By SONJA CHEN
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Madison Chock and Evan Bates have conceptualized their free dance this season as fire and air — the first cannot survive without the second. And, it’s fitting because the duo has fueled U.S. ice dancing over the past decade.
Chock and Bates defended their ice dancing title Saturday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, scoring 137.85 in the free dance for a top total score of 229.75.
The recently engaged couple has medaled at nationals in every season since 2013. That’s 11 straight years, which matches former training mates Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (2012-22) for the most consecutive years on the U.S. ice dance podium.
In a sport typically dominated by younger athletes, the 30-year-old Chock and 33-year-old Bates have shown a remarkable ability to endure.
“It’s a great honor to be one of the teams with the longest longevity in the sport,” Chock said. “It’s something that we really pride ourselves on because we’re very motivated people. That’s something that drives us through our career, and we’ve had a lot of success because of that.”
Trailing the champions by more than 22 points in the total score, Caroline Green and Michael Parsons earned the silver medal with a free dance score of 126.06 for their program set to “Rhapsody in Blue,” while Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, who were fourth after the short program, scored 121.08 and moved up a spot to take the bronze. Emilea Zingas and Vadym Kolesnik continued a strong debut season as partners, finishing fourth with a 119.95.
In a free dance inspired by the relationship between the elements of fire and air that was both languid and sizzling, Chock and Bates earned near-perfect scores on their program components, which account for skating skills and artistry.
“We’re very happy with the way that the program has developed since the beginning of the season, and it’s found its groove,” Chock said. “We’ve let the program speak to us, and we’ve evolved with it. We’ve not been afraid to adapt and work with our new material and keep pushing ourselves to create something that we feel is really special.”
Chock and Bates, Hubbell and Donohue, and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker have occupied the top three spots on the podium for the past four years. But Hubbell and Donohue retired and Hawayek and Baker withdrew from nationals to prioritize their physical and mental health.
Ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani, along with U.S. Figure Skating Foundation president and trustee Paul E. George, were inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame during the event.
The Shibutani siblings are two-time national champions and three-time world medalists, and hold the distinction of being the first athletes of Asian descent to medal in Olympic ice dance when they took the bronze in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
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