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Chock and Bates snatch elusive gold at Grand Prix Final

Madison Chock and Evan Bates snatch elusive gold

USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates stand atop the podium at the 2023-24 Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China.

2023-24 Grand Prix Final: Ice Dance

USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates snatched an elusive gold in ice dance at the 2023 Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China, on Saturday. The team has already collected four silver medals in the seven appearances they’ve made at this event. Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri took the silver, improving from their third-place finish last season. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada pocketed the bronze in their fourth appearance at this event.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates

The 2023 World Champions delivered a brilliant and confident rhythm dance to a Queen medley, placing first with a for a season’s best of 89.15. The 2023 World Champions opened with excellent midline steps that were graded a level three and four, followed by level-three pattern steps. The twizzles were strong and received a level four as did the rotational lift. All elements were rewarded with very high grades of execution (GOE).

“We feel like this was definitely our best performance of the season so far,” said Bates. “It was not much time, but I feel like we took some good notes from our two Grand Prix events and applied them well.”

“The key is not having expectations,” Chock pointed out. “We are well trained. We know what we need to do and how we need to prepare ourselves to execute our job to the best of our ability.

The 2023 Four Continents champions picked up a new season’s best (132.46) for their free dance to music by “Pink Floyd.” Their opening clever and inventive stationary lift earned eight out of nine +5 GOES. The followed up with level-four twizzles, two more lifts and a dance spin. The diagonal and one-foot steps were graded a level three, and they scored a total of 221.61 points to maintain first overall.

“We are so happy!” said Chock. “We have been to seven Finals, but this feels really special. Being here with our teammates makes it of course even more fun. We really enjoy each other’s company. We still have a lot of goals for ourselves on and off the ice.”

“We are so honored to compete here with the best in the world,” added Bates. “We are so happy about where we are at this point of the season. Finding each other was the biggest gift skating gave us and we are so excited to become even closer by becoming husband and wife soon!”

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri

Guignard and Fabbri opened with good level-four twizzles in their motivating rhythm dance to “Holding out for a Hero” and “Against All Odds.” The 2023 World silver medalists earned a level three on the pattern and midline steps, while the straightline received a level four. All elements earned many positive GOES, and they scored 85.82 for second place.

“It’s been a very good performance for us, and we are happy because it’s always unpredictable when you skate quite late at night,” said Fabbri. “I think we’re not used to skating that late when we are practicing at home. So, you never know how your body and your mind will react to the competition, but tonight it was a very good performance.”

“Of course, we didn’t have much time since NHK Trophy, so we put our focus on quality training and not quantity,” added Guignard. “Our bodies also need some rest.”

The 2023 Grand Prix de France champions showed lots of musicality in their free dance to free dance to various soundtracks, including The Theory of Everything. The twizzles, lifts and dance spin were graded a level four, while the one-foot steps received a three and two. The circular steps received a level four and three and they earned high GOEs on all elements. They finished second in the free dance and overall with new season best scores (129.69/215.51).

“We are really happy with our skate today as honestly I wasn’t feeling too well this morning,” said Fabbri. “Maybe it’s the dry air, but the competition adrenalin helped us through. We are also glad to add another color to our medal collection. After two bronze medals, we are happy to get silver!”

They have Nationals next, which will be held shortly before Christmas and then they will prepare for Europeans.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier

The two-time World bronze medalists opened their inspiring and fun rhythm dance with strong level three pattern steps followed by a midline step that were graded a level three and two. The twizzles were graded a level four as was the rotational lift, and the team impressed with their innovated choreo slide. They scored 85.17 points for third place.

“We are really proud of this skate!” said Gilles. “We gave a lot of energy.”

“We made a quite a few changes in this program since the Cup of China to try to boost the energy and we’re really proud of that skate,” Poirier said. “We really gave it everything and really enjoyed the moment.”

Poirier pointed out that each competition is different and they find it difficult to compare scores between events.

“What we always try to look at when we get home is where the GOEs are good, where the GOEs aren’t as good, and how we can improve,” he explained. “That’s the only thing we can focus on..”

The two-time national champions displayed beautiful transitions throughout their intense free dance to Wuthering Heights, racking up many GOEs along the way. The twizzles, lifts and dance spin were all graded a level four with high GOEs. The one-foot steps were graded a level three, while the diagonal steps received a three and two. They finished third in the free dance and overall (128.41/213.58).

