by Liz Leamy
(15 January 2021) Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the 2020 U.S. titlists and two-time World medalists (silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016), staked their claim as the forerunners of this decorated American discipline as they edged out a first-place finish in the Rhythm Dance Finn step competition at the U.S. National Championships Friday afternoon.
Skating last among the strong 11-entry field, Chock and Bates displayed their signature lightness, flow, unity and theatricality in their entertaining rendition of a Cole Porter medley for which they earned a 90.10, putting them just a .44 point ahead of the second-place finishers, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the two-time World medalists and 2018 and 2019 U.S. champions who scored an 89.66.
The duo, who trains in Montreal with Marie France-Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, executed a lovely rotational lift, intricate straight-line footwork and twizzles in superior fashion, along with other elements while acutely expressing the lively Broadway narrative of their music.
For this pair, who hasn’t competed at a major event since the 2020 U.S. Championships, getting out in the ring again was viewed as a welcome and happy venture.
“I think we were nervous at the hotel, but when we stepped on the ice we found the bond we share when we go into a high pressure situation,” said Bates. “For athletes [of this level], everything is so structured and to not compete for 11 months is a little bit bizarre, but we handled it.”
The two also expressed how grateful they were to have had the opportunity to compete at the U.S. Championships this year.
“We’re grateful to be able to perform and show the joy of skating,” said Chock, who with Bates, had claimed the 2015 U.S. title. “Hopefully we can bring some happiness to people during this pandemic time.”
Chock and Bates, meanwhile, gave a big shout out to the fans supporting the sport by watching Nationals from their homes this year.
“I want to give a huge thank you to the fans and appreciate their time and energy so much,” said Chock. “We know you’re supporting us from your homes, so we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Hubbell and Donohue, the 2020 U.S. silver medalists, earned high scores for their riveting program to the ‘Burlesque’ film soundtrack by Christina Aguilera.
Reeling off such memorable moves as a breathtaking rotational lift (for which they earned 3.87 grade of execution marks) and powerful twizzles (for which they were awarded a 3.34 grade of execution score), Hubbell and Donohue skated with the confidence and aptitude of a premiere World dance team and look as hungry as ever to reclaim the U.S. title in the free dance this weekend.
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the 2020 U.S. bronze medalists scored third with their high-energy Saturday Night Fever program, for which they racked up a 85.28.
This high-octane duo, like Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue, also train with Marie France-Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in Montreal and seemed happy with their performance, which featured a dynamic rotational lift, exciting twizzles and complex footwork sequences, among other things.
For Hawayek and Baker, it’s all about taking things a day at a time.
“We’re going day by day right now,” said Baker, humorously adding that at that point, he and Hawayek were pretty much “just focused on dinner.”
This is definitely a good thing, as going into Saturday’s free dance, it appears as though all these leading contenders will be ready to once again deliver the golden goods.