Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue starting new holiday traditions

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If anyone has reason to celebrate during this holiday season, it’s defending U.S. ice dance champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. They’ve had an outstanding autumn, which they kicked off by winning their fourth U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and then cemented their place in the ice dancing hierarchy with gold medals at Skate America, Skate Canada and the Grand Prix Final.

This year, they’ll be celebrating Christmas separately. Hubbell is heading home to Sylvania, Ohio with fiancé Adrian Diaz and Donohue is going to England with girlfriend Olivia Smart.

They’re training at the Gadbois Centre in Montreal until Dec. 21, so for now, they’ve brought the holidays into their training base. Hubbell has put up Christmas decorations in her apartment, including a tree, stockings and candles that smell like pine trees.

Donohue decorated both Smart’s apartment and his, with Hubbell’s assistance on the latter. He hosted a holiday get together for the skaters heading off to other destinations. He admitted that he just began his Christmas gift shopping on Saturday.

While it’s pretty cold and snowy in Montreal this time of year, Hubbell and Donohue said the Christmas spirit is evident. “Everybody is out shopping,” said Hubbell, who hoped to check out a Christmas market near where she lives. She’s been following it on Instagram and said it looks lovely.

This is Hubbell’s first Christmas visit home with Diaz. It will be his first American Christmas. Diaz has always lived in a city in an apartment, so the Hubbells’ decorated house will be a big change for him. Also, Hubbell’s mother, Susan, is very detailed in making Christmas stockings.

“My mom has always been like ‘Stockings come first,’” said Hubbell. “She makes these beautiful heirloom stockings and embroiders our names on them. Even this year, we’re not doing any big presents, but we fill our stockings with small gifts, which is really fun. It’s a bunch of little tokens that reminds you of that person. It will be his first year waking up to a stocking that is actually made by my mom, which is really special because she puts so much time into it.”

The house will only be quiet for a short time on Christmas morning. Soon, Hubbell’s older brother, Zach, his wife, Nicole, and four young sons will arrive.

“That’s a lot of energy,” said Hubbell. “You get to wake up with a coffee before the chaos ensues.”

Hubbell’s other brother, Keiffer, her former ice dance partner, will be coming from Michigan.

Smart’s family lives outside Sheffield, England. This will be their first holiday in a new home. They celebrate not only Christmas, but also Boxing Day, which is Dec. 26. Boxing day originated in the United Kingdom, with the origin of the name referring to a Christmas box, containing money or presents, being bestowed to servants or workers. In recent times, it has other interpretations.

“Everyone gets up at 8 a.m. at the latest, and we’re going to go to a cool village that’s got tons of sales on for shopping,” said Donohue. “The first year we started dating we went to the UK and had a huge party with all of her family. Christmas Eve is the bigger celebration.”

Christmas Day will begin with just immediate family in the morning and then Smart’s grandparents will come over. Later, they’ll connect with other relatives.

Following Christmas, Hubbell and Donohue head to Lake Placid, NY for a Stars on Ice performance on Dec. 30. New Year’s celebrations will be fairly low-key, but still festive.

Diaz is from Spain, where they not only celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, but also Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. Hubbell never placed a priority on New Year’s Eve, often falling asleep before the clock struck 12, but celebrating the New Year is a big deal to Diaz.

“It is so important to end it with family and turn over the new year,” said Hubbell. “One of their big traditions is in the last 12 seconds of the year you have to eat 12 grapes.”

Training begins again the first week of January to prepare for the U.S. Championships. They’re excited that the competition will be in Detroit, where they lived and trained for many years. Many of Hubbell’s relatives will be present and they are even planning a tailgating party.

“They’re going to pretend figure skating is like football,” she said.

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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NFL star Jared Allen’s team beats Olympic champions at curling nationals

Jared Allen
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Retired NFL star Jared Allen was part of a curling team that beat 2018 Olympic champion John Shuster to open the U.S. Championships in Denver on Sunday night.

Allen, who retired from the NFL in 2016 and picked up curling in 2018, is on 2010 Olympian Jason Smith‘s team, which beat Shuster’s team 10-6 in the first game of round-robin play.

After all eight teams play each other, the top four advance to Friday’s playoffs. The winner of Saturday’s final is national champion and is expected to be the U.S. team for the world championship in Ottawa in April.

Allen, 40, said before nationals that he is eyeing the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“I thought curling was going to be a lot easier than it was,” Allen, who was on a different team at the last nationals in 2021 that went 0-9, told the newspaper. “But I’m one of those guys who, once I start something, I’m going to see it through. Our goal at nationals is to beat as many teams as we possibly can and see where we land.”

How big of an upset was Sunday’s result? Ken Pomeroy rated Smith’s team fifth in the eight-team field before the tournament, while he had Shuster’s team second behind Korey Dropkin.

Shuster’s team won the last three nationals that they entered, plus the last two Olympic Trials since the bulk of the team formed for the 2015 season. Shuster went 11-0 at his last nationals in 2020, then 11-2 at the 2022 Olympic Trials, where the younger Dropkin beat him twice but ultimately lost in the finals series.

Allen was first linked to serious curling in February 2018 via U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne on a Minnesota ESPN radio show. Nanne said Allen told him at a dinner.

“[Allen] says, ‘I’m giving myself four years to make the Olympic curling team,’” said Nanne, a 1968 U.S. Olympian.

Allen, along with retired quarterback Marc Bulger, first played on a team with 2010 Olympian John Benton and fellow veteran curler Hunter Clawson.

Allen’s new team includes Smith, who played on the 2010 Olympic team skipped by Shuster, Clawson and Dominik Maerki.

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U.S. Alpine skiers wear climate change-themed race suits at world championships

U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit
Images via Kappa
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Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.

Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.

The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It’s a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).

The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which started Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end Feb. 19.

“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

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Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.

“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me.”

What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit’s most storied venues.

“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who’s been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.

“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? … What kind of message do we need show to the public, to the world, about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?”

The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization’s snowflake logo on the leg.

“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snowsports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.

Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.

“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too,” Ganong said.

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U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit