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Dance party: Before the ice dance final, Hubbell, Bates’ families gather for Little Caesars Arena-style tailgate

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By Colton Wood

DETROIT – Madison Hubbell’s uncle Steve Dedoes played “We Are the Champions” on his trumpet, embraced the frigid Michigan weather and chanted “Defense!” Saturday afternoon in a parking lot just blocks from Little Caesars Arena.

After all, who could blame him; he was having a celebration that was a year in the making.

Dedoes was geographically restricted to watching his niece win the 2018 U.S. ice dance title with Zachary Donohue from his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so when nationals came to Detroit this year, it gave Dedoes the opportunity to have a long-overdue reception with family and friends.

When it was announced in September nationals was coming to Detroit, Dedoes’ son, Mattie, without thinking twice, proposed the family attend Hubbell’s title defense and host a tailgate during the hours leading up to her skate.

“It’s not a thought,” said Mattie Dedoes, Maddie’s cousin who grew up attending tailgates for University of Michigan football games. “It’s just what you do.”

Mattie Dedoes admitted he was, in a way, joking about the tailgate, but when his family gathered together for Christmas, he realized his idea was actually going to come to fruition.

“For us, it’s not that we’re lunatic sports fans, it’s just an opportunity to have fun,” Steve Dedoes said. “Our family, I wouldn’t say we do everything together. We’ve never been to one of Madison’s events now that she’s on the top rung of the ladder.”

Steve Dedoes is a big fan of Michigan sports, so supporting his niece reach skating stardom has brought the fan of a city struggling to become relevant in sports again great relief.

“We get to root for a winner for a change!” Dedoes shouted Saturday.

The scene at the tailgate before Saturday’s free dance. Colton Wood/NBC Sports Figure Skating

Maddie’s mom, Sue Hubbell (also known for creating her daughter’s on-ice costumes), reached out to Donohue’s and Evan Bates’ family about the tailgate, hoping to collaborate to form one immense tailgate. They instantly agreed.

“I love being outside,” said Dee Eggert, Donohue’s mother. “I don’t like being in the stress of the arena, so I’d rather be outside just having a good time and not thinking about the stuff to come.”

Eggert said she often tailgates for football and other popular events but has never thought about tailgating for a figure skating competition.

“Nobody has ever done this that I know of,” she said. “It’s mainly the big sports – football, baseball. We do them at those, but skating is more of sitting in a lounge and drinking a glass of wine.”

MORE: Figure Skating in Detroit unites Olympians, opportunity and life skills for young girls

Michaela Kearsey, Hubbell’s best friend who lives in Scotland, learned of the tailgate and Hubbell’s family’s plans to attend her title defense, and decided to come home from Scotland earlier than planned.

Kearsey met Hubbell when she moved down from the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and started skating at the Lansing Skating Club.

Though she no longer skates with Hubbell and despite the Atlantic Ocean stationed between the two longtime friends, they still keep in touch.

“Thank goodness for technology,” she said. “We just text and send voice messages through WhatsApp. I got married last summer. Her and my sister were co-maids of honor, so we did a lot of wedding planning via WhatsApp.”

On Saturday, Kearsey ate, drank and enjoyed the company of Hubbell’s family and friends.

When Steve Dedoes brought together everyone to pose for a picture during the tailgate, Dedoes brought out the iconic D-fence sign and started chanting “Defense!”

“Defense!” Colton Wood/NBC Sports Figure Skating

Kearsey watched as Dedoes referred to Hubbell and Donohue’s title defense and began to laugh.

The ability to experience her best friend carve her own path through the figure skating realm, Kearsey said, has been incredible.

“It’s been really fun watching her journey,” she said. “When I was over in [Scotland] studying, I was able to go see a few of her competitions in Europe, which was really cool. It’s different coming from skating myself; I’m getting the sense now of how our moms used to get so nervous watching.”

Nancy Bates, the mother of Evan Bates, said the tailgate felt like a family reunion.

“We have 50 family members here, and they came from all over the country,” Nancy Bates said. “They’ll come once a year somewhere – usually nationals. It’s like a family reunion.”

Nancy Bates said she rarely gets to see her son, who moved to Montreal with partner Madison Chock, because of his hectic skating schedule, but said she goes to the majority of his competitions.

The families stood for hours in sub-freezing temperatures, prioritizing family and friends over warmth and celebrating their loved ones’ success in figure skating.

