America’s Top Ice Dancers Share Highly Competitive Friendship


FILE - United States Winter Olympics figure skating dancers Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue pose for a portrait during the Team USA 2017 Media Summit Tuesday, September 26, 2017, in Park City, Utah.  When they take to the ice in Nashville in January 2022 for the US figure skating championships, they will be the big favorites to qualify for the Olympics - and take strong medals at the Beijing Games.  (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer, file)

FILE – United States Winter Olympics figure skating dancers Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue pose for a portrait during the Team USA 2017 Media Summit Tuesday, September 26, 2017, in Park City, Utah. When they take to the ice in Nashville in January 2022 for the US figure skating championships, they will be the big favorites to qualify for the Olympics – and take strong medals at the Beijing Games. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer, file)

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They train at the same complex in Montreal under the same coaches.

They had a long term rivalry that took them across the world.

Hey, even the first names of the women are the same.

And when they take the ice in Nashville next week for the US figure skating championships, they will be the big favorites to qualify for the Olympics – and take strong medals at the Beijing Games.

Meet Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, as well as Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

“It is an absolute honor to be an American ice dancer and to step onto an Olympic stage and an international stage to represent our country,” said Chock, who, along with Bates, her partner on and off the ice, won two US titles. and two medals at the world championships. They finished ninth at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games.

“I think it’s a huge testimony to those who came before us: Tanith (Belbin) and Ben (Agosto); Meryl (Davis) and Charlie (White); even Peter (Chernyshev) and Naomi (Lang). Ice dancing now has a very rich history and it is a legacy that we are so proud to be a part of.

As are Hubbell and Donohue, who are three-time United States champions and three-time world championship medalists who narrowly missed the podium in South Korea, finishing fourth. This is their final competitive season – Chock and Bates do not commit but appear determined to continue beyond the 2022 Olympics – and they seem comfortable with their situation.

“I definitely feel less pressure,” says Hubbell. “Everyone handles it differently. Certainly, if I choose to wear it as my last chance to be national champion or my last chance to be an Olympic medalist, it could be very heavy. But with experience, I also know that no result is really that bad.

“I finished fourth at the Olympics, I know what it feels like now. I was first, second and third at the nationals and I know what it feels like.

Adds Donohue:

“It’s pretty simple, really, right now the work is a lot more important than the ‘intimidating’, if you want to call it that, the feeling that this is our last season. We have so much to do. we push, until the end, there is not a moment where we rest or ride. “

It’s not a unique situation to have friendly duets in American Ice Dance, who was once the sport’s ugly stepson in this country. Then the previous duets Chock mentioned have stepped it up, literally and figuratively, while still remaining close friends and training partners. In the new millennium, the United States has become a powerhouse, including Davis and White winning gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Belbin, who is married to White, believes those times remain impressive for the sport, thanks to the two American duos.

“As far as we move on to compare these two amazing dance teams,” she says, “it’s also worth taking a moment to celebrate their outstanding collective accomplishments, which they maybe haven’t earned without the other pushes them for so many years. My point is not that there is no favorite, it is that there are two favorites and we are very lucky to have so big teams in the lead.

Chock is hoping the pair will make the Olympic squad, which is almost a lock, and then do something special in Beijing. The team competition, in which the Americans have won bronze in the last two games, precedes the individual events. Sharing tasks for rhythmic and free dance is an option she particularly enjoys.

“Of course, it’s not us who make this final decision,” said Chock. “Between us and Maddy and Zach, we talked about it. And there is no doubt that we would love to share the event. We feel such a special connection with them and we have bonded so many things over the years, and we really think it would be a good tribute to our friendship and to the environment that our school has cultivated so that we can share the an event. And it would mean a lot to us to be able to share the event.

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Other AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



Naomi C. Amerson