Chock and Bates together on the ice, at home together during pandemic

Madison Chock and Evan Bates
Courtesy of Chock and Bates
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Madison Chock and Evan Bates work together in the fullest and most intertwined sense, two athletes who have fused into a couple as both competitors and entertainers during a nine-year partnership.

They also live together, as partners in the more common sense of such a relationship.

For the past three years, that has made the 2020 U.S. and Four Continents ice dance champions a 24/7 couple, a situation few people have experienced in their lives.

Until the last month, that is. Now tens of millions of couples around the globe have suddenly found themselves spending almost every minute of the day and night in each other’s presence because of the need to slow the spread of coronavirus by social distancing from all but those they normally live with.

So, much to their bemusement, Chock and Bates have suddenly been in demand as relationship counselors.

“You’re cooped up with your significant other, and for people who usually see each other just a few hours a day, it’s like, ‘What is happening?’” Bates said in a FaceTime interview this week. “We’re a pretty young couple, but older people are asking us how we get along spending so much time together.

“It’s pretty funny that people are turning to ice dancers for relationship advice. We’ve heard that ice dance is really like a marriage. I guess that must be true since we’ve got married couples asking for advice.”

Since they last skated together on “real” ice March 13 (more on that later), two days after the cancellation of the 2020 World Figure Skating Championships, Chock, 27, and Bates, 31, have been pretty much confined to their two-bedroom Montreal apartment with their toy poodles, Henry and Stella. The dogs have never had it so good: long, looong, looooong walks at least twice a day and constant human companionship.

“They are living their best lives right now,” Chock said, laughing.

As badly as they miss skating, Chock and Bates are managing to avoid the pitfalls that could accompany the annoying absence of the activity they love while in the constant presence of the person they love. The two-time world medalists find themselves less bothered by little irritants than they have been sometimes after a long day at the rink.

“When we’re skating and training hard, we could come home tired and hungry, and little things would get to us,” Chock said.

“We’re lucky because we started first as friends and partners and began dating many years later,” Bates added. “The foundation of our partnership and relationship is all about friendship and fun. Yes, we’re spending all this time together, but we’ve been laughing and having a good time.”

It has been a medal-winning partnership since their second season together, 2012-13. They have made the podium at eight straight U.S. Championships (two titles), all six of their Four Continents Championships appearances (two titles), three Grand Prix Finals and 12 straight other Grand Prix events dating to 2013. They have competed in the last two Olympics, finishing eighth and ninth (Bates was in a third, 2010, with a different partner).

After backsliding on the world stage the previous three seasons, this was shaping up as their best season ever. They finished second at the Grand Prix Final, had the largest winning margin at nationals since eventual Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2014, and their eye-catching, Egyptian snake dance-themed free dance got better and more compelling with every competition.

That made the world meet cancellation even more disappointing to Chock and Bates, especially since it was to take place in their adopted home of Montreal. They have trained with many of the world’s other top ice dancers at the Ice Academy of Montreal since the summer of 2018.

MORE: Takeaways from the abbreviated 2019-20 figure skating season

And that is why they got a needed lift from how fast the Ice Academy staff created a virtual training program for its athletes, beginning barely a week after its rink was closed. The program includes three nutrition seminars a week, teaching the skaters how to alter their diets because they are not as physically active.

“It really helped us mentally to have a structure in place as soon as they did,” Chock said. “When the worlds were cancelled, there was a lot of sadness and uncertainty. This allowed us to channel our emotions and not let all the hard training we had done just stop and go away.”

Tuesday, the sessions were an hour with a physical trainer, an hour of ballet and an hour of hip hop. Chock and Bates are lucky not to have neighbors below who might be disturbed by all the thumping and to have a room in the apartment they can dedicate to the workouts and another room they use for relaxation. Under normal circumstances, they have usually tried to leave their skating lives at the rink.

“It’s nice to have a separation between the two spaces,” Chock said.

They do body weight work such as squats, lunges, jumps, and pushups. They do yoga. They work with resistance bands. They have no free weights (“We lift the dogs,” Chock joked).

“It’s surprisingly very challenging,” Chock said of the five-days-per-week workouts.

“It’s pretty much everything we can do without getting on the ice,” Bates said.

They did get on “ice,” March 23. It was a tiny frozen patch in the courtyard of their apartment building, and it melted soon after they put on skates to record a short Instagram video.

This weekend, they will be involved in two skating-related projects.

Saturday, they will take part in “Open Ice,” streaming at 2 p.m. (EDT). It is a show co-produced by Canadian ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver that will include many of the greatest skaters in history as a fundraiser for the United Nations’ Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. (For full information, click here.)

Sunday from 1:30-2 p.m., Chock and Bates will host an Instagram live on U.S. Figure Skating’s Instagram account as a lead-in to an NBC broadcast (2-3 p.m. EDT) of “U.S. Figure Skating: A Season’s Best.”

“The pandemic… I don’t want to say it has made skating less important to us, but it has put into perspective how fortunate we are and how serious other matters in the world are,” Bates said.

“When we have an ice rink and are skating full-out, we get so tunnel-visioned about what we are working on. This makes you take more of a macro lens view of the world and where we fall into it with our skating and what it can give to the world – entertainment, hope, joy.”

“Moving forward,” Chock said, picking up Bates’ theme, “we hope to bring something positive after something that has been just so horribly negative for so many people, us included, but not to the degree as it has been so many others.”

The programs they do next season – if there is a next season – will depend in part on when they can get back on the ice. The International Skating Union has decided to let ice dancers keep the same rhythm dance theme and rhythm as last season. Chock and Bates still would like to show their snake dance free at a Worlds, but they also are thinking about other possibilities. So far, though, they have not been trying out new choreography in they simulated, sock-footed dancing they are doing on their apartment floors.

“It would take two months of being back on ice to get our bodies ready,” Chock said. “New programs would need much more time.”

Neither feels they will have an advantage over dance teams who are not living together in this isolation period.

“I don’t think that when we do compete again, whether or not we were together during the quarantine will affect much,” Bates said. “Couples who were apart might be so happy to see each other and skate together again, they will be more inspired.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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