“We’re going to be drinking until midnight and miss the [ice dance] event,” Steve Dedoes said. “Just kidding.”

MORE: Skaters’ ties to Detroit add local flavor to U.S. Championships 

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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Joey Mantia extends U.S. medal streak at speed skating worlds; Dutch dominance returns

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Joey Mantia ensured the host U.S. finished with a medal at the world single distances championships. Ireen WüstKjeld Nuis and Jorrit Bergsma ensured the Netherlands finished atop the medal standings.

Mantia joined Shani Davis as the only U.S. men to earn individual medals at three different editions of the championships, taking bronze in the 1500m on the last day of the speed skating meet at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Mantia won the mass start at the last two worlds in 2017 and 2019 (and finished fifth on Sunday, after the 1500m bronze).

Mantia clocked a personal best 1:42.16 in the fifth of 12 pairs of the 1500m. It held up until Nuis (1:41.66) and countryman Thomas Krol (1:41.73) in the last two pairs.

“Was starting to think that I’m so old that I can’t time trial anymore,” Mantia, a 34-year-old whose last 1500m personal best came in 2015, told media in Utah. “Maybe there’s a little bit of hope left.”

Mantia’s medal extended the U.S. streak of making the podium at every world championships this millennium — 16 straight. The single bronze is the smallest medal output since 2000.

Full results are here.

Wüst and Nuis gave the Dutch a sweep of the men’s and women’s 1500m titles, two years after they did the same at the PyeongChang Olympics. Bergsma, an Olympic and world 10,000m champion, earned his first global medal of any color — gold — in the 16-lap mass start.

The Netherlands failed to earn any golds on the first two days of the four-day competition. The dominant Dutch, who topped the medal standings at every Olympics and worlds dating to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, entered Sunday trailing Russia.

But Wüst began the day by clocking 1:50.92 to win the 1500m by .21 over Russian Yevgenia Lalenkova. American medal hope Brittany Bowe, the 2015 World champion who took bronze last year, finished 14th a day after taking eighth in her world-record 1000m distance.

Nuis and Krol went one-two in the men’s 1500m to tie Russia’s medal total. Then Irene Schouten took bronze in the women’s mass start to put the Netherlands ahead for good, followed by Bergsma’s capper.

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MORE: Shani Davis retires, takes new role in speed skating

Netherlands on the board; more world records at speed skating worlds

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It took four world records from other countries before the Netherlands won its first title in an Olympic program event at the world single distances speed skating championships.

Jutta Leerdam got the dominant skating nation on the board on the third day of the four-day competition and in the ninth Olympic program event. Leerdam scored an upset over defending champion and world-record holder Brittany Bowe, the American who ended up eighth.

Leerdam, 21, prevailed despite having zero World Cup podiums to her name. She clocked 1:11.84, just .23 slower than Bowe’s world record set on the same Utah Olympic Oval last year. Bowe, who recently had her yearlong win streak snapped in the 1000m, finished in 1:12.92.

“It’s a nightmare,” Bowe said, according to media on site.

Later, the Netherlands won the men’s team pursuit in a world record 3:34.68, the fifth world record in Olympic events the last two days on the world’s fastest ice at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Full results are here.

The world championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by American Joey Mantia defending his world title in the mass start.

In other Saturday events, both the men’s 1000m and women’s 5000m world records fell. On Friday, world records were lowered in the men’s 10,000m and women’s team pursuit.

Pavel Kulizhnikov followed his Friday world 500m title with the 1000m crown, repeating his double gold from 2016. Kulizhnikov was one of the Russians banned from the PyeongChang Olympics after he served a prior doping ban.

On Saturday, Kulizhnikov clocked 1:05.69 to take .49 off Dutchman Kjeld Nuis‘ record from last March, also set at Salt Lake City. Nuis, the Olympic 1000m and 1500m champion, took silver, 1.03 seconds behind.

Russian Natalya Voronina and Czech Martina Sablikova both went under Sablikova’s world record in the 5000m. Voronina came out on top in 6:39.02, 2.99 seconds faster than Sablikova’s record from a year ago and 2.16 seconds faster than Sablikova on Saturday.

Voronina’s time would have been the men’s world record as recently as 1993. Sablikova won the previous 10 world titles in the event dating to 2007.

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MORE: World Single Distances Championships broadcast schedule