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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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Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement