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Chock and Bates golden in Saitama

Madison Chock and Evan Bates take world title in Saitama

USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates perform their Free Dance at the 2023 World Figure Skating Championships.

2023 World Figure Skating Championships
Free Dance

USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates won their fourth world medal, this time a gold, in Saitama, Japan, on Saturday. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy maintained second to earn the silver, their first world medal. Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier pocketed their second bronze at this event.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates

Chock and Bates were seamless in their ethereal routine, however Chock took an unexpected fall near the end. Luckily, it didn’t happen during an element, and the three-time World medalists only received a one-point deduction. All elements, including the diagonal and one-foot steps, received a level four with numerous high grades of execution. Despite the mistake, they still earned a new personal best of 134.07 for first place in the free dance and overall (226.01).

Chock, who said she fell because she caught her heel on the ice, was elated.

“I was so into our performance and connected with Evan,” she said. “From the start through little boop, and to the end. I’m so happy!”

“I am so honored to skate in front of a crowd like this at the World Championships in Saitama,” added Bates. “I don’t think it’s really sunk in it. We’ve been pursuing this goal for so many years. It was exciting and stressful all at the same time. I know that the ice dance field is very competitive. We’ve competed against all these teams for so many years. We really just wanted to focus on ourselves and skate our best. To just highlight all the work that we’ve put this year into these programs, and hopefully give an entertaining performance to everybody.”

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri

Guignard and Fabbri put a spell on the audience with their dark and haunting routine, displaying innovative level-four lifts throughout. The newly-crowned European champions also earned a level four on their twizzles and circular steps, as well as a very fast dance spin. The one-foot steps were graded a level three and the team was rewarded with a new personal best of 131.64 for second in the free dance. Their total score was 219.85.

“We skated with our heart today,” said Fabbri. “I still can’t believe we got the silver medal. The twizzles were not perfect, and I kept thinking the whole time ‘this was it, we gave away the medal’. So at the end of the program, we didn’t know if it was enough to make it to the podium in the end. We came here for a medal, but second place is unbelievable!”

Guignard agreed about not expecting a medal.

“So I mean it’s crazy,” she said. “The bronze medal was the goal. There is a little mistake in the twizzle. I think all the rest of the program will say ‘oh my God maybe it is not… I mean by this little mistake maybe we can go down from the podium. So it’s amazing!”

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier

Performing to music from Evita, Gilles and Poirier danced and waltzed their way through very good level-three one-foot and circular steps. All three lifts and dance spin was graded a level four, while the twizzles were graded a four and three. The 2021 World bronze medalists scored 130.54 for third place in the free dance and overall (217.88).

“I think we’re really satisfied with today’s performance,” said Poirier. “I just feel so full, happy and grateful for what we were able to do today. It’s just such a big difference from how we felt at the World Championships last year, and I think that’s the thing I want to take with me most. It’s just how special it feels right now to perform with all those people watching and being there with us.”

Gilles pointed out that this has been a special year for them.

“I think just finishing this season with a medal gives us confidence knowing that we did our job this season,” she said. “You know, we enjoyed it, we didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves. We were learning so much about how to portray ourselves on the ice so that we don’t overthink. It’s a special moment for the two of us and we’re really proud of ourselves.”

Poirier felt that their mindset improved over the season, when asked what they learned.

“More than anything, taking care of ourselves, and allowing the skating to happen from a place of joy,” he added.

Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson

Performing to music by Lady Gaga, Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson engaged the audience from start to finish, receiving a standing ovation at the end. The 2023 European silver medalists executed level-four lifts, spin and twizzles, picking up many GOEs along the way. The one-foot and midline steps were graded a level three and they earned a new personal best of 128.17 points for fifth place in the free dance. However, their total score of 214.73 was enough to keep them in fourth overall.

“It was so much fun!” said Fear. “The balance between being focused on our job and also letting in the amazing experience, it felt like we did both and really had a blast. Especially in the choreo steps. I’m so overwhelmed right now. We had a beautiful experience here.”

“Getting a standing ovation in both programs was just out of this world,” added Gibson.

The team is currently brainstorming regarding next season, and are excited about the 80’s theme for the rhythm dance.

“There will be so much to choose from there, so I think finding uniqueness in that will be really exciting,” said Gibson. “It’s always a joy to explore new styles of dance.”

Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen

Canada’s Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen enamored the audience with their Latin-themed routine, complete with a Flamenco skirt, to music by Ennio Morricone and Robert Rodriguez. The dramatic performance featured level-four twizzles, lifts, and dance spin. The 2023 Four Continents silver medalists picked up high GOEs for each element, and earned a level three for both the one-foot and midline steps. They scored a new personal best of 128.45 for fourth place in the free dance, but maintained fifth overall with a total score of 214.04.

