Defending champs seeking to build their experience, track record in St. Paul
by Liz Leamy
(19 January 2016) Madison Chock & Evan Bates, the 2015 U.S. champions and 2015 World silver medalists, seem to very much indeed be following in the footsteps of their famous American predecessors, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the 2014 Olympic victors and six-time U.S. champions, as they prepare to rally for a second consecutive U.S. title at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota this week.
“This is definitely a new place for us to be in and with it there comes a learning curve,” said Madison Chock, 23, a Redondo Beach, California native who trains alongside Bates, 26, in Novi, Michigan with the iconic Igor Shpilband. “We’re in a good place right now and [I believe] all the hard work will pay off.”
This top American dance duo, who was second at the International Skating Union Grand Prix Finals this past December and are two-time U.S. National silver medalists, appear to be in as good a place as ever as they get ready to compete at one of the most important skating events of the year, as they begin to make their way toward the 2018 Olympic Games in Korea.
This week, this team, who has been skating together since 2011, ought to rack up some serious scores at the U.S. Championships with their high-energy short dance to ‘More’ by Andrea Bocelli and Il Divo’s ‘Unchained Melody’ and elegant free dance to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s ‘Piano Concerto Number 2,’ both of which have gone over quite well with judges and audiences around the world so far this season.
“This year we’re learning to skate with expectations and we’re thinking beyond and reaching forward,” said Bates, an Ann Arbor, Michigan native. “We’re still chasing a World title and the thing we’re learning to do is to do [the program] in the moment when it matters.”
Without a doubt, this team certainly seems to be in World Championship gold-medal contention.
Last year, they scored silver at the World Championships in Shanghai, China where they were only less than six points behind the first-place finishers, Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron of France, largely due to a small misstep on a twizzle.
Last December, Chock and Bates again wound up second at the Grand Prix Finals in Barcelona, trailing Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje by more than 11 points, also due to a slight bobble in the twizzle step sequence.
Although they haven’t quite yet hit their ideal stride, both Chock and Bates feel they are well on the way toward that place.
“I think it’s all falling into place for us now,” said Bates.
“I think both of our programs are definitely coming into place and we’re excited to compete them [this week],” she said.
No doubt, Chock and Bates, known for their great energy, drama, technique and speed, seem to possess the right stuff to be at the top of a World and ultimately, an Olympic podium, much like their famous predecessors, Davis and White.
It all just comes down to experience and building a competitive resume, really.
“In ice dance, particularly, it’s important to have a track record,” said Bates. “Everything is sort of cumulative in this sport, so this season has meant a lot to us.”
This season is especially paramount for Chock and Bates, since based upon how they wind up in the stats in St. Paul, they should be good to go in terms of representing the U.S. at the World Championships in Boston this March.
“Every year is definitely important to us, especially this [one] with having the World Championships in our home country,” said Bates.
Chock and Bates, meanwhile, also discussed the growing technical and artistic standard and also popularity of ice dancing, largely due to the memorable free dance performance of Davis and White to ‘Scheherazade’ at the 2014 Olympics.
According to both of these skaters, the impact of Davis and White’s performance in Sochi has had a tremendous impact on both the sport and the general public, which is truly what competing at the world and Olympic level is all about.
“I think this [discipline] has really evolved and that Meryl and Charlie helped push [it],” said Chock. “In general, it’s how each element is incorporated into a program so [it] is cohesive, which makes it more interesting for people to watch and also more interesting for us so we can tell the story.”
For this team, the story seems to be unfolding into quite an exciting one, that is for certain.