AP

Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue successfully defend ice dance national title

Leave a comment

DETROIT — Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue successfully defended their ice dance national title, defeating two teams that train with them in Montreal in order to do so on Saturday night.

The 2018 Worlds silver medalists and Grand Prix Final champions scored 131.32 in the free dance to tally 215.88 total points.

“This performance more than ever before, Zach and I were really connected,” Hubbell said before receiving the team’s medals. “We kept looking into each other’s eyes. We created a bubble… to open our bubble and see everybody standing, it was really special.”

“[We] have really been on a journey of recreating who we are… coming into this it was a whole new event; a whole new nationals,” Donohue added.

Hubbell and Donohue mentioned over the course of the season so far that their free dance had been evolving to better tell the story of Romeo and Juliet.

Here at nationals, they received six 10s for their program component score (PCS) under “interpretation of the music/timing.” They received three additional 10s for “performance.” No other PCS score was below 9.50 points.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, competing for just the second time this month after being out for 10 months due to injury, finished with silver medals. The 2015 national champions scored 129.19 in the free dance for a total of 211.52 points.

Chock and Bates were both spotted lip syncing throughout their free dance.

“We didn’t mean to do that,” Chock admitted. “I was just having so much fun, and I enjoyed the song. It’s just such a fun, different piece of music. You don’t see too many upbeat pieces in the free dance… I think it’s just really nice to show that contrast and really dance because our program is so much about dance.”

“I honestly have not had as much fun on competitive ice before,” Bates added. “I feel like we’re skating from a place of gratitude more so than ever and I think it’s coming through with our skating.”

The third Montreal-based team, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, won the bronze. They had never finished higher than fourth place at a U.S. Championships. The last skaters of the night, Hawayek and Baker earned 120.18 in the free dance for a total score of 196.95 points.

Results: Ice dance final

Before the event, the families of the top teams gathered outside Little Caesars Arena for a tailgate party. With the top teams in Montreal, opportunities for the Detroit-area families to see their relatives compete were slim.

U.S. ice dance champions of the past were on hand during the medal ceremony, where the top three teams plus pewter medalists (fourth place) finishers Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter received flowers, congratulations, and their new hardware.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the 2014 Olympic ice dance gold medalists, Tenith White (formerly Belbin) and Ben Agosto, the 2006 Olympic silver medalists, and two-time Olympians Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow were all part of the awards show for the ice dancers.

MORE: Papadakis, Cizeron win fifth consecutive European ice dance title

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

USOPC proposes more athletes on board as part of overhaul

Getty Images
Leave a comment

DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is proposing an increase in athlete representation on its board and a recasting of its mission statement to include the job of promoting athletes’ well-being.

These changes are part of a proposal, released Monday, to rewrite the USOPC bylaws.

The rewrite comes 20 days after federal lawmakers — looking for a shake-up in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal that has tainted the U.S. Olympic movement — proposed their own drastic overhaul of the law governing the USOPC.

The USOPC portrayed its proposals as merely a first step, and, indeed, the measures lack many of Congress’ more aggressive proposals.

But they would heed athletes’ calls for more representation, by increasing their makeup on the board from 20% to 33%.

They would also change the mission statement to read: “empower Team USA athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and well-being,” where previously the well-being part was not mentioned.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Overhaul would give Congress power to fire USOPC board

Why a 62-year-old played at the world badminton championships

Mathew Fogarty
Courtesy Mathew Fogarty
Leave a comment

Mathew Fogarty said badminton’s European elite made fun of him for playing professionally at age 59. That was three years ago. Fogarty still competes at the sport’s highest level, taking part in the world championships that began Monday in Basel, Switzerland.

Fogarty, who turns 63 on Oct. 30, is older than any U.S. Olympian in any sport since the St. Louis 1904 Games, according to the OlyMADMen.

“I play because I can, and I’m a doctor, and I think sports is a really important part of people’s health and fitness,” said Fogarty, who has played competitively since age 7, whose full-time job is a psychoanalyst and who is based in the Los Angeles area. “I’ll stop badminton when I can no longer qualify. There’s still opportunity, and I love the sport. I’m going to continue to do the best I can.”

