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London calling: Chock, Bates hunger for more

Osmond takes thinking out of skating; Sochi a dream come true for Moskvina

After achieving success with their previous partners, U.S. ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are now thriving together.
After achieving success with their previous partners, U.S. ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are now thriving together. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater and Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/14/2013) - When Madison Chock and Evan Bates teamed up in the summer of 2011, it was a leap of faith for both skaters.

Chock, who won the 2009 world junior title and placed ninth at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships with former partner Greg Zuerlein, was left on her own when Zuerlein retired in June 2011.

"I really didn't know what to think at the time," she said. "I was just kind of surprised."

Bates won the world junior title in 2008 with Emily Samuelson, and the team placed 11th at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. But after his Achilles tendon injury forced them to sit out the 2010-11 season, he thought the two would be challenged to recapture their former spark.

"I think just having a major injury and sitting out a year kind of made me reevaluate things, and gave me some perspective on the sport and where I would like to go with it," Bates, 24, said.

The two began training together under Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva in the summer of 2011, and while the partnership was promising, it was tough to find immediate success in the talented U.S. ice dance field. They placed fifth at the 2012 U.S. Championships, failing to make the U.S. world team.

As things turned out, that wasn't such a bad thing.

"I was at worlds before with Greg, and we had done really well," Chock, 20, said after practice Tuesday. "The next year, to not have that feeling, was disappointing. At the same time, it gave us something to work for, and that's what gave us the spark in the season. Now we're just hungry for it, ready to go."

"You can never predict how things will turn out," Bates said. "At the time we came together, it seemed maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn't work. Just the way we have meshed our personalities has turned out well. I think we both have shared goals and a good work ethic, and that's why we've made it work. Now, we feel we kind of have our destiny in our own hands."

Chock and Bates, who now train with Shpilband in Novi, Mich., recovered from a shaky start at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City in September to win the Nebelhorn Trophy and place a respectable fourth at their single Grand Prix, Cup of China. At the 2013 U.S. Championships, they won silver behind five-time U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and at the 2013 Four Continents Championships in Osaka, Japan, the two won their first ISU championships medal together, a bronze.

Since then, they've worked with Shpilband to add speed to their programs, especially their romantic free dance to the theme from Dr. Zhivago.

"After Japan, there were still things we wanted to work on," Chock said. "We just took everything in stride, made a few adjustments and polished, polished, polished."

"We're really trying to pack more punch into the last minute of the free dance," Bates said. "As the season goes on, our condition becomes better and better. We want to give it some extra oomph at the end."

They are inspired by the international group Shpilband has assembled in Novi. In addition to Lithuanians Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniūnas, who train at Novi full time, Russians Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko and Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte train there part time.

"Skating with the Italians, they just fly by," Bates said. "Seeing the strength of these other teams helps motivate us. Building speed and energy in the final minute [of Dr. Zhivago, through the diagonal step sequence and choreographed lift, was our main goal. We want to look like a powerful new team at worlds, and hopefully we show that this week."

Don't think, just skate

Canadian ladies champion Kaetlyn Osmond skated a clean short program, with a triple toe-triple toe, in her world championships debut, much to the delight of the home country fans in London. The crowd was so loud at times in her tango routine that she said she could not hear her music.

How did she handle the pressures of competing at her first world championships under such conditions? A joke helped. She and her coach came up with this philosophy: "The less I think, the better it is," she said. "When I went up for a jump, I just said, 'No brain, no brain,' and it worked."

Osmond also said she wanted to continue the strong outings of the other Canadians in this competition. She watched the men's event from her hotel room last night and saw Patrick Chan record an all-time best to take the short program lead and countryman Kevin Reynolds place third.

'E' for effort

Alina Fjodorova fell on two triples in her short program, but you have to give the Latvian skater credit. After all, she arrived in London at 2 a.m. this morning. After heading out of Latvia on Tuesday, her flight to Toronto via Paris was rerouted to Frankfurt because of heavy snow. She and her coach, Andrejs Brovenko, arrived in Frankfurt, only to be in a city besieged with more snow. They arrived in Toronto and then had to drive about two hours to London. Without skating a single practice, and being jet-lagged, Fjodorova managed to have her costume and makeup put together and took the ice for her second world championships. She placed 27th last year.

Dream almost come true

Tamara Moskvina, one of the most accomplished Russian coaches, having trained numerous Olympians, has always hoped for a Winter Games to be held on Russian soil. Her home country hosted the Summer Games in Moscow in 1980, but the Winter Games in Sochi less than a year from now will be the first time the winter edition has been held there. "I dreamed of the day when it would be in Russia," said Moskvina, 71, who is in London coaching the pairs team of Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, who are fourth entering the free skate. When asked how she would feel to have one of her teams win an Olympic title in Sochi as opposed to somewhere else, she said, "I would be more proud."