by Liz Leamy
Chock and Bates Reclaim U.S. Championship Dance
This past Saturday marked another unusually cold afternoon in Nashville following an unexpected snow storm earlier in the week, yet the top U.S. ice dancers lit up the Bridgestone Arena as they faced off against each other in the hunt of U.S. Championship hardware and also, the golden opportunity to earn a berth on the 2022 U.S. Olympic team.
In golden fashion, the top American dancers stepped it up in fine style, effectively managing to lift the nervous pall among so many in attendance with the looming resurgence of the coronavirus via the Omicron variant with their host of remarkable and heartwarming programs.
Madison Chock (All Year FSC) and Evan Bates (Ann Arbor FSC), the 2015 and 2020 U.S. titlists and two-time World medalists clinched gold following a first-place finish in the Rhythm Dance with a compelling free dance to music by Daft Punk for which they earned a 135.43 and 227.37 total score.
This dynamic dance duo, dressed in costumes that expressed their theme of an alien and earthling trying to find common ground in striving to connect together, were as smooth as silk, performing their lifts and other technical elements with incredible ease, expressiveness, quickness and strength.
For Chock and Bates, the victory was the fact they conveyed the message of the program to the crowd in an effective fashion, as evidenced when they gave them a roaring standing ovation at its finish.
“The core of our program is love and acceptance,” said Chock. “In the [narrative], we find ways to overcome our differences and that’s really important for people to remember.”
Chock and Bates also expressed gratitude at being among such good company at this major competition.
“I’m just so excited and honored to share the podium with these incredible teams,” said Chock, who, with Bates, also represented the U.S. at the 2014 and 2018 Olympics. (The 2022 Olympics would mark their third time competing together at that epic global event.)
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (Lansing SC) scored silver, earning a 136.20 for their winning free dance to Anna Sila’s beautiful piece ‘Drowning’ to generate a 225.59 total score.
Hubbell and Donohue, the three-time World medalists and three-time U.S. titlists, performed in their characteristic championship fashion, knocking out their turns, steps and edges with tremendous power, command, quickness and intent.
For this duo, who trains in Montreal alongside Chock and Bates and Katelyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the bronze medalists, they accomplished their goal in terms of skating a strong program.
“For Zach and I tonight, our performance meant a lot to us,” said Hubbell. “We’re very satisfied with how we skated and we were content with what we put out today.”
Katelyn Hawayek (Detroit SC) and Jean-Luc Baker (Seattle SC) leapt from fourth in the Rhythm Dance to third place overall with their mesmerizing free dance to selections from Frederic Chopin for which they were awarded a 126.29 for a 205.68 total.
This powerful program was a big hit with the Bridgestone Arena crowd, who applauded loudly as they executed their series of spins and lifts as well as twizzles and step sequences with strength and aptitude.
For Hawayek and Baker, it was all about showing who they were through their skating.
“To be able to get the bronze today is a culmination of emotions for everything we’ve accomplished,” said Hawayek. “We’re thrilled and incredibly proud to be here. It’s really special.”
The duo also gave big props to their coaches, Marie France-Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, who train Chock and Bates as well as Hubbell and Donohue, along with a host of other premier international dance teams in Montreal, for their accomplishments.
“I think with our coaches, we have been training hard and intelligently for these opportunities,” said Baker. “We’re learning to trust ourselves and be as present as possible.”