After twelve years in the senior ranks, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the 2023 World Champions, have decided to compete in the Grand Prix series next season. We met with them and a group of journalists to reflect on the past season and discuss their future projects.
How did you feel after winning the World Championships?
Madison: It took some time for it to sink in. Right after winning the title, we felt a great sense of fatigue. After a competition, the adrenaline leaves our bodies, and we are left feeling exhausted and famished! But the joy we experience is indescribable. We've been working towards this goal for many years. We didn't expect it to take this long (laughs), but I wouldn't change anything about our journey and the obstacles we've overcome.
Evan: We celebrated our victory with the US team in Saitama. Both Madi's parents and mine flew in from the US. It was important to share that moment with them. They introduced us to skating when we were very young and made sacrifices of their time and financial resources. Madi's parents even relocated from sunny California to Michigan so she could pursue ice dance at the age of 13.
You faced some obstacles and setbacks at the beginning of the season. How did you manage to overcome them?
Madison: The more challenging the journey, the more rewarding the outcome. We had a tumultuous season with many developments in our programs, especially the free dance.
Evan: Last fall was honestly one of the toughest periods we've experienced in our career. After the NHK Trophy, we did a lot of thinking and even considered going back to an old free dance.
Madison: However, there was something about that program that resonated with us. I felt it had potential. I loved its artistic direction, and I knew we just needed more time to develop it. We decided to believe in ourselves. Our coaches fully supported our decision and provided us with everything we needed to succeed.
Evan: The coaching team at the Ice Academy of Montreal was instrumental in helping us. They dedicated all their resources to help us find the story for our free dance. We had to make numerous changes and put in a lot of hard work. It was challenging, but we know it will remain one of the most memorable seasons of our career.
Madison: Even during the Grand Prix events, our goal remained the same: to win the World Championships. Setbacks don't change the objective.
You had a fall during the free dance at Worlds. Waiting in the Kiss & Cry must have felt long, not knowing if you would win.
Madison: I would have been disappointed if we had lost because of that fall. Since it wasn't on a technical element, I was hopeful that we would still secure the gold medal because the rest of the program was really strong. I would have been disappointed after working so hard and going through all of this, but we would have overcome it, and it wouldn't have changed my perception of our skating or the longevity of our careers.
Madison, could you tell us about your different dresses for the free dance?
Madison: The dresses evolved along with our story. I still have a special fondness for the pink dress I wore at the beginning of the season. It was airy, light, and flowing. I hope I'll have the opportunity to wear it again. However, as the program evolved and the story and music changed, our characters developed further, necessitating new costumes. Perhaps if we had more time during the off-season, we would have reached this conclusion earlier. Nonetheless, I have no regrets about how things unfolded. We collaborated swiftly with Mathieu Caron and his team to design the new dress. It was printed on fabric using a special screen-printing technique. I had never seen anything like it before. It was a fun and unconventional creative process compared to our usual pencil-and-paper approach. This time, we did everything on an iPad! Moreover, the new dress is incredibly comfortable and takes up very little space in my luggage (laughs).
What about your make-up for the free program? You had lipstick only on the middle of your lips.
Madison: It was a fun idea that I had. I discussed it with Marie-France, and we decided to give it a try. The lipstick represented the spirit of fire.
You collaborated with Guillaume Cizeron for your exhibition program set to "Nightcall." How was that experience?
Evan: Working with Guillaume was incredible. He provided significant assistance not only for the exhibition program but also when we made choreographic changes to our free dance after the Grand Prix events. He has a natural talent both on the ice and as a choreographer.
Madison: His movement style and perspective on choreography are truly captivating. We absolutely adore Guillaume! He is a treasure.
Do you have any plans for the future beyond competitive skating?
Evan: We will consider coaching or other ways to stay involved in the sport. We have witnessed friends like Scott Moir, Madison Hubbell, and Guillaume Cizeron transition into coaching roles. It's a wonderful way to maintain a connection with the younger generation. The best thing for skaters is to learn from those who have experienced it themselves. I have always felt a strong connection with Marie-France and Patrice because they have gone through the same experiences as us, both as ice dancers and as a couple off the ice.
Madison: I am also thinking about designing costumes for other skaters.
Many skaters would love that! Have you already received requests for costume designs?
Madison: Kaitlin Hawayek initially asked me to design a costume for her rhythm dance for the latter part of the season. We didn't follow through with the process, but I felt honored that she sought my opinion. I also collaborated with Olivia Smart on her free dance dress for the Olympics, providing sketches and color ideas. Jason Brown asked me to design Daniel Grassl's short program costume last year. I have also suggested ideas for Hannah Lim and Ye Quan's costumes last season.
Do you plan to stay in Montreal, once your competitive career concludes?
Madison: We love Montreal, so we may stay for a while, but eventually, we'll return to the US to be closer to our families.
Do you speak any French?
Evan: More than when we first moved here (laughs). I can now read the restaurant menu. Progress!
Evan, you were elected to the ISU Athletes Commission last year. Can you tell us about your work there?
Evan: The Athletes Commission has been focused on improving communication between skaters and the ISU. We also discuss the rule changes that the ISU is working on. It has been a valuable experience.
Madison: Since Evan was elected, many of our friends and fellow skaters have approached him with questions or concerns. It's reassuring to know that someone can represent our voices.
Have you considered working for the ISU beyond your role in the Athletes Commission?
Evan: Not yet. I have been involved in skating for a long time and have established numerous connections. The opportunity to join the Athletes Commission was presented to me, and I considered it before accepting. If other opportunities arise, I will carefully evaluate them.
What are your thoughts on the development of ice dance and the new rules for the upcoming season?
Evan: I'm enthusiastic about the direction ice dance is taking. In the first two years following the Olympics, everyone is open to trying new things. We will assess what works best, and in the two years leading up to the next Olympics, we'll maintain the current rules to ensure that judges, coaches, and skaters are familiar with them. This approach makes sense. Next year, there will be an exciting change with the Silver Samba becoming a choreographic element. This allows us to retain some of the essence of ice dance by reintroducing the pattern as a choreographic element. One partner must perform the steps of the Silver Samba, while the other can execute any steps they choose, with the partners being able to swap steps. We are starting to break gender norms in the sport. We will see a surge in creativity, and the audience will undoubtedly enjoy the '80s theme chosen for the rhythm dance next year. Additionally, there will be changes in the free dance, offering more opportunities for creativity, particularly with the choreographic elements. Instead of having the choreographic sequence restricted to between the blue lines, skaters will have the option to form a circle, execute a diagonal, or follow a straight line. The technical committee is doing an excellent job and is receptive to new ideas.
Madison: These are significant steps forward, particularly with Skate Canada now allowing same-gender couples to compete. I'm excited to see how this plays out during the season and whether new teams will emerge.
Solène MATHIEU - Skate Info Glace