“It’s How You Do It:” World Champions Chock and Bates Talk Life, Olympic Medals and Career Plans

By | March 19, 2024

Their career is notable for its longevity and achievements.

Ice dancers Madison Chock31, and her future husband, Evan Bates35, have filled their resumes with virtually every possible medal during a skating partnership that began thirteen seasons ago.

Chock and Bates are the defending champions heading into the World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal this week, where another medal of any color would be their fifth, making them the most decorated American ice dancing team ever at the world competition.

They won an Olympic team event medal, now gold at the 2022 Winter Games as a result of Russia’s doping disqualification Kamila Valieva – although it is still a mystery when they will receive it, given the latest appeals in a case that has been dragging on for more than two years.

They have won three gold medals and four other medals at the Four Continents Championships. They have won four gold medals at the Skate America Grand Prix event.

They won a first Grand Prix Final title (and a fifth medal at that event) in December. They won a fifth US title and 12e straight US Championship medal in January, to match the legendary Michelle Kwan as the only team or individual with ten consecutive medals at national championships.

The only thing missing from their resume is an Olympic medal in the ice dancing event. They finished fourth at the 2022 Winter Games, their third Olympic appearance as a team, after finishing ninth in 2018 and eighth in 2014.

MORE: How to watch the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships

Will they try to compete in the 2026 Winter Games in Milan, which would be Bates’ fifth Olympics, including one with a previous partner? That was an important question in an extensive interview I recently did with them via FaceTime.

Q: Is winning a medal in an ice dancing event enough incentive for you to continue for two more years?

Block: In some ways, certainly. It has always been a goal and a dream of ours, and I think it would be very special to get that individual medal. But I’m also just waiting for this special feeling of receiving the Olympic medal that we have already earned.

Q. You’ve talked consistently since 2022 about taking it one season at a time, but I still get the feeling you’re almost certainly going to Italy. Is that fair?

Block: It would just make sense to me. At this point it’s not that far away. But we’re getting married this summer (June in Hawaii), so who knows what feelings or emotions that will bring, and we might feel disconnected.

Bates: We would also have an Olympic gold medal.

Block: Maybe.

Bates: The whole experience (delay of the medal ceremony) was just very surreal. So many people from that team have stopped skating. So it’s time we get some closure. Everyone has the right to appeal and demand a fully fair trial. We are really looking forward to the day we receive our medals.

Q: While we’re on the subject loosely, do you feel sadness or sympathy for Kamila, who was only 15 when all this happened?

Block: Absolute. I think we have a lot of empathy for her. If I were to put myself in the shoes of a skater again at that age, I think it would be very difficult to grapple with the grandeur of everything in the Olympics. It’s hard to see her go through this, and I just hope she gets the support she needs for her mental health, because I know it’s probably been quite challenging for her.

Q. Before you became a couple, you both had successful partnerships with other skaters that ended after four or fewer seasons as seniors. (Bates was 11e at the 2010 Olympics with his previous partner, Emily Samuelson.) Why do you think you clicked as a team that would stay together for thirteen seasons?

Block: I’ve always liked Evan. Even before we skated together, we got along really well. He has great energy. He’s funny, charismatic and we had good chemistry from the start.

Bates: We were both determined to turn over every stone and do our best to realize whatever potential we had. That kind of desire to just improve and keep learning is the carrot that keeps us going, more so than medals and awards, although we certainly aim for that too.

Block: If you find something in life that brings you so much joy, fulfillment, growth and happiness, wouldn’t you want to keep doing it for as long as possible? If you’re still inspired by it, still in love with it, still able to do it, why stop just because some people say, ‘Oh, well, maybe you’re a little old or are people retired when they’ Have you achieved this or that?”

Q: Has there ever been a time when one or both of you, or both, thought about quitting?

Block: There were moments that were actually a catalyst for us to keep going. It was typical hardship, like (wrestling in) the 2018 Olympics and my ankle surgery afterward. We can look back and say, “Wow, that was a turning point.” It pushed us to move to Montreal (from the suburb of Detroit) and find new inspiration (with new coaches, Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romain Hagenauer, at Montreal’s Ice Academy) and take ourselves in a different direction to float. .

Q. What was the big difference in coaching?

Block: We learned a lot about twizzle technique, about skating skills, partnering – all things that we didn’t really have a good fundamental basis for before. I think we were just doing them. We could have kept skating the way we were skating and it probably would have gone fine and still accomplished some things, but we wanted to learn it all again.

Bates: When we moved to Montreal it seemed like there was a whole new discovery of places and areas where we could continue to grow.

Q. Your iconic free dance “Egyptian Snake Charmer” – a dramatic stylistic change for you – came a season after you moved to Montreal. Is that the difference in your new environment?

Bates: That was probably the first time we had a show that felt like it had taken on a life of its own, with people telling us that they were really excited to see that particular piece of choreography. Due to COVID and the season (2019-2020) being cut short before Worlds, we ended up having it for a second season. So I feel like we’ve really grown a lot with that program. And it really changed the game for us.

Ask. About seven years ago you went from skating partners to romantic partners and in 2021 you got engaged. How do you keep a tough day in practice or competition from spilling into your lives as a couple?

Block: One of the biggest challenges as a couple, both on and off the ice, is no matter how hard you try or say it doesn’t bleed, it does bleed. Sometimes you just take it (mistakes and criticism) personally because it’s the person you love that you’re working with. And even when it’s not personal, sometimes it’s hard not to take it that way.

Bates: We really push ourselves and we often feel exhaustion, fatigue, pain or whatever. And so I think over the years we’ve learned to have a perspective that (mistakes) are okay, and that it’s not really worth blowing it out of proportion. But it’s very difficult right now because there are emotions involved, because we’re so invested in it and passionate about it.

Block: As long as we communicate about it and don’t let it fester, it’s fine.

Q. Do you interact differently on the ice since you became a “life couple”?

Bates: We’ve learned that on the ice we adopt a little bit more of a competitive nature with a little bit more focus and maybe a little bit more edge, no pun intended. Off the ice we are much more relaxed. That took some getting used to. Understanding this type of edge that we bring to the ice has served us well and is probably a big part of why we have been successful in this sport.

Q. But you don’t hold back when it comes to constructive criticism?

Block: No. As long as it’s necessary and as long as it comes from a good place, constructive criticism doesn’t hurt.

Q. Are you dancers who skate or skaters who dance?

Bates: We’re trying to be more and more dancers, but that’s a very good question. That’s a kind of ice dance in a nutshell: it’s not what you do. It’s how you do it.

Q. What are your long-term plans? Where do you think you might live once you stop competing?

Block: We certainly want to remain involved in skating. We have learned so much and come so far that it would almost be a crime not to share that knowledge with the younger generations. I don’t know if we would ever be full-time coaches. But we want to pass on what we have learned.

Bates: I have a lot of family in the Midwest. Madi has a lot of family in California. We are American kids and maybe one day we will spend more time under the border. We probably would have retired in 2018 if Marie, Patch (Lauzon) and Romain hadn’t hired us. So I’m very grateful for the Ice Academy, for Montreal and for this chapter of our lives. But it’s hard to say what the next chapter will be.

Ask. It seems like you are only on the right track. Would you consider participating after the next Olympic Games?

Bates: I think it would be very difficult to postpone part of the life we ​​have planned. I would never say never, but I think just making it to a fifth Olympic Games would be quite an achievement.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figur-skating.

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