Duos Dazzling Dance Debut

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Madison and Keiffer Hubbell

Siblings Madison and Keiffer Hubbell, just 15 and 17, made a big splash on the international scene by winning the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in Sofia, Bulgaria in their first season of international competition. “Our goal was really just to skate the best we could and I think we fulfilled that goal,” Madison said. “We were obviously working to be at the top but we weren’t expecting anything.”

The duo qualified for the Final by winning a gold medal at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in The Hague, Netherlands and a silver in Courchevel, France. The dancers have risen rapidly in the United States, winning the juvenile dance title in 2002, the intermediate dance crown in 2003, the novice dance silver medal in 2005, and the junior dance silver medal in 2007.

Their goal for this season was just “to make a graceful entry into the junior circuit,” Keiffer said. “We hoped we’d qualify for Junior Worlds.” Of their Junior Grand Prix Final experience, Madison noted, “We didn’t expect to go or to win. It was a welcome surprise.” “Now we’ll go home and work harder at our skating in order to skate well and do the best that we can.” The skaters hope to continue until at least 2014 and maybe 2018. “There are a lot of people ahead of us,” Madison said, “but we hope we’ll make the Olympics by 2014. We plan to skate as long as we’re doing well.”

Madison was the first in her family to start skating when she took to the ice when she was five. “I would always watch skating on television,” she said. “I especially loved watching pairs. Then I would practice moves on the floor.” She completed her tests through senior freestyle and competed up to intermediate ladies, landing up to a double lutz.

When Madison was eight, Nicholas Donahue asked her to try dance just for fun because there were no other girls at her rink that wanted to dance. They did a few local competitions for a year before he quit. “I didn’t like skating by myself because it was too boring,” she said, “so I asked Keiffer if he would be my partner. I stopped doing freestyle because it was too hard to do both.”

Keiffer followed her to the rink when he was nine. Previously he had been involved in gymnastics from the age of six until he was ten. “I liked the rings,” he said. He also played soccer in a recreational league for two years before he began skating. He began skating for fun, and then started ice dancing with Brittany Blackshaw. When both his partner and Madison’s quit in early 2001, the brother and sister began skating together.

Both of the dancers were born in Lansing, Michigan and train nearby in Ann Arbor, Michigan with coaches Iouri Tchesnitchenko and Iaroslava Netchaeva. They train for almost four hours a day, five days a week and another two hours on Sunday. Off ice, they work for an additional two hours a day. Their program includes running, strength training, ballet, dance class and ballroom instruction.

Tchesnitchenko choreographs all of the couple’s dances. “Iouri brings in some music, we listen and choose what inspires us,” Madison said. “We like to skate to a lot of different kinds of music, but lyrical music fits us best as a team.” This season, the skaters used an Argentine Tango for their original dance and Josh Groban’s “Canto Alla Vita” for the free dance.”

We skated our novice free dance to the same music two years ago,” Keiffer said. “We got good feedback and the judges wanted us to use it for junior internationals,” Madison added. “So we put it aside for a year and then brought it back.” Their exhibition program was a techno remix of a tango. Keiffer is the more musical of the two. He played percussion in his school’s sixth grade band and still plays some on a drum kit at home. “I tried guitar but it didn’t work for me,” she said. Off ice, he enjoys rock and alternative music, while she listens to whatever he has on in the car.

Both skaters enjoy snowboarding, but aren’t involved in any other sports now. Madison enjoys hanging out with her friends and family, going to movies, and playing with her dogs. She collects coins and souvenirs from the countries to which they have traveled. Madison also likes doing arts and crafts, and is looking for a worthwhile organization that helps starving children around the globe, while Keiffer likes going to pet stores. He has two snakes, a poison dart frog, a chameleon and geckos and is adding a dwarf reticulated python to his collection. He collects stickers from his travels to put on his locker at the rink. He also volunteers with Special Olympics and their family supports a Bolivian girl through the Christian Children’s Fund.

Both skaters take high school correspondence courses. Madison is in the tenth grade while Keiffer is in the twelfth. They both like to study science and biology. She wants to go to medical school and become a pathologist, while he wants to do field research in the biological field. Madison likes to watch Doctor G, Medical Examiner, on television while Keiffer watches shows about animals and the environment. “The Discovery Health Channel is always on at our house,” he added.

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