Checking in with Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue ahead of world championships

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Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won their second consecutive national title in January, then went on to compete at the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim in February. They finished fourth and now look toward their next stop at the world championships in Saitama, Japan from March 18-24.

NBCSports.com/figure-skating spoke to Hubbell and Donohue in Detroit after nationals about what they did to feel extra-inspired before their free dance and what exactly is the “Hubbell Bubble.”

Madison, you had a new costume for the rhythm dance at nationals. Did your mom make this one as well?

Hubbell: Yes, she did. Zach gets his done in Montreal. It’s just proven easier. His body has changed since going to Montreal, putting on a lot of muscle. My mom has a body dummy of me so it’s very easy for her to send things. We don’t really need a fitting. But for him it’s just easier to get them done in Montreal.

But yeah, she made this dress. It’s been a thought in the back of our head to keep creating dresses. She likes doing it and I like having many options! For example, we didn’t know which one to wear here [in Detroit]. The red one that we were wearing previously, blends in exactly with the Red Wings color [who also play inside the Little Caesars Arena, where nationals was held]. So, we were like, oh I guess it’s the dark red! It gives us options to see how each dress looks in the rink and what will pop better.

And she got to see it in person.

Hubbell: And she got to see it in person which was a nice treat.

Did you get to see your family post-tailgate? 

Donohue: A little bit.

Hubbell: We met up and saw them yesterday, they were still rowdy. They had their “D-Fence” signs. They had a lot of fun. They’ve been so far removed from our career, in a way. They’re supportive behind the scenes, but financially it hasn’t been an option for them to travel always with us to every competition. They’ve gotten used to kind of watching from afar.

Is your free dance in a place where you want it to be? Are you telling the story the way you want to at this point in the season?

Donohue: We want to bring out more the interpretation of the story itself, but I don’t foresee any big changes for the program.

Hubbell: That’s the thing. We watched the movie before the free dance. It’s the first time actually that we watched it together – I’ve seen it many times. But it’s such an iconic story. On top of that, an iconic breakthrough performance for both of those actors. It’s hard to compete with the emotion they bring to their characters.

Certainly, that’s something we’ll keep developing. We have really good resources for that, someone who can help us with the theatrical side of it back in Montreal. With all of the changes that we’ve been making over the last two months, our focus was less on that. We just didn’t have the time in the day. We relied on the fact that we feel connected to the music but we haven’t really put the time in that we want in the story development.

I think now as the technical side has really been buckled down, it’s the time where we can grow the emotion. I think that’s what it’s gonna need to take it to the next level and get that crowd reaction and the standing ovation at Worlds.

I heard the Ice Desk analyzers were calling it the “Hubbell Bubble,” the way you guys are in your own world when you’re on the ice.

Hubbell: the “Hubble Bubble!” Aww!

Donohue: Well it’s your bubble.

Hubbell: You can be in my bubble.

It makes for a good hashtag.

Hubbell: It’s good, I like that.

MORE: More mature Mariah Bell has more momentum this year ahead of world championships

As a reminder, you can watch the world 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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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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