U.S. ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates made their season debut and won a silver medal while 2013 national champion Max Aaron won bronze in the men’s event thanks to his first-place finish in the free skate Saturday at the Cup of China stop of the ISU Grand Prix.
For 2016 U.S. silver medalist Aaron, 25, the medal was his first at a grand prix event since Skate America in 2015, when he won gold. He finished with a score of 259.69, just ahead of teammate Vincent Zhou, who was fourth in his senior grand prix debut with a score of 256.66. The medal was a jump for Aaron, who was in fifth place after the short program on Friday night with a score of 83.11. His free skate performance, set to music from “The Phantom of the Opera,” included three quads and ended up a career-best, however, with a score of 176.58 for a total of 259.69.
Zhou also leaped up the standings himself. After finishing eighth in the short program (80.23), he had the second-highest free skate score of the event (176.43).
Aaron and Zhou finished behind Cup of China Champion and reigning Russian champion Mikhail Kolyada (279.38) and two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China (264.48). Grant Hochstein was ninth with a score of 216.44.
After finishing in second place after the short dance on Friday night with a score of 72.66, Chock and Bates scored a 111.84 for a total of 184.50 to hold on to their position. France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the 2015 and 2016 world champions, ran away with the event, scoring a 200.43 for the gold medal. Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev took bronze with 182.84.
Chock, 25, and Bates, 28, along with Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, are the top teams vying for spots Team USA’s three spots at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 in February. Chock and Bates, who won silver at worlds in 2015 and bronze in 2016, won their fourth silver medal at the national championships earlier this year; they won gold in 2015.
They are skating to a Latin-flavored Marc Anthony medley for their short dance and an arrangement of “Imagine” by John Lennon for their free dance this season.
"The Olympic ideal (is one of) partnership, fair play, being united no matter what is going on politically in the world,” Bates told the website icenetwork. "Imagine a world where we respect each other's cultures, appreciate each other's cultures without hatred. A judgment-free place. The Olympics promote those ideals, and the music's message is very relevant.”
Two other U.S. ice dance teams had strong showings at Cup of China. Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, the 2016 junior world champions, finished fifth in their grand prix debut with a score of 157.61, and Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit were seventh (150.47).
Amber Glenn, the lone U.S. woman competing in Beijing, finished 10th at her first senior grand prix with a total of 151.14. In pairs, Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were sixth in their grand prix debut together with a score of 154.36.