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From Lansing to Beijing, Olympic ice dancer Madison Hubbell reflects on her career

March 29, 2022
<p>Design by Madison Echlin.</p>

Design by Madison Echlin.

Photo by Madison Echlin | The State News

Olympic ice dancer Madison Hubbell just finished her career at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. She, alongside partner Zachary Donohue, took home the bronze medal in the pairs ice dancing event and placed second in the team event with the rest of Team USA.

Before she was an Olympian, Hubbell was born in Lansing and raised in Okemos. She got her start at the Lansing Skating Club.

“I had kind of a fairytale childhood, to be honest,” Hubbell said. “I had two older brothers, and I started skating when I was five years old, but nobody in my family had any experience with ice. I just had seen it on TV, and so I started at five at Lansing Skating Club and right away found my little group of friends, my community, my skating coach.”

It quickly became clear she would go far in the skating world, causing her to choose homeschooling at an early age. After skating in the morning, she would follow her parents to work to complete her school work. Her mom owned a rubber stamp shop, while her dad owned a comic book store in the downtown Lansing area.

Because of her Lansing upbringing, Hubbell figured she would follow in her parents’ footsteps and attend Michigan State to pursue a degree in forensic pathology.

However, instead of college, Hubbell continued to train for her eventual goal of competing at the Olympics. 

She got her first taste of pairs ice dancing by competing with her brother Keiffer Hubbell. After a while, he decided to retire and they officially ended their partnership in 2011.

It was time for Madison Hubbell to find someone new to skate with.

The choice was clear, just maybe not to her. Donohue was her rival, as they had previously competed against each other for Team USA with different partners, but their coaches saw something the two of them didn’t.

“He came to the rink where I was training which at that time was in Detroit, and he walked in,” Hubbell said. “I did not want to try out with him because he was my rival. I was not ready to skate with anyone except my brother, and our coaches kind of forced it. I think they knew that we would be a good match for each other.”

Quickly, it became clear to both of them their coaches made the right decision, and the beginning of an Olympic partnership was born.

“We had both competed internationally,” she said. “The selection of who to skate with is already quite slim, and then when we started skating together, it’s true that our styles suited each other, so, at that point, we knew pretty quickly and in a matter of days, we made the decision to start the journey.”

Her partnership with Donohue isn’t the only relationship Hubbell formed through ice dancing. She is currently engaged to Spanish ice dancer Adrián Diaz, with plans to tie the knot this summer. The two met due to their involvement in the tight-knit figure skating community.

“It’s like this small little group,” Hubbell said. “It’s very common that around your mid-20s, you’re looking for more serious relationships. You say, ‘I’m not going to settle down with a skater,’ and, ‘I’ll find somebody outside of the skating world,’ and then almost all of us end up finding someone within our own world.”

Diaz also competed at the 2022 Beijing Olympic games in February, making for a memorable trip for the couple. 

“We’re each other’s biggest cheerleader, and it was a really big goal for us to be at the Olympics together,” Hubbell said. “He did the Olympics in 2014 and then he was trying to make it as well in 2018, and he didn’t qualify so it was really hard to leave for the airport and leave him behind, so to be able to travel together in those three weeks be there together, and he also skated really phenomenally so it was a great way to finish my career.”

Hubbell plans to stay in the figure skating world, taking on the more creative side of the sport, despite entering retirement. 

“For the very near future, I am going to be doing a lot of shows,” she said. “We’ll start our tour, ‘Stars on Ice,’ in mid-April, and we go to 24 cities including several in Michigan. ... That’s kind of the plan is to continue doing shows as long as we can, experience what it is to perform with no rules, with no judges and enjoy that side of it.”

Of course, Hubbell also has a wedding to plan. She and Diaz plan to marry in Spain this upcoming summer. While they both have busy schedules with their ice dancing commitments, the pair couldn’t be more excited to plan the ceremony and enter this next stage of their lives together.

This story was part of our March 29 print edition.

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