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Chock, Bates form new on-ice partnership

Both skaters looking forward to competing together

Madison Chock and Evan Bates have announced a new partnership.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates have announced a new partnership. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(07/01/2011) - Evan Bates is looking forward to moving ahead in his ice dancing career now that he is on the mend from a frustrating Achilles tendon injury and skating with a new partner in Madison Chock.

After being sidelined all last season, he is finally back on the ice training and he and Chock have their sights set on big goals for the upcoming season.

But even though Bates skated in the Olympic Winter Games with his previous partner, Emily Samuelson, and Chock cracked the top-10 at the World Championships with her former partner, Greg Zuerlein, they know there is a lot of work for them to reach that elite level again -- especially with the 2011-12 season just around the corner.

"When I started skating with Madison, it definitely was different,'' said Bates, who had been Samuelson's partner for 11 years. "When you skate with someone like I did with Emily for so long, it's like putting on a glove. Now I'm trying on a new glove.

"I understand the amount of work we have ahead of us, but it's refreshing and exciting."

Bates, 22, said he had not been looking for a new partner but circumstances, namely his injury, changed things. Bates suffered a torn Achilles while practicing a lift back in September. When he and Samuelson began skating together in March, Bates said it was difficult to get back into synch.

"I had very high expectations but when I got back on the ice and tried to put the pieces back together, they didn't seem to fit the same way,'' Bates said. "There was no preemptive desire on my part to split. I just think the injury changed things.

"Now I think a fresh start might be best for everyone.''

Meanwhile, Chock was left without a partner because Zuerlein had decided to retire from competitive skating about two weeks after the 2011 World Championships were held April 24-May 1 in Moscow. She had tryouts with several skaters, and then Bates and Samuelson announced their split this past week. So, Bates and Chock decided to skate together.

It was tough for Bates to part with Samuelson, but he is trying his best to move ahead. His new partnership is just days old, so at the moment, he is focused on the basics.

"Right now we are just trying to match and stroke together,'' Bates said. "But I can speak about Madison from the perspective of a competitor, and she truly is a performer on the ice.''

Chock, who turns 19 on Saturday, said being partnered with Bates is a great birthday present.

"I am so grateful for this opportunity,'' Chock said. "Evan is very motivating and it's great because we've been friends for a long time. I just feel very lucky.''

Both Bates and Chock said they are fortunate that they could find a new partner at the same rink and continue to work with the same coaches in Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva. Shpilband and Zoueva coached the top-three teams at the 2011 World Championships with Meryl Davis and Charlie White claiming the first U.S. ice dancing world title, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir came in second and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani earned the bronze medal.

Chock and Zuerlein placed ninth.

Chock has been working with Shpilband and Zoueva since 2007. Bates, meanwhile, had spent most of his career with Yuri Chesnichenko and Yaroslava Nechaeva in Ann Arbor, Mich., and didn't move to Canton, Mich., to work with Shpilband and Zoueva until April 2010.

"Igor and Marina just told us to go out strong," Chock said. "The rest, is up to us.

"It's great to have them because they're so supportive."

For Chock, the biggest adjustment is going to be skating with someone as tall as Bates, who stands at about 6-1. Zuerlein is 5-8. Shpilband said Bates is the tallest skater at their suburban Detroit rink.

"I do not look at Evan's height as being a challenge," Shpilband said. "I see it as a big advantage. It is a good look on the ice, and his height makes things easier for lifts."

It is not certain yet what competitions Chock and Bates will enter this season since they are a new team. But Shpilband said he hopes to enter the new couple in a local event by August so they can be monitored by judges. Right now, the focus is on training together. A lot.

"The big thing for us is to build that trust and a special connection,'' Bates said. "We've only been skating together for a couple of days."

Said Shpilband: "We have a lot of work to do, absolutely. It's really unfortunate that we have to rush things. With a new team, you don't want to rush things, but they are both great skaters so I am optimistic."