Madison Chock and Evan Bates skate during the ice dance free dance team event during the Olympics Winter Games Feb. 7, 2022 in Beijing.
This is Chock and Bates’ third Olympic Winter Games together, and their second as an off-ice couple. Still, Bates was a bit taken aback when asked if they had any Valentine’s Day plans, saying, “After … I mean … no.”
“We don’t?” Chock asked in mock surprise.
Regrouping quickly, Bates said, “We’ll see when the competition is over. We are staying focused on skating right now. It’s a boring answer, but it’s true. There is no candlelight dinner. … Maybe I’ll go to the gift shop and see if I can get something there.”
The couple placed fourth in Saturday’s rhythm dance, three points behind teammates Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who are third. Their true Valentine’s Day celebration will be their free dance, “Lovers in Outer Space,” set to music from the French electronic music duo Daft Punk. Bates portrays an astronaut exploring another planet. Along the way he encounters Chock, an alien.
“Actually, Evan is the alien — he’s visiting my planet,” Chock said earlier this season.
Initially cautious, the two discover a way to communicate and, by the end of the free dance, fall in love.
“The core of our program is about finding love and acceptance with someone who is different than you,” Chock said. “We overcome our differences and realize we have more things that are similar, than are different.”
“I think that’s an important message for people to remember, and that we want to share at the Games,” she added. “Just remind everyone that we are all more similar, than we are different, and you can find love with someone from a different place.”
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue react after skating during the ice dance rhythm dance during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 12, 2022 in Beijing.
Hubbell and Donohue, also three-time U.S. champions who placed second to Chock and Bates at the 2022 nationals, also teamed up in 2011. Known for their sensual programs and sultry on-ice connection, they dated years ago, but long ago decided they were better off as friends.
These days, Donohue is involved with Australian ice dancer Chantelle Kerry. Hubbell is engaged to Adrian Diaz, who competes for Spain. They all train in Montreal, as do Chock and Bates.
“Somebody asked us (about Valentine’s Day), and I was surprised that Adrian was like, ‘I’ve got something planned,’” Hubbell said. “I was ‘Oh (darn), I didn’t plan anything, I have to improvise.’”
Diaz, who with partner Olivia Smart placed ninth in Sunday’s rhythm dance, has something up his sleeve.
“I got her a little present before coming here, that I brought with me,” Diaz said. “She’s not expecting anything, because we didn’t speak about it.”
Diaz plans to leave Beijing shortly after the free dance, so the couple hopes to make the most of their final Olympic moments together.
“We’ll find a way to have a little romance,” Hubbell said. “We’ll take a bunch of pictures, run around. I brought a hundred Polaroid films to take pictures with all our teammates and friends. There is a flower shop, so I am expecting flowers, Adrian!”
The third U.S. ice dance team in Beijing, four-time U.S. bronze medalists Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, also train in Montreal. Unlike the top two couples, they have never dated.
The skaters do not see their platonic status as a disadvantage on the ice. They have performed free dances ranging from Beethoven to “Singin’ in the Rain” to Blondie, and rarely emphasize on romance.
“At the end of the day it’s the two of us out there, regardless of it being a loving relationship, or a friendly relationship, or another type of relationship,” Baker said. “I think the love (relationship) is just the quickest and easiest to perceive.”
“There are so many ways you can portray a love relationship,” Hawayek said. “It doesn’t have to be romantic love. … It’s easy to pigeonhole people (and think) when they portray a love story on the ice, it’s romantic, but that’s not always the case. I would encourage people to kind of dive deeper when they watch and see the nuances that make the dances different from one another.”
Hubbell agrees that while romantic programs will always have their place, there is increasing diversity.
“It took some daring teams, brother-and-sister teams, teams with bigger age gaps, to really push the boundaries and get recognition for doing things that are unique,” Hubbell said. “Now you see a lot of different iterations. Even Maddie and Evan, who are romantically involved, do something that has a romantic quality (“Lovers in Outer Space”), but it isn’t the standard man-and-woman love story.”