoga, but since my brother, Keiffer, retired from skating, yoga is his life! He practices every day and has been certified to teach for almost six months. Since going to his class, I have found that I never disliked yoga; I just never found the perfect teacher. Keiffer is my perfect teacher, and the only person who can get me to relax in class.

This summer, he has been spending his weekends on the lake, doing headstands and forearm balances on a paddleboard. Zach and I finally tagged along in July, and it was a blast! While Keiffer makes it look quite natural and effortless, Zach and I were sliding and belly flopping every chance we got! Oh well, I guess we are better on frozen water.

Another highlight of our summer was doing the Sun Valley Ice Show for the first time! We had heard a lot of amazing things about the town as well as the ice show, but no one could have prepared us for how beautiful it is there. We were only able to stay for 48 hours, but after about 12, we had decided we would retire there and were checking out the real estate listings posted in town. It seems like an athlete's paradise.

Of course, we are quite a few years from retirement, but we can still dream. Especially since the No. 1 thing I want to do after retiring is to go snowboarding! I haven't been in quite a few years. As soon as my parents' retirement fund was redirected to my skating fund, my body became a "no risk" zone.

I remember when "Razor" scooters came out. I was in middle school. I asked my dad if I could get one, but he said they were "organ donors" and far too dangerous to ride. There were quite a few recreational activities that fell into that category: rollerblading, snowboard/skiing, scooters, anything motorized, volleyball, tackle sports, etc. We were allowed to swim, since we had a pool in our backyard, and we were allowed to bike as long as we wore a helmet, wrist guards, elbow guards and knee guards. What 10-year-old wants to go to her friend's house wrapped in bubble wrap to ask them to play? Looking back, I think it was his plan all along; he knew we wouldn't subject ourselves to that amount of teasing just for a bike ride.

I understand my parents' thinking, and I would do the same thing, but, man, am I counting the days until I can do fun things without caring about a twisted ankle.

I hope everyone enjoyed a quick look into the start of my season, and make sure to check out other athlete blogs coming to you at the end of August. As always, if you have questions, just post them. In the future, I will respond to questions ASAP in the comment section. Also, anyone with Instagram, check out Keiffer's page of crazy yoga pictures @Keifdog. He blows my mind!

Enjoy the end of your summer, and talk to you soon!