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Chock and Bates reclaim U.S. National title in Ice Dance

Madison Chock and Evan Bates

Madison Chock and Evan Bates perform their “Egyptian Snake Dance” routine.

2020 U.S. Nationals

Free Dance

2019 U.S. National silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates maintained their lead after the Free Dance in Greensboro, N.C., to reclaim the national title on Saturday. Defending champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue finished in second, followed by Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker who also took bronze last year. Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko moved up one spot from last year to pocket the pewter.

Chock and Bates were impressive in their enchanting Egyptian snake dance routine, staying in character throughout. The 2019 Four Continents champions received both the highest technical and component scores of the group, displaying level 4 spins, lifts, twizzles and solid level 3 circular steps. All elements received very high grades of execution (GOE) and the team scored 134.23 points for first in the free dance. Their total score was 221.86.

“It was a good night,” said Chock. “We are very happy to be back in Greensboro, and we had a great skate tonight. We performed, and that was our goal, to have a good performance. We really enjoyed ourselves, and we are just so thrilled.”

“It feels longer than five years,” she said of their win in 2015. “So much has changed, and other than us, so much has changed, as well. We are in a really good place and we couldn’t be happier with how this season is going. We worked so hard to get to this point in our careers and we feel so strong and confident. At this point, there is still room for more growth. I am happy we can share this moment with some of our best friends and training mates, so it’s really special.”

“It goes to show how deep the ice dance field is in the U.S.,” she said of the five-year gap when they last won the title. “It is a testament to how the athletes push each other to be the best athletes we can be. None of us have reached our peak yet. There is still tons of room to improve.”

“We train with the French every day, and we know how good they are,” said Bates when asked about competing against Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron as they lost to the Russians today. “But you never know what is going to happen. Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways, it can be unpredictable, based on what the panel looks like.”

Hubbell and Donohue gave it their all and were immersed in their performance to music from the modern-day A Star is Born. The 2019 World bronze medalists were also strong, earning level 4 for all elements except for the curve lift and Donohue’s one-foot steps. The twizzles and midline steps, in particular, were very good and they earned 130.88 points for second place in the free dance with a total score of 217.19.

“We were really looking forward to giving our best performance, we did that in practices,” said Hubbell. “The first element of the dance spin, we went in the wrong direction, and the next four elements that came out, they were all facing the wrong direction. I was able to turn it around. It was probably one of the hardest performances, not enjoyable. We had to put one of the best performances, but that is competition, that’s athletics, but we are anxious to go to the next competition and to show the work we put into the program.”

“I think the ramifications for us today, were just everywhere,” she added. “We were tired, mentally. We weren’t fully in the performance, we were always connecting in our eyes on how to fix it. I took a chance, because any time in the past, we had things go wrong, and any time we have spoken to each other during a performance, we had a big mistake. We had to trust and take a leap of faith that he would be connected enough for me to see, and that did work.”

“On every element, we were not in it, and we do our elements a certain way,” she explained. “Today, it charged away from that. It’s hard to stay in the moment. Another year, with a lot less experience, it could have gone way worse, and we are proud of that.”

“It has to make sense from the dance side,” said Hubbell when asked of the free dance theme, “and it has to make sense from the musical side. I am not sure how we would be able to dance an ending where they are not together. The way the movie ends, with her singing, it felt like the overall message of the movie was we had this incredible moment of our lives together and the way we loved each other was so unique, and we relied on that way more than the death part.”

Hubbell went on to say she felt that French team “came into the world of ice dance and skyrocketed when people were looking something new.”

“They became so dominant so quickly,” she pointed out. “In the past two or three years, people have been knocking at their door. What I see is a very tough competition (at Worlds). Worlds is going to be interesting. There is nothing more boring than knowing the outcome before it happens. It’s tough competing against all of these teams knowing any tiny mistake will bring you down in the rankings.”

Hawayek and Baker showed good connection and character in their performance, showing good level 4 twizzles and lifts, however, the opening stationary lift received a one-point extended deduction. The 2019 CS Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalists also earned a level 2 on the combination spin, but impressed with their level 3 circular steps. They scored 118.57 for the free dance and 201.16 overall.

“We were happy to put out a clean performance from beginning to end,” said Hawayek. “Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of the reaction, performance and the emotional connection we felt. Tonight didn’t have that same euphoria when we finished. This program is a development. Jean-Luc and I see all of the potential, and we still have room to grow. We are looking forward to putting out a more intact and fully-performed program as the season goes on.”

Carreira and Ponomarenko finished fourth in the free dance (116.14) and overall (194.16). Their “Farrucas” routine featured level 4 twizzles, spin, and lift as well as level 4 circular steps. However, the 2019 CS Asian Open champions lost a few points on the choreographic character step sequence.

Caroline Green and Michael Parsons received a one-point deduction for a fall, but the newly-formed team did well in their debut at this event. The twizzles were solid and graded a level 4, as were two of the lifts and combination spin. They finished fifth overall (180.25).

“We are 95 percent really happy,” said Parsons. “There was one little mistake in the free dance, the rest of it was really good. The ice is slippery, and mistakes can happen. We rebounded really well, and we finished strong, which is good, but we left a lot of points on the table, so I think we are already fired up for next year. I think it’s just the more repetitions between us (to improve). We are still a very young team, but it’s coming along faster than I ever expected. I couldn’t be more proud, I am very happy.”

Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter finished in sixth place, followed by Eva Pate and Logan Bye (155.82).