Local Skater Seeks Olympic Spot at US Figure Skating Championships in Boston

Zachary Donohue and Madison Hubbell
Zachary Donohue and Madison Hubbell

Timing, as they say, is everything.  For Olympic hopeful Zachary Donohue of Madison, Connecticut, and his skating partner Madison Hubbell of Michigan, a lifetime of training, determination, resiliency and competition will be in full view at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston this week.

As U.S. national bronze medalists in 2012, and fourth place finishers at the 2013 U.S. Championships, the ice dance couple is at the cusp.  Three couples will earn U.S. Olympic team slots, to be announced on Sunday. The contest for those positions is expected to be extremely close.

For Donohue, it has been a long and winding road from New Haven and Madison, where he grew up, through New Jersey, Colorado, and Michigan where he trained and lived beginning at age 15, to the U.S. Championships in an Olympic year, just days after his 23rd birthday.

The journey began while visiting cousins in North Carolina, who took him along to go skating at a local spot.  “I was just messing around, imitating what they were doing.  One of my cousins said, “hey, you’re pretty good.”  Unbeknownst to 10-year-old Zach, his athletic ability on blades was mentioned to his mom, who promptly signed him up for a “Learn to Skate” program when they returned home to New Haven. He excelled, and skating soon evolved from a “cool outlet for all my energy” to a more serious interest.

Then at age 13, he grew a foot and a half in a year, and had to reduce his ice time to let his body catch up to itself.  The bones were outpacing the muscles, which made jumps and spins painful.  It was during that time that his love of music and interest in skating merged toward ice dance.

Now 6’2”, 195, Donohue is “tall, long and strong” – all attributes for a powerful yet graceful ice dancer.  Madison “Madi” Hubbell, at 5’8” is taller than many ice dance partners, and together they bring and impressive line to their skating.   The word most associated with their performances is “connection. “ They convey an emotional bond on the ice that is mesmerizing –earning the effusive admiration of commentators describing the fluidity, artistry and technical precision reflected in their routines.

Donohue easily recalls time spent training and practicing at rinks in Cromwell, Newington and Simsbury, as his interest in and dedication to the sport grew.  It was his mom who drove endlessly through central Connecticut to get him to training sessions, coaches, and practice time.  “She’s always been by my side,” Donohue points out, appreciatively.  “Skating puts a lot of stress on parents.”  For those of modest means, especially so.

Employed by the security department at Yale University for nearly 15 years after a career in law enforcement, his mother, Diane Eggert, added an extra job or two along the way to help meet the relentless expenses of a skating career.  She worked the overnight shift, so days could be spent with her son.  Because of his skating-centric life, Donohue was home-schooled through his teenage years, and college plans remain on hold for now.

It has been a stunningly successful and incredibly challenging, injury-riddled year.  Hubbell, out for two months recuperating from a concussion during which doctors precluded her from any exercise whatsoever, fought back and they not only competed effectively but won the coveted 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, exceeding their personal best scores.  No small task in the best of circumstances; remarkable given the realities.

Four years ago, Donohue was in juniors, with a different partner on the ice.  Today, he is on the brink of the Olympic dream becoming reality.  What will fans see in Boston?  A “better-than-ever version” of performances that earned top honors in Germany, even as extremely talented American teams vie for coveted Olympic slots.

There's more to the story, at http://ctbythenumbers.info/2014/01/05/connecticut-skater-seeks-olympic-chance-u-s-championships-bost...

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