Saturday, Oct 20, 2018
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David Briggs


Hubbell makes northwest Ohio proud with Olympics performance

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    Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States perform during the free dance final Tuesday at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.


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    Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States perform during the free dance competition. Hubbell used to live in Sylvania, and her parents still reside there.


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I’ll be honest: I know less about figure skating than Homer Simpson knows about low cholesterol.

Couldn’t tell you the difference between a Dick Button — the two-time gold medalist in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics — and a snap button, and the closest I’ve come to completing a quad axel is eating a Burger King Quad Stacker.

But then what are any of us if not crash-course, five-ringed experts? Cheat sheet: Sport with gun (biathlon): Boring. Sport with broom (curling): Strangely exciting. Sport with dangerous moguls: Wait, that’s rush hour on the Anthony Wayne Trail.

In any case, we know plenty enough to appreciate Madison Hubbell made our area proud this week.

In her first Olympics, Hubbell — the 26-year-old former Sylvania resident whose parents, Brad and Susan, still live in town — and Zachary Donohue finished fourth in the ice dance competition Tuesday.

No, it was not the result they wanted.

After narrowly missing the 2014 Games and finishing third at U.S. Championships the past three years, this felt like their moment. The breakout pair won at nationals, then waltzed through a well-received short dance Monday, putting them in third place heading into the free dance program.

Instead, the vise of Olympic pressure tightened, and a series of minor technical errors did not go over so well with the nine judges.

Here’s where our novice eye comes in. In singles and pairs figure skating, any drive-by observer can see if you land a big jump, making it easy to differentiate between the skaters. In the ice dance, no jumps or throws or overhead lifts are allowed, the sport judged less on black-and-white wow moments than on the precision of the dance steps.

Turns out, they were twice off balance just so, including on a late sequence of twizzles — a fancy word for a one-foot turn — in which Donohue’s hands touched the ice.

The tandem slipped to fourth with an overall score of 187.69 — almost five points behind bronze-winning American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani. Canadian favorites Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won their second gold with a total score of 206.07.

In a daze afterward, Hubbell and Donohue displayed nothing but class. Donohue blamed himself, saying, “There’s no good reason why that happens when I can do it a billion times out of a billion at home.”

“It’s a pretty hard feeling,” a teary-eyed Hubbell told reporters. “As much as the Olympics is about amazing dream moments, there’s a lot more Olympians that have this moment. Certainly it’s something that’s difficult, but as much as this is my dream, it was our dream to be here, and we still got that dream.”

That’s what we’ll remember.

Regardless of the aching finale, Hubbell joined a gilded group of athletes who well acquitted northwest Ohio on the planet’s biggest stage.

That’s no small thing and, for that matter, no small club.

Our Olympics history dates to 1904, when the Summer Games in St. Louis featured a men’s golf team event matching three teams of 10 and the bronze medalists included Inverness Club members Harold Fraser, Arthur Hussey, Orus Jones, and Harold Weber. It has since expanded to count too many names to note all of them without forgetting a few.

But most notably, it includes Wilbert McClure, the Toledo boxer-turned-professor who in the throes of the Cold War surmounted a hometown favorite, a Russian referee, and Iron Curtain judges to capture the gold medal at the 1960 Games in Rome; Scott Hamilton, the Toledo-born and Bowling Green-bred figure skater who brought back the gold in 1984; Anna Tunnicliffe, the Perrysburg sailor who turned the Yellow Sea into gold in 2008 in Beijing; and Erik Kynard, the Rogers grad who vaulted to a silver medal in the high jump in 2012.

If Hubbell fell short of such company this time, she and Donohue, on-ice partners for seven years, reminded their story is far from done.

See you in 2022?

“At this moment, we are disappointed and frustrated,” Hubbell said, “because this was not close to our best. At this level, you cannot afford to make mistakes against this type of competition. But we will build off this and not allow this to be our legacy.”

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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