Madison Chock and Evan Bates used their win at Skate America last year as a springboard to their first world championship.
Perhaps their victory Sunday will be a springboard to the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics.
The American ice dancers, who have yet to commit to continuing their careers all the way to the next Winter Games in Italy, proved they nevertheless remain among the best in the world. Chock and Bates scored 212.96 points at the opening event of the Grand Prix season, easily winning their fourth Skate America title at Credit Union of Texas Event Center in Allen, Texas.
Their score was more than 10 points ahead of their total last season, and given the way scores tend to climb through the season as programs get refined, there is a good chance Chock and Bates could break their own world record at some point.
“Skate America is a very special Grand Prix for us, mainly because it’s a chance to skate in front of a home audience which is very special and fun,” Chock said after their free skate, set to music from Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
“Our parents are in the audience,” she added. “It’s great to be able to look out and see them.”
Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, the Canadian silver medalists, finished second with 196.99 points for their best finish at a Grand Prix event. Their program was highlighted by a soaring rotational lift just as their music hit a crescendo.
French national champions Evgeniia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud finished third with 193.47 points.
“We’re very, very, very happy,” Lagha said. “We were both very nervous before but when there’s so much stress, we understand we need to just connect with each other and that there’s nothing else going on in the world beside us two.”
In the women’s competition, Loena Hendrickx of Belgium breezed through a remix of “Break My Soul” by Beyoncé and finished with 221.28 points to hold off U.S. star Isabeau Levito, who rallied from an uneven short program to take the silver medal. Nina Petrokina became the first skater from Estonia to medal on the senior Grand Prix circuit with her bronze.
Amber Glenn, who was second after her short program, became the sixth American woman to land a triple axel in competition on her opening jump. But utterly exhausted by the end, Glenn fell on her final three jumps and finished out of the medals.
Chock and Bates were in another league at Skate America, beginning with mashup of Queen songs during their rhythm dance that gave them a comfortable lead heading into the free dance, where they skated with such passion and precision that a huge crowd on hand for the final day of competition was left holding its breath.
Beginning with their unique stationary lift, and right through their powerful straight line lift near the end of the program — when he holds her aloft with hands on only her skate and shin — the real-life couple exuded confidence and charisma.
The victory made it 19 of the past 21 years that a U.S. team took home the Skate America title.
It also raised the question sure to follow Chock and Bates well into the future: After helping the U.S. win a team medal at the Beijing Olympics, but just missing the podium themselves in the ice dance competition, will the 31-year-old Chock and the 34-year-old Bates have the desire to continue competing through the next Winter Olympics?
“It’s on the horizon but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Bates, who along with Chock have yet to receive those team medals because of the slow-moving investigation into doping that involved one of the Russian skaters in Beijing.
“We’re taking it year by year,” he said, “but the ultimate goal is to be back at to the Olympic Games.”