Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue
Official Website - 2012, 2013, and 2014 U.S. Figure Skating National Team Members and 2014 ISU Four Continents Ice Dance Champions
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Madi & Zach

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Q&A Session with Madi & Zach

Latest updates on Madi's recovery and Madi and Zach's programs for this season

October 15, 2014 - Webmaster Update

Madi and Zach sat down recently for an interview over Skype to answer some questions they’ve been getting, and to update fans on how their recovery and training for this season are progressing. As always, Madi and Zach are well-spoken, fun to talk with, and have lots of interesting things to say. They’re pleased to be sharing this here on their website. Enjoy!

Madi, last season, despite a very painful injury, you managed to compete in the Grand Prix and at Nationals, not to mention winning Four Continents. Yet you were in more pain than most people were aware of. Tell us a bit about the challenges and thoughts you faced during the season and how you managed to put on such a brave face while performing at the highest caliber.

Madi: Early last season, during the summer, we lost lots of training time - two month's worth - after I suffered a concussion in a training accident. When I returned to the ice afterwards, I pushed myself too hard in making up for lost time. A lingering issue with my hip that I'd been dealing with for several years flared up. This was a double whammy - losing lots of training time, and dealing with severe pain in my hip.

Because we wanted to be on the Olympic team, we had to appear strong going into Nationals. A lot of people don't realize how limited our training was going into our Grand Prix events, Nationals, and then Four Continents. Although we weren't at our best, we're still happy with how the year turned out. And if we'd been at the Olympics, we wouldn't have been able to prepare well for this season. So having my surgery sooner gave us more time to prepare for this season. I'm much stronger and we're excited about the new season right now. And as a team, we're stronger together because of all we've been through.

Zach, while Madi was off the ice last season, did you do anything different with your training and fitness regime?

Zach: If you've met our coach Anjelika, you know she can be really tough. While I skated less last season than what I would have if I was together with Madi, I still did a lot of on-ice work with Anjelika, plus a lot of off-ice work like weight and cardio training to keep myself fit, because it's not a good idea to change your physique or your fitness level during the season. So, on-ice, I felt I was able to improve in a lot of areas, while off-ice, I continued to train hard at the gym.

Madi, tell us about your thoughts and experiences in deciding on surgery, undergoing it, and recovering from it. Many people would have found it stressful - how did you handle it all?

Madi: It helps that I'm very interested in science and medicine. For me, I've never been intimidated by doctors, medical procedures, or surgeries. I stayed awake through the entire surgery and could see everything that was happening. I was not only anxious to be done with the pain, but I was also interested in how the team was going to fix it, and I was fascinated to see it live. Dr. Philippon is one of the top surgeons in the world for this particular type of surgery, and combined with his great team, I had no doubt that the surgery was going to go very well.

I was very surprised at how little pain there was initially after the surgery. Although I wasn't able to do much besides physical therapy, lying in bed, and walking around crutches for the first month after the surgery, the team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs took great care of me and helped get me back on my feet.

The first few months of my recovery went super well. Although we hadn't planned on doing any Senior B events this season, we kept the option open, and we were initially selected to compete at Finlandia Trophy. As the season approached in August, however, we decided that I shouldn't push myself too hard, and that we needed a few extra weeks to prepare for Skate Canada. Therefore, we pulled out of Finlandia.

Things are now getting better for me every week. With the help of physical therapy, I don't feel any weakness like I did last year, and overall I'm feeling so much better than last year. I'm doing lots of exercises and building up strength again - all par for the course. It's a great mental advantage for us this year for me to be confident in myself and to be back to my old self - ready to compete.

Our goal is to do as well as we can at Nationals this season. I also think we can do really well at our Grand Prix events. Although I've just barely recovered from the surgery, we want to compete the best we can this season and see where it takes us.

On that note, let's talk about this season and the programs you've prepared. Zach, you've tweeted that your new paso doble short dance is so good, it’s "sick," while Madi, you've revealed that your free dance will be to music from the soundtrack to the recent Great Gatsby movie.

Madi and Zach: Our short dance is to a Spanish paso doble theme this year. We think it's going to be really strong for us. While we love to explore different dance styles, everyone has their comfort zones. For us, it’s less about fun, cutesy dances than it is powerful ones like the paso doble.

Our free dance is to music from the Great Gatsby soundtrack, and we've tweaked it here and there already. What attracted us to the soundtrack and the movie was the underlying love story, especially how they were able to put a lot of different dance styles together with different pieces of music. We feel it'll be very crowd-pleasing and very different from anything we've seen our competitors put out there. Definitely, what Zach and I have is an athletic, spontaneous sense to our skating, and we're trying to portray that with this particular dance. It's very challenging and fast all the way up to the end, where we're hoping to build up to a high point with the audience in the arena.

Madi and Zach, let's talk some more about what you want to show this season to everyone out there, whether judges, officials, fans, or audiences.

