Column: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue earn bronze medal in ice dance

Zachary Donohue carries Madison Hubbell across his back as part of their ice dance routine.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue perform their routine Monday that helped them win the bronze medal in ice dance.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)

Before she stepped off the ice for the last time as a competitive ice dancer Madison Hubbell did a little twirl, soaking in the moment and the lively atmosphere at Capital Indoor Stadium.

She and partner Zachary Donohue had earned the satisfaction of knowing they had saved their best for last, earning an Olympic bronze medal Monday with a mesmerizing and technically accomplished free dance that capped their careers on a high note.

Hubbell and Donohue’s performance to “Drowning” by Anne Sila was the highlight of a partnership that included three U.S. championships and a fourth-place finish at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Their final total of 218.02 points — which included a deduction of one point for an extended lift in their free dance — put them on the podium alongside incomparable gold medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France (226.98 points) and runners-up Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of the Russian Olympic Committee (220.51 points).


Madison Chock of Redondo Beach and partner Evan Bates, who won the U.S. ice dance title last month, finished fourth with 214.77, their best showing in their three Olympic appearances together. Bates also competed at the 2010 Games with a different partner.

The theme of Chock and Bates’ free dance was love, as discovered by an alien and an astronaut, and it reflected their off-ice romantic relationship. Although they didn’t win an ice dance medal they will leave Beijing with a silver medal for their contribution to the U.S. runner-up finish in the team event last week.

“I have always been told since I was a little girl that my journey through skating should always beabout the days and the moments, not just the accolades. I think this medal only came because we really took that to heart in the last four years,” Hubbell said.

“We tried to skate like normal, like we do every day at practice and trusted that would be enough. And it was, so we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Papadakis and Cizeron skated last and earned a perfect 10 for composition among their program component scores and a 9.96 for performance. That accurately reflected the quality of their skate to “Elegie” by Gabriel Faure, which drew a standing ovation.

Evan Bates lifts Madison Chock over his head during their free dance routine.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates perform their free-dance routine Monday in the ice dance competition.
(Natacha Pisarenko / Associated Press)

The couple, who experienced the embarrassment of Papadakis’ wardrobe malfunction at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and finished second, enjoyed their moment of triumph by embracing at center ice, near the Beijing Olympics logo.

They had the highest scores in each segment of the ice dance event, the rhythm dance and Sunday’s free dance.

It was the fifth straight Olympics in which Americans have won a medal in ice dancing. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto began the dynasty by winning a silver medal at Turin in 2006. Meryl Davis and Charlie White won silver in 2010 and gold in 2014, and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani won bronze four years ago.

When Hubbell stepped off the ice she hugged and lifted one of her coaches, Marie France Dubrueil, in sheer joy. While sitting in the kiss-and-cry area awaiting their scores, Hubbell said, “I love you Mom. I love you Dad,” no doubt remembering their contributions to her long and successful career.

“Everybody in that last group, we were all so tight to each other and a mistake could screw up the plan,” Hubbell said of the close scores entering the free dance. “So we were all quite tense, but it’s a testament to how we push each other to continue to improve.”

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the third American dance duo, performed an elegant free dance to music by Chopin to rank 10th in the free dance segment and finished a solid 11th overall with 189.74 points in their Olympic debut, offering promise that the American ice dance dynasty will continue.