When it comes to ice dancing, the United States' hopes rested on Meryl Davis and Charlie White coming into the 2014 Winter Olympics. But Madison Chock and Evan Bates showed the future beyond Davis and White could have plenty of promise.
The American duo finished their free skate with a season-best score of 99.18 on Monday. While it was a strong showing, they missed out on an Olympic medal.
Their combined score including the free skate put them behind gold medalists Davis and White, whose sterling program earned them a gold medal. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada earned silver, while Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia rounded out the medalists with bronze.
|Olympic Ice Dancing|
|1||Meryl Davis, Charlie White||United States||195.52|
|2||Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir||Canada||190.99|
|3||Elena Ilinykh, Nikita Katsalapov||Russia||183.48|
|4||Nathalie Pechalat, Fabian Bourzat||France||177.22|
|5||Ekaterina Bobrova, Dmitri Soloviev||Russia||172.92|
|6||Anna Cappellini, Luca Lanotte||Italy||169.50|
|7||Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje||Canada||169.11|
|8||Madison Chock, Evan Bates||United States||164.64|
|9||Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani||United States||155.17|
Chock and Bates arrived for Monday evening's long skate in a bit of a hole. Their short program left them with a score of 65.46, good for a middling eighth place. While it didn't necessarily put them behind the 8-ball for the long program, they had their work cut out for them if they hoped to medal.
The duo delivered, putting forth a strong performance, and one that was well choreographed, as Nancy Armour of USA Today pointed out:
It was a long, strange time coming for the American upstarts. While Davis and White have dominated the ice dancing circuit alongside Canadians Virtue and Moir, their runs have been marked by a long-term partnership. Both of the world-best pairs were matched up together in the late-1990s—sticking together to establish themselves as head and shoulders above the field.
Chock and Bates had no such luck. They each paired with two different skaters before finding one another in 2011. Chock most notably danced with Greg Zuerlein for five years before he retired for competition, and Bates paired with Emily Samuelson for more than a decade prior to their mutual parting of ways.
When it came to their partnership, it was Bates who had to try out. Chock, 21, was an up and comer who wasn't lacking for potential suitors, but Bates, 23, had faith he would ultimately win out.
“I didn’t try out with any other girls,” Bates said, per Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press. “I knew I wanted to skate with Maddie. I remember telling Maddie that my ultimate goal was to make the Sochi team and I wanted to do it with her.”
Bates came into their partnership with one advantage: He had competed in the Olympics previously. The Bates-Samuelson pair skated to a very nice 11th-place finish in their first event together, giving Chock faith he could help push her career to the next level.
The decision to go with Bates paid off for both parties. They earned more success together than with their previous relationships, earning the silver medal in each of the last two United States National Championships. Coupled with a bronze in the Four Continents Championships in 2013, Chock and Bates were an interesting sleeper coming into Sochi.
Defeating either Davis and White or Virtue and Moir was a bit of a long shot, but a bronze didn't feel out of the question. After their short program, they were only a little more than seven points behind Ilinykh and Katsalapov of Russia, who were in third place.
No matter the final result in Sochi, however, Chock and Bates should still have plenty to look forward to. Davis and White will each be in their 30s come Pyeongchang, and it's unclear whether they will want to compete. Moir and Virtue are slightly more likely to come back four years from now, but four straight Olympics is awfully difficult for ice dancers.
With their promising showings in Sochi, Bates and Chock may wind up the United States' best chance at a medal over the next Olympic period. Either way, they have to walk away encouraged following Monday's run.