Madison Chock and Evan Bates Win Ice Dance at National Figure Skating Championships; Olympic medal then?

Finally, it is Madison hold and Evan bates‘turn to enter the Olympics with the most respected title in American figure skating these days: National Ice Dance Champions.

Chock and Bates improved their training partners Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue on two programs, totaling 227.37 points in Nashville. They won by 1.78 over Hubbell and Donohue to collect their third national title.

Each of the last eight American dance titles has been decided by five points or less. Before that, Meryl davis and Charlie blanc won four consecutive dance titles of 10 points or more.

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Boulanger, who trains with Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue in Montreal, finished third to likely win the third and final Olympic ice dance place in the United States. A selection committee will formalize it later on Saturday evening.

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Bates will become the first American figure skater to compete in four Olympics. He, perhaps better than anyone, knows the importance of showing up to the Games as America’s first couple.

In the last four Olympics, the United States has won a total of six figure skating medals (not counting the team event). Four of those six medals were won in ice dancing, but the United States has never put several pairs of dancers on one Olympic podium.

This is unlikely to change in Beijing.

The Olympic favorites are French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the 2018 silver medalists who lost once in this Olympic cycle. (The 2018 gold medalists, Tessa Vertu and Scott Me from Canada, retired after PyeongChang.)

Russians Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are the reigning world champions and beat Papadakis and Cizeron in their last head-to-head at the European Championships in January 2020.

Last month, the NBC Sports analyst Tanith White, a 2006 Olympics silver medalist, paired several couples with the Russians, including Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue. Canadians Piper gilles and Paul Poirier, the world bronze medalists, are third in the world this season, but the American pairs are within a point and a half behind them.

It’s close, reputation matters in figure skating – especially dance – and Chock and Bates have momentum.

They teamed up in 2011 and had to wait their turn behind Davis and Charlie White, who retired after winning the 2014 Olympics. Chock and Bates became America’s best dance couple in 2015, winning gold at the national championships and silver at the world championships.

But at the end of the 2018 Olympic cycle, they fell to third in the country and ninth in the Olympics. They persevered, won their first national title in five years in 2020 and finished fourth at the world championships last season, a place behind Hubbell and Donohue, who plan to retire after this season.

Now Chock and Bates have the same momentum as they were seven years ago, but this time it’s at the end of an Olympic cycle rather than the beginning.

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