© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lansing Skating Club integral part of journey for Olympic medalist ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue

Lansing Skating Club members hold up a sign in support of fellow members Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Hubbell and Donohue won two medals at the Olympics.
Kirsten Miller-Zisholz
Kirsten Miller-Zisholz
Lansing Skating Club members hold up a sign in support of fellow members Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Hubbell and Donohue won two medals at the Olympics.

 Skaters start young, learning to skate at their hometown rinks. And sometimes, those skaters grow up to be some of the best in the world.

The dream came true for American ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. The pair won the bronze medal in ice dancing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, plus silver in the team event.

The medals round off a decade of partnership now coming to an end: this past October, Hubbell and Donohue announced they’d retire from competitive figure skating following the 2022 World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier, France.

Hubbell and Donohue’s careers have taken them all over the world, competing for the United States and winning several national and international competitions.

But one city serves as both a start and a constant in their journey to the top of the figure skating world: Lansing, Michigan.

Hubbell and Donohue don’t just represent Team USA: they are also members of the Lansing Skating Club. While Donohue joined LSC after pairing with Hubbell for a few years, Hubbell started her career – and now finishes it – with the club.

“It's not surprising that she's had all the success that she has, and it's been fun to watch her grow and mature and do what she's doing … we’re super proud of her,” said Kirsten Miller-Zisholz, a LSC coach who taught Hubbell in freestyle when she was younger.

Hubbell joined LSC at 5 as part of their “learn to skate” program; she wanted to be like Kristi Yamaguchi, a two-time World champion figure skater and Olympic gold medalist. At 8, she started ice dancing with Nicholas Donohue (no relation to Zach) before being paired with her brother, Keiffer. When Hubbell was in middle school, her family moved to Ann Arbor, representing LSC for a little longer before switching to the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club. About a decade later, the Hubbells began training with former Olympian Pasquale Camerlengo and the Detroit Skating Club.


Hubbell teamed with Donohue after she and Keiffer split in 2011. The two stayed with Detroit Skating Club for a few years before moving to Montreal to continue training. But moving posed an issue: to skate for Team USA, you need an affiliation, which is usually provided through a local U.S. club (Hubbell and Donohue theoretically could have been independent members). They needed a club that would give them memberships and the freedom to train elsewhere.

“Detroit (Skating Club) didn’t want them to be members,” said Heather Cook, a family friend of the Hubbells. “They could have gone (anywhere) … there are huge clubs that love to have that international recognition, but Madison wanted to return to where she started. And Zach didn’t care, so she and Zach became members of the Lansing Skating Club.”

Club staff and members appreciate Hubbell and Donohue’s representation, and the pair serve as inspiration within the organization. They are well-respected for their ability and status as successful representatives of the program. And Hubbell’s status as a Lansing native shows members that success can come from anywhere, even home.

“Everybody in the rink knows who Madison and Zach are and are always excited to cheer for them (and) see how they're doing in all their competitions across the world,” said Miller-Zisholz. “We're always searching for role models, and I feel like the kids … it makes it more real that it's a possibility for them.”

The club finds little ways to support Hubbell and Donohue during competitions and events. LSC routinely posts on their website and social pages to celebrate Hubbell and Donohue for recent successes. During the Olympics, members made signs supporting Hubbell and Donohue, as well as the rest of Team USA, to hang around the rink. LSC also organized a watch party to cheer on Hubbell and Donohue during their medal-winning free dance routine on Feb. 13, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Hubbell and Donohue have found occasions to support the club, too, despite their schedules. They were guest coaches for LSC in 2014 and 2015 through the “Grassroots to Champions” summer program.

In some ways, Hubbell and Donohue are the latest in a long line of successful skaters from LSC: U.S. national medalists such as Mary Karen Campbell and Alice Cook represented the club. The United States Figure Skating Association’s first female president, Claire Ferguson, was an LSC member. Though not officially a member, 1960 Olympic gold medalist and multi-time U.S. and World champion Carol Heiss Jenkins often worked with LSC during the summers, when the club was based out of Michigan State’s Demonstration Hall.

Hubbell and Donohue are the latest, to be sure, but certainly not the least: they are the first LSC representatives in the Olympics in a few decades, and they are the first LSC skaters to win Olympic medals.

“We're proud of our facility and we're proud of the kids we've been able to maybe not 100% produce out of our facility but give them their starts,” said Miller-Zisholz.

Winning medals in Beijing was a dream come true for the pair; for Hubbell, it was the realization of a dream that started on Lake Lansing Road almost 25 years prior.

“She had the dream at Lansing Skating Club,” said Cook. “She wanted to finish the dream there, going to the Olympics, representing the Lansing Skating Club.”

Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!