Three questions with Madison Chock, Evan Bates before U.S. Championships

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Madison Chock and Evan Bates made their season debut at a small event in Poland, but before that, were off the ice 10 months as Chock rehabbed an ankle injury.

They’ll come to the U.S. Championships later this week in Detroit with a renewed sense of what it means to be skating again.

“I can tell you it felt like a very long 10 months, but it felt really, really great to be back competing again,” Chock told reporters on a media teleconference ahead of nationals. “Our main goal is to get people excited about our skating again, as much as we are, because we feel such a newfound inspiration and passion for skating that we haven’t felt in a long time. We’re really excited to share that with everyone this season.”

Here’s what we learned about the team from their media call:

1. Chock and Bates’ move to Montreal to train with the world’s top teams – as well as two other American teams – shook things up for them.

Evan Bates: “The move to Montreal has been really good for us on a lot of levels… We needed a change just to feel reinvigorated for the next four-year cycle. There’s something really special going on in the camp in Montreal. You see the success that they had, especially at the Olympics. We knew that if we could move there, that would really be the place that would spark our passion again and give us the kind of daily competition that we were craving. That’s what’s been beneficial for us on the ice.”

“Then off ice, it’s been great being here with people who are our age, friends that I’ve grown up with and have a really long history and personal friendship with. Those kinds of things, maybe we didn’t anticipate would be so beneficial to us, has been great. Our lives outside of the ice rink also have developed, have been enriched by the environment.”

“You add in the layer of – we’re living in a foreign country where they speak French. We feel like fish out of water. I think it’s good for us. We’ve been comfortable for a long time. I think a little bit of discomfort is good when you’re looking for growth.

2. They are taking this season as “phase one” in their long-term, three-year plan through the next Olympics.

EB: “We know that it’s a long process. It’s probably a multi-year process. Right now, we’re in phase one. Our goal for U.S. Championships and beyond through the season is just simply to show the way that we’re feeling about our own skating, which is that we’re very excited. We feel a new passion – our passion never died, but it’s been sparked again. It’s been reinvigorated. We’re very excited about the direction things are going for us. We wanna get other people excited about it. Whatever the placement is at nationals, we’ll certainly be able to live with it knowing that things are heading in the right direction for us.

3. Even though it was a small competition, there were still moments to learn from in Poland.

EB: “We were a little nervous, to be honest. In the [rhythm] dance especially. There’s no simulation for competition and we trained a lot. We feel really prepared. The programs feel like they’re in a good place. But when you get to the competition and the moment arrives, there’s nothing like it. We were a little bit nervous for the first time out. Maybe it showed a little bit, especially in the [rhythm] dance. The free dance was really a good skate for us and we felt it’s something we’ve been waiting for so long and finally we got the opportunity to compete and perform and it just felt like a relief, honestly.”

MC: “Every outing is a learning experience. Every run-through is a learning experience. Each time we perform our programs, we learn from it and can make the next one even better. Competing is just learning at a different level. Competition is so much different than practice. We have benefited from going out and competing in Poland. We’re very happy that we did that. We are more confident in our programs than we were before. Very excited to debut them for the U.S. Championships.”

MORE: Three questions with Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue before U.S. Championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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