Zach: With Meryl Davis and Charlie White not competing this season, and with the beginning of a new quad, the door's wide open for the top spot in U.S. ice dance. We really have an opportunity to show how we add diversity to what’s being presented on the ice. This is really our year to shine, and both our programs are suited to our strengths. We're going to show a variety of styles in our programs, and we'll deliver a message that we're a strong team that's still growing, yet very much ready to dominate.

Obviously, we'd love to shine and get a gold medal at Nationals. We're also really gunning for the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, where we'd love to perform our paso doble, so we're going to go all out at our next two events, Skate Canada and Trophée Eric Bompard. We'd also love to be at Four Continents and Worlds again.

Madi: I was just discussing Skate Canada in Kelowna this afternoon with my family. I've heard great things about Kelowna and how friendly and beautiful it is. It's always nice to go somewhere that's naturally beautiful, with spectacular scenery. We've also heard a lot about the wine country there.

I'm also quite excited about Trophée Eric Bompard in Bordeaux. Although I've been to Paris twice already, and Zach's been there once, we'd love to see more of France, particularly their famous wine growing areas. In Bordeaux, we look forward to celebrating not only the end of our main Grand Prix season but also a possible place in the Grand Prix Final. There's going to be some great competition at both events. With Kelowna, Bordeaux, and potentially Shanghai, this looks to be a glamourous season full of new experiences.

Personally, you have to push yourself and train harder everyday. We focus less on the competition and more on how far we can push ourselves. We're still kind of a "mystery team" because not many people realize how little we skated last year, and how that's such a small fraction of what we're capable of doing. With how much we can train now, the sky's the limit, and we're going to continue pushing as hard as we can and see where we end up.

Madi and Zach, many of your fans would love to hear about how much you care for animals. Both of you have pets at home, and Zach, you even rescued a stray cat from the especially frigid winter this past season. Tell us a bit about your pets and how they've been a part of your lives.

Zach: Yes, I spotted a kitten shivering in the cold, across the field outside Madi's apartment, and took her home. Unfortunately, she was feral and I wasn't able to keep her, but I was able to get her to the humane society, the same one where we found Madi's first bunny.

I also previously had another cat. Although my roommate was highly allergic to it, my roommate helped find a new home for it. Currently, I have two ferrets. They're the coolest little shenaniganizers I've ever met!

Madi: My brother Keiffer has always had a huge fascination with reptiles and amphibians, and our family house has always been filled with different creatures. Right now we have a habitat for preying mantises that just finished breeding. We hope to see the eggs hatch soon.

I've also rescued two bunnies from the local humane society, and we have a cat, Garfield, that we took in from a family friend that couldn't have one anymore. I believe we also currently have four snakes - we once had a dozen of them! That's in addition to frogs, chameleons, and tarantulas. There aren't too many animals that I don't like, but I'm not a huge fan of when my brother puts a tarantula on me!

I'm a total animal person and we even went to the Detroit Zoo today to see the new baby giraffe born there.

Tell us about some other things you like to do for fun, besides skating, of course. For example, in a past IceNetwork interview with Michael Buckley, Madi said Zach was a "really good" singer. Will we be seeing any YouTube clips soon?

Zach: There won't be any YouTube clips, unfortunately.

Madi: Zach's shy about it, but he's a phenomenal singer. I think he's got "America's Got Talent" in his future!

Talking about singing, music with vocals has been allowed in ice dance for some time now. This season, it'll be allowed in all the other skating disciplines. What are your thoughts on vocals in skating?

Zach: Vocals can be both dangerous and great for ice dancers. With certain songs and lyrics, people may expect to see specific things in the program. At the same time, with almost any lyrical song, vocals can add to the story you're portraying.

While vocals can help pairs skaters, for solo freestyle skaters, it can be hard to skate to a song that's clearly about another specific person or is strongly associated with a particular singer. Since singles skaters are by themselves out there, it's hard not to make things look like a show program. At the same time, there are skaters who are doing great programs, like Elladj Baldé and his James Brown short program. Generally, if you can find a piece of music that highlights your strengths, then that's an asset.

Madi: I would say that lyrics can add to your program, although there are some pieces of music that can get "lost" in an arena. There are also versions of certain pieces of music that don't need lyrics.

This year, we're using three modern/pop music selections in our free dance, which we think can relate to younger audiences. If we can help broaden skating's appeal to a wider audience, than that's great. At the same time there are fans and judges from various generations so I think we also need to find a balance between different generations and genres.

Anything else your fans should look forward to this season?

Madi and Zach: We're going to perform at the MK Young Artists Showcase in Washington, DC on Sunday, November 30. It's led by Audrey Weisiger, and there will be a lot of good choreographers coming in, especially some of Macklemore's tour dancers. It all goes to benefit Kids on Ice.

And of course, we're going all out for Skate Canada in Kelowna, BC on Friday, October 31 and Saturday, November 1, as well as Trophée Eric Bompard in Bordeaux, France on Friday, November 21 and Saturday, November 22.

Thanks Madi and Zach for your time! Best of luck this year!

Madi and Zach: Yes, and a big thank you to all of our fans out there for all your continuing support!

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© 2014 Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue - - Last updated October 15, 2014