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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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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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MORE: Top U.S. bobsled driver pregnant, to miss season