MADISON — Olympic flags, along with the American flag, are flying high along the downtown thoroughfare to celebrate the town’s three Olympic athletes.
Freestyle aerial skier Kiley McKinnon, along with fellow freestyle aerialist Mac Bohonnon and ice dancer Zachary Donohue, will be joining Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The games take place from Friday, Feb. 9 to Sunday, Feb. 25.
“It’s pretty cool that people are kind of paying attention to what’s going on and realizing that Madison is a pretty cool place and that a lot of good things have come out of it,” says 22-year-old McKinnon. “It’s just really awesome to have that support.”
This will be Bohonnon’s second Olympic games. At the 2014 Sochi, Russia Olympics, as an 18-year-old, he took fifth place. In addition, the 22-year-old is the 2015 World Cup aerials champion and has three World Cup wins.
Heading into the games, McKinnon is a 2015 World Cup aerials champion, 2015 World Championships silver medalist and has seven World Cup podiums. She missed the 2014 Olympics due to an elbow injury.
Donohue, along with his partner, Madison Hubbell, also has his share of awards. The couple earned bronze medals at the U.S. Championships in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017. At the 2018 U.S. Nationals, this past January, they won their first national title.
After skating with many other partners, the 27-year-old found the perfect match in Hubbell in 2011.The two dated for two years into their partnership, something that Donohue admits adds to their chemistry on the ice.
“That’s what we’re known for,” he says. “That’s what our team quality is. We’re known for bringing passion and sensuality onto the ice.”
McKinnon and Bohonnon have known each other since their days as first-graders at Island Avenue School. While Bohonnon left town before entering high school, McKinnon attended Daniel Hand High School as a freshman and sophomore, leaving to pursue freestyle aerial skiing at Bohonnon’s suggestion.
“I forget a lot of the time,” admits McKinnon. “We’ve been together for so long, doing this sport, that it’s kind of just become a thing that we’re just teammates and we’re just both travelling the world doing aerials and then again and again we’ll be reminded that we grew up together.”
Donohue, however, was homeschooled while living in town. It was when he was 11-years-old that he discovered his passion for skating and began devoting countless hours to the sport, many during regular school hours. Although he moved around a lot as a youth, he fondly remembers Madison.
“My friends and I would go hang out at Hammonasset State Park…and town and going through the woods,” he recalls. “All the memories I have are from that area, whether its directly in Madison or surrounding townships. I don’t think I have a single bad memory.
“Being able to carry that with me, especially having a partner named Madison, kind of seems like fate was on my side there, being able to take them into the game is a pretty cool feeling,” he says.
His skating career started at the East Haven’s Veteran’s Memorial Ice Rink Learn to Skate Program.
“Within the first class the teacher looked up and said, ‘You need to find him a coach because he’s way beyond what we’re going to teach him,” recalls his mother, Dee Eggert of Madison.
He presently lives and trains in Montreal, Canada, while Bohonnon and McKinnon make their home in Park City, Utah. In addition to training, the skiers attend the University of Utah.
All the athletes are focusing on preparing for the big day when the world will be watching them perform at the Olympics.
For McKinnon and Bohonnon, practicing means skiing every day, in addition to conditioning at the gym. “We do a lot of things outside of our actual sport of aerials in order to make sure we stay healthy and strong so we will be at our best,” says McKinnon.
This is very similar to Donohue’s schedule of working on the ice and working out at the gym, with HIIT Circuits.
In addition, he says he is very cognizant of what he eats, “just trying to be as natural and a holistic approach to everything.” That includes organic foods, little meat, no dairy and homeopathic medicine, when needed.
All in all, says Donohue, “There’s nothing that prepares you for a program like doing your program.”
As for their first trip to Olympics, Donohue says, “(There’s) not a lot of time to really step back and enjoy. We just have to kind of say, “Okay, this is great.’
“There’s time to think about it later, but right now we just have to kind of put our nose to the grind and keep driving forward,” he adds. “I can’t say everything has sunk in yet. We’re pretty focused on what we have to do right now.”
While McKinnon works on her “Millers,” triple twisting, double back flips, Bohonnon’s strength lies in his quadruple twisting, triple back flips; double, full, full, full and full, double full, full. He is currently pushing himself beyond his usual tricks to perform “The Hurricane,” a trick made famous by former U.S. World Cup male champion, Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, that includes quintuple twisting, triple back flip, with three flips and five twists.
Ask these Olympians if they are scared when they are up in the air performing these amazing feats on skis.
“Yup, every single time,” says Bohonnon, without hesitation.
“Aerials are pretty scary,” adds McKinnon, with a chuckle.
“That’s part of the fun of it, though,” says Bohonnon. “If you ask anyone that knows a lot of our teammates well and people in the sport that they might say we’re all a little bit crazy.”
Having Bohonnon choose this sport doesn’t faze his mother.
“Mac is the youngest of three children and ever since the day he was born he was always trying to keep up with the big kids,” says his mother, Libby Bohonnon.
“He was, at a very young age, jumping off the counters at home,” the Madison resident adds. “We had a trampoline, we had a diving board with our pool and he was always on the move.”
The Bohonnon family, as well as Eggert, will be attending the Olympics.
“The opening ceremonies, watching those athletes march in, that’s the prize moment for me,” says Eggert. “The rest is business. The rest is like any other competition.”
Looking back on his experience at the 2014 Olympics, Bohonnon has some advice for his fellow athletes.
“Don’t screw up,” he said, laughing along with McKinnon.
Then he immediately switches gears and becomes more serious, giving this sage advice.
“Just have fun and enjoy it,” he added, “because this is what we’ve trained our entire lives for.”
Follow the athletes at Kiley McKinnon.com, macbohonnon.com, Hubbell-Donohue.com; Facebook Kiley McKinnon, Mac Bohonnon, Zachary T. Donohue; Instagram kiley.mckinnon, mbohonnon, zachtdonohue; Twitter @Kiley_McKinnon, @MacBohonnon, @hubbellDonohue
Sarah Page Kyrcz can be reached at email@example.com