He lost in the first round of mixed doubles at worlds on Monday. Fogarty and partner Isabel Zhong, a 27-year-old with an IMBD profile, saw their world championships end in 23 minutes, a 21-9, 21-10 loss to a Ukrainian pair.

That was more competitive than Fogarty’s last two worlds appearances — a 21-6, 21-4 loss with Zhong in 2018 and a 21-2, 21-4 loss with another partner in 2017. Fogarty’s only international match wins in the last two years came via walkover or the one time his singles opponent retired after three points, according to his World Badminton Federation profile. He won an international tournament as recently as 2011 and said his career-high mixed doubles world ranking was 32.

He and Zhong paired because they were part of the same Manhattan Beach Badminton Club, and she wanted to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, Fogarty said. Zhong did not respond to an interview request.

“I told her I didn’t know if we could do it, but we could try,” Fogarty said. “It’s extremely remote [chances] … slim to nil.”

The top mixed doubles team from the North and South American region is in line to qualify for the Olympics. The leaders in qualifying so far are Canadians ranked 19th in the world. Fogarty and Zhong, though they are the only U.S. mixed doubles team at worlds, are 67th in the world in Olympic qualifying and third among Americans.

The U.S. has never earned an Olympic medal in badminton, which debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Mixed doubles was added starting at Atlanta 1996, but the U.S. has put just one mixed team into an Olympics, getting swept out of pool play in Rio.

Fogarty, who has never played at the Olympics, is able to play at worlds for a few reasons: he can fund his way to international events to accumulate ranking points; the U.S. is historically weak and has a lack of players with professional ambitions; mixed doubles is the least common of the Olympic disciplines.

“Matt takes it seriously,” said Dean Schoppe, a fellow 62-year-old who has known and played with Fogarty for nearly a half-century. Schoppe recently retired from pro badminton himself. “Matt still approaches the matches with the actual idea of winning,”

Schoppe called Fogarty the best American junior player of his generation in the late 1970s.

“Most badminton players retire at about 26 or 27 with their first catastrophic injury, which is usually a torn Achilles,” he said. “There are people who are born [to play], you see it in every sport. Magic Johnson, they have the peripheral vision. They have the balance. They have all the intangibles that other people have to try to learn and can’t.

“He has the gift. He can look at you peripherally and see that you’re leaning. … Fogarty can hold the serve and turn his shoulders and do crap that makes you fall over, and that infuriates.”

Mathew Fogarty
Badmintonphoto/BWF

Fogarty took breaks from the sport for medical school in the 1980s and ’90s. He returned in the late 1990s and kept playing deep into his 40s, 50s and now 60s in part, he said, to challenge corruption within the sport.

Fogarty had legal battles with USA Badminton. He said that past officials broke up his Olympic hopeful partnership with a teenager in men’s doubles to push others toward the 2000 Sydney Games.

“The last thing they wanted was a 42-year-old with an 18-year-old trying to make the Olympics,” Schoppe said.

USA Badminton recently had mass resignations among its board and top officials amid reports of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee threatening decertification.

USA Badminton’s new interim CEO, 1992 and 1996 Olympian Linda French, declined comment on Fogarty’s past issues with the organization because she was not formally involved at the time.

“We’re hopeful to move forward in a positive manner and wish all our athletes continued success,” French said.

Fogarty does not know how much longer he will travel the world, or even the U.S., to play competitively. A 43-year-old told him at a recent event that Fogarty was his inspiration to keep playing.

“The nature of sports is you can’t predict what it’s going to be,” Fogarty said.

Schoppe dismissed a question of whether it’s easier to play badminton at such a ripe age than other physically demanding sports.

“Imagine pulling out James Worthy and say, OK, James you are now starting for Golden State and you’re playing the Lakers tomorrow,” Schoppe said. “You cannot be old in badminton and do well in badminton. It’s nothing like baseball.

“We were the anomaly of anomalies to have success in our 40s. Nobody does.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master competition schedule