“We couldn’t have asked for anything more, so much fun!” said Soerensen. “It’s really fun to have four minutes and 10 (seconds) when you can really feel that you’re in the present the whole way. It’s such a rare excitement for us.”

“It was the performance that we wanted to deliver,” added Fournier Beaudry. “Every time we finished an element, the crowd gave us energy by clapping and cheering, and it was just a blessing to be here.”

The team will take a few days off next week before hitting the ice again.

“It’s the part of the season that’s really fun for us, to create and to make new programs,” said Soerensen. “So, we’re looking forward to that. There’s World Team Trophy around the corner, but it’s not decided yet.”

Caroline Green and Michael Parsons

USA’s Caroline Green and Michael Parsons showed lots of character in a classic performance to “Rhapsody in Blue.” The 2022 Four Continents Champions showed good level-four lifts, dance spin and twizzles. The one-steps were graded a level two and three, while the diagonals steps were a level two for both skaters. All elements received many GOEs, and they picked up a new personal best of 122.70 for sixth place in the free dance and overall (201.44).

“It felt amazing,” said Parsons. “All the credit goes to our coaching team for having us super-prepared. Both days here we just got on the ice and did our jobs to the best of our ability. It feels really good and I feel like it went as well as it could.”

“The ease we were able to have out on the ice was kind of a new feeling for us, even though it was the end of the season,” said Green. “All the hard work we put in at home, and the advice and wisdom of our coaches, has really helped us feel comfortable and confident heading into this competition.”

Parsons said one of the biggest takeaways from their first worlds is that “we belong here.”

“We’re competing with the best skaters in the world here and we have so much to learn from them,” he said. “But we also have so much that we can do well or better. And so it’s really fun to go out there and skate with the best in the world in front of the best fans in the world. It’s a special experience.”

Now that their home-base has been firmly established in Canton, Mich., the team feels they will only continue to grow.

“We’re really excited to get creative and have a little bit more time to try things out versus just jumping straight into competition,” Green summed up.

Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius

Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius of Lithuania picked up a new personal best 0f 120.50 for their innovative trip-hop performance to “Insomnia” by Faithless. The team, who placed second in all three Challenger events this season, earned a level four on the twizzles, all three lifts and the dance spin. They finished seventh in the free dance and overall (199.20).

“We feel great,” said Reed. “The audience was really in it from the start, and that gives some extra boost for the whole program. It’s great to start off that way, and we really felt it today. The lift to start is the hardest element we have, so once that’s out of the way, we’re like, ‘yes!'”

Ambruvelicius agreed: “Today was fun from the first beat. After the lift, I was like, ‘Let’s go! It’s going to be fun!'”

Reed said they always strive to skate to different music, particularly music that isn’t well known.

“Or that is a little bit more underground,” she explained. “We enjoy kind of creating an environment where people can listen to different types of music. For ice dance, that’s all what it’s about. It’s getting people to dance with us, and we chose this music because we knew the crowd would dance with us.”

“It took a lot of training to go to where we were to this point and to perform that program to that extent, Reed continued. “Credit (goes) to the coaching staff for really pushing us and believing in us, it really made all the difference.”

Rounding out the top 10

Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler of the Czech Republic moved up one spot to eighth overall (196.39) after scoring a new personal best for eighth in the free dance (119.83).

Finland’s Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis placed ninth overall (193.54), followed by USA’s Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko (190.10), who scored a new personal best in the free dance.

Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi thrilled the crowd with their dramatic Phantom of the Opera routine, picking up a new personal best (115.95) for 10th in the free dance and 11th overall (188.87).

“We were able to deliver close to a perfect performance, finally!” said Takahashi. “Right now, I really don’t care about the details, I’m just super happy right now. I was really nervous before the warm up, my legs were shaky and I was a bit worried. However, the moment our music played, I was really calm so, I had energy until the end. Usually I’m very tired and out of energy the second half of the program, but we were really in sync today and felt really good today.”

“I feel exactly the same way,” said Muramoto. “We were finally able to do a performance without any mistakes, so regardless of the scores, I’m just very happy. Our goal for this competition was to skate a perfect performance. Of course we want to be in the top ten, but we cannot control the placements, so we put out everything that we could do.”

Muramoto was thrilled to be able to skate to Phantom of the Opera, one of Takahashi’s older programs as a single skater, in front of Japanese fans.

“I have bad experiences and memories skating here in Saitama, so I was a bit nervous,” Takahashi confessed. “But being able to skate the Phantom of the Opera here again after decades as an ice dancer, I wanted it to be meaningful for me. After how we skated today, I will cherish this moment. I really think I grew as an ice dancer these past three years, and I never imagined I could still grow at this age. I’m happy Kana reached out to me and proved how much I can do.”

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