“We are really happy!” said Gilles. “We were really in the program. It was really difficult to figure out where to go with this program, and the more we practice it, the more we figure it out.”

“I think a lot of people can relate to the story a little bit, the strong relationship between two people,” said Poirier. “Developing the passion in this program is really where we want this program to grow and how we think we can get people and judges behind.”

Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson

Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson showed lots of character in their “Sweet Dreams” rhythm dance, but both the skaters had issues on the twizzles which received -1.20 GOEs. Fear received base value for hers while Gibson received a level three. However, they quickly recovered to show very good level-three midline and pattern steps. The rotational lift was very good and earned mostly +4 GOES across the board, and the 2023 European silver medalists earned 76.24 points for fourth place.

“Today was a great mental exercise to stay focused after a mistake on the first element,” said Fear. “We see the Grand Prix Final as a great bonus.”

“We lost quite a few points, that’s for sure!” added Gibson.

They are fighting the jetlag with caffeine.

“Coming here was easier though than Japan two weeks ago,” said Fear. “Also competing in the evening hours helps.”

The team just won their sixth national title prior to coming to Beijing.

“It was never a question for us to miss nationals,” said Fear. “We love representing Great Britain and we wanted to skate for the people from our country that support us there.”

Their keen “Rocky” free dance featured level-four twizzles and lifts. The one-foot steps were graded a level three and four, while the diagonal steps received a level three. The 2023 NHK Trophy champions placed third in the free dance and overall (126.03/213.58).

“We are especially proud of what we have shown today, because we had to come back after a disappointing skate yesterday,” said Fear. “We were so fired up because we knew what we are capable of.”

She added that they were aware that some people hate their program and some love it.

“But we totally love it, and we stay true to it,” she said. “Once you take a risk, you have to commit to it.”

Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen

Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen were off to a good start in their fun rhythm dance to Top Gun, showing a good level-four straightline lift. However, the ice dancers got too close and touched during the twizzles, which received a level three and one. It must have been a bit rattling for Soerensen as the diagonal steps were graded a level three and one. The 2023 Four Continents silver medalists finished fifth with 74.82.

“Not what we wanted, not what we expected,” said Soerensen. “But I guess stuff like this just happens. Everything is fine with the ice, but it was just late today, not really my day. We feel like we have nothing to lose at this competition.”

The levels were off again in the free dance for the national champions. The twizzles were graded a level four and three. The diagonal steps were a level three and two, while the rotational-stationary lift received a level four and three, respectively. Nevertheless, the national champions showed lots of passion in their dramatic routine to Notre Dame de Paris. They placed fifth in the free dance and overall (120.75/195.57).

“Sometimes it is just a little harder than others,” said Soerensen. “I had a hard time adjusting to the schedule. We developed this program a lot over the weeks. We are super passionate about this program and think it just suits our connection so well. It didn’t completely turn out how we wanted it to here, but that’s part of the game.”

“We will see it as a learning experience for Four Continents,” said Fournier Beaudry regarding traveling and adjusting to China.

Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha

Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha seemed a bit sapped in their otherwise engaging “Thriller” routine. The 2023 Four Continents bronze medalists earned a level four and three on the twizzles, while the midline steps were graded a two and three. The pattern steps received a level two, but the rotational live was graded a level four with high GOEs. They rounded out the top six teams with 74.74 going into the free dance.

“We were really stressed today, and the scores reflect that,” said Lajoie. “It’s our first Final and we wanted to make a good impression.”

“It was our goal to qualify here, and it was actually very tough to do that,” added her partner. “So, placement-wise, we don’t have big expectations. We usually enjoy performing this program a lot, but not today that much because we were really tired.”

The 2023 Skate America silver medalists delivered a profound performance to “Roses” by Jean-Michel Blais. Their routine was highlighted by level-four twizzles, lifts, and dance spin. The one-foot and diagonal steps were awarded a level three, both of which received high GOEs. They placed sixth in the free dance and overall (118.89/193.63).

“We feel much better today,” said Lajoie. “Yesterday it was not a catastrophe, but far away from our best. Today it felt like we gave our best.”

“It was a new experience to skate first and only with the best of the best,” added Lagha.

The team will now be taking a week off for vacation.

“After the challenger, the two Grand Prixes, and now here, there is not much left in the tank,” she said. “I am looking forward to spending some time with my dog.”

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