Ice Network

Chock, Bates ride winning technical score to lead

Weaver, Poje sit second; Top four teams separated by just 2.5 points
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Heading into competition as one of the favorites to make the podium, Team USA's Madison Chock and Evan Bates took a slight lead over Canadian rivals Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. The Americans brought their signature intensity to their 74.47-point short dance and sit in first place. -Getty Images

Madison Chock and Evan Bates performed their finest short dance of the season at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships and will take a 1.79-point lead over Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje into Friday's free dance.

Skating with flow and assurance to Minkus' classic ballet Don Quixote, the U.S. champions racked up an impressive technical elements score (38.52) and were the only couple to gain Level 4's for all five elements. The judges awarded mostly +2 Grades of Execution (GOE), with the lift and twizzles earning a few +3s. Their program components averaged 9.0 points, reaching as high as 9.75. Overall, they earned 74.47 points.   

"We worked so hard for this moment. We're really happy," Chock said. "We're excited about our season's best, which is always great to have at the world championships. We're excited to go into the free dance and show a good performance."

"We've been so critical of our levels and finally we achieved all Level 4's, and that made a huge difference today," Bates said. "We're proud of our technical score. We've struggled to get Level 4's on the paso doble sections, and we did that today. We also got a Level 4 [on the non-touching midline steps], which is the first [time] we've done [that] all year. It's the right time for it."

Bates gave credit to their coaching team, including Igor Shpilband, Greg Zuerlein and Adrienne Lenda, who train the skaters in Novi, Michigan.

"Igor is an absolute technical genius," he said. "We've been drilling the paso. We know the footwork has been good, but it depends on the performance, and today it all came together for us. It wasn't something crazy-amazing -- it was solid for us."

The standings here echo those after the short dance at the 2015 Four Continents Championships, where Chock and Bates led Weaver and Poje by 2.07 points.

"We were in the same position (first place) at Four Continents, and we came away with the silver medal, but having that experience helps," Bates said.

Just 2.5 points separate the top four teams.

Weaver and Poje, the Canadian world silver medalists, earned 72.68 points for a short dance to "La virgin de la Macarena" that was smooth yet aggressive. The difference-maker was a Level 2 for their first paso doble section. The Canadians also had a Level 2 on a paso section at Four Continents.

"Our silver medal last year is what made us so strong, I know that we can push through anything," Weaver said. "Being second is not a new thing for us, so we are fighters. We know how to come back."

Reigning Italian world champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte are third with 72.39 points. Skating to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol," they gained four Level 4 elements, with their steps rating Level 3.

"It is not the easiest season for us for many reasons, and I feel really happy that we are able to compete in this field, and in the top, again," Cappellini said. "Actually, it's a personal best in the short dance, so it's really a great day for us."

European champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France are fourth with 71.94 points. Judges awarded them the highest program components in the field, averaging 9.2 points, as well as the highest GOEs. Four of their five elements gained at least one +3 GOE.

The technical panel was a bit less impressed. Their lift and twizzles earned Level 4, but the other three elements gained Level 3, which cost them a place in the top three.   

As expected, Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin were the top Russians, earning 69.46 points, good for fifth place. Skating to Bizet's Carmen, three of their elements had a Level 4, with the other two gaining Level 3.

U.S. silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani sit sixth with 69.32 points. The students of Marina Zoueva began their short dance with the flamenco "Asturias" followed by the paso doble "Corrida," skating with strong Spanish flavor throughout. Three elements were rated Level 4, and the non-touching step sequence and the second paso doble section gained Level 3.

"It's our third time in Shanghai and our fifth world championships," Maia said. "This short dance is a program we really love. We've grown so much this season by doing this program." 

"We could have skated better, it's safe to say," Alex said. "We're still skating well. It's just one performance."

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the third-place finishers in the U.S., are 11th with 61.43 points. Their non-touching step sequence was excellent and gained Level 3, and the two paso doble sections were awarded Levels 3 and 4. Donohue, however, stumbled on the twizzle sequence.

"Our goal was to skate strong and to come back the best we could after my (March 2014 hip) surgery," Hubbell said. "It wasn't our best short dance, unfortunately. The flukes that happen sometimes are very frustrating. All we can say is that we are looking forward to the free dance."

Shanghai slings: There were seven falls among the 30 couples, which is unusually high ... None of the nine judges seated for the short dance came from a country with a medal-contending team; a U.S., Canadian, French, Italian or Russian judge was not drawn ... German ice dancer Alexander Gazsi developed food poisoning Tuesday night, and he and partner Nelli Zhiganshina missed practice Wednesday morning. They tried to make it through the six-minute warmup before the short dance, but they were unable to and withdrew from the event. This was to be their final competition. Gazsi is retiring, while Zhiganshina is looking for a new partner.

Davis and White, Plushenko perform in opening ceremony

Between the short dance and the pairs short program, event organizers treated fans to a spectacular 55-minute opening ceremony featuring special lighting effects, large groups of skaters in elaborate costumes and floating stages with singers and celebrities as guests.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White performed a portion of their Olympic-winning free dance to Scheherazade, while 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko showed some of his Godfather free skate.  

Chinese world champion Chen Lu appeared with her two young daughters. The 2010 Olympic pairs champions, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, sang a song and did some lifts on the ice.

All 17,000 spectators received a box with a small flashlight and scarf, which they waved during the performances. The spectacle gave one the feeling of participating in the first rehearsal of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games, which China hopes to be awarded for the year 2022.