(L-R) Evan Bates and Madison Chock compete during the ice rhythm dance at the 2022 ISU Grand Prix - Skate America on Oct. 22, 2022 in Norwood, Mass.
NORWOOD, Mass. – At a training camp in Detroit this summer, Madison Chock and Evan Bates were on the ice, presenting this season’s programs to U.S. Figure Skating officials for critique and, hopefully, endorsement.
Standing along the boards surrounding the rink were Madison Hubbell, Charlie White, Tanith Belbin White and Greg Zuerlein – skaters the couple grew up with, trained alongside, competed against. Chock won the 2009 world junior title while she partnered with Zuerlein.
Those gathered that day at Detroit Skating Club – with their respective partners, Zachary Donohue, Meryl Davis and Benjamin Agosto – won a combined four individual Olympic medals and 15 world medals, starting in 2005 and running through 2022. Along with 2018 Olympic bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, they collectively built a golden age of U.S. ice dance.
“We have known them almost our entire lives and they were all at the boards,” Bates said. “Even though they are not all directly on our coaching team, we felt their support behind us and we really appreciate the legacy they’ve established.”
At ages 30 and 33, respectively, Chock and Bates continue to contribute to that legacy. The three-time Olympians (2014, 2018, 2022) own three U.S. titles, three world medals and an Olympic team medal. And they think they are just now hitting their peak.
“These are the most enjoyable years of our career,” said Bates, who made his Olympic debut in 2010 with Emily Samuelson. “We’re not ready to step away from competitive ice just yet. There are a lot of factors that go into our decision to continue skating, but the crux of it is, we love it. We are able to do it and we don’t take for granted the opportunity to compete, to test ourselves against the best skaters in the world, to go out and continue the journey.”
Hovering alongside that love is a tantalizing prize: a world title. Their strong record – they won world bronze last season – along with shifts in the competitive ranks, including the retirement of longtime rivals Hubbell and Donohue, make Chock and Bates early favorites for the gold medal at the 2023 world championships next March in Saitama, Japan. If they triumph, they will be only the second U.S. ice dance team to do so, behind Davis and White (2011, 2013).
“It’s definitely a big goal of ours and it always has been, so that hasn’t changed,” Chock said. “As far as the season goes, I think we’ve made a lot of progress in our own skating and experienced a ton of growth over the spring and summer. Showcasing that is our main focus.”
Bidding for a third Skate America title this weekend in Norwood, Massachusetts, the couple won Saturday’s rhythm dance with a sharp and sophisticated routine set to a remix of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” including samba and rhumba rhythms. Despite uncharacteristic trouble on the rotational lift, it earned 82.63 points.
“I feel like it has loads of potential,” Bates said. “This is our first outing and we had some technical issues, especially on the lift. But it was still a good start.”
The skaters, who live and train in Montreal under Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer, usually compete at a warm-up event before their first Grand Prix competition of the season. But after winning a bronze medal at the 2022 world championships, they undertook a heavy touring schedule, performing in 40 shows.
“We decided to forgo Challenger competitions this season because we had such a busy spring and summer,” Chock said. “We traveled for three months after worlds and that didn’t leave us enough time to prepare for a Challenger, but it left us just enough time to prepare for Skate America.”