GANGNEUNG, South Korea—Even before they skated their first stroke of the Olympic ice dance free skate, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, a couple off the ice, wanted their program to have a special meaning. Skating to John Lennon’s Imagine, they hoped their program would send a message of hope and togetherness that would resonate with the Olympic community and the millions of viewers who tune in to watch the quadrennial show on ice.
“This program was built for the Olympics,” says their coach Igor Shpilband of the routine, which was choreographed in part by ice dancing great Christopher Dean. “This program means a lot for them, and they feel a lot to this music.”
As they entered their combination spin hallway through their four minute program, the pair found themselves sprawled on the ice. “I think we clicked blades entering the spin, and it’s really impossible to spin with that kind of friction,” says Bates. “One moment things were going exactly how we wanted to, and the next moment in a flash, disaster stuck. There’s no other way to put it really.”
Chock has been battling a foot injury all season; she says she detached two bone fragments which are being held only by cartilage, and it’s painful when she stands on her foot or puts impact on the foot. She’s been taping the foot for extra support and received cortisone shots last summer, but put off any consideration of surgery so that she could compete this season.
She says that the injury had nothing to do with the mishap, however, and couldn’t explain how the mistake happened. “As soon as it happened, I couldn’t believe our butts were on the ice where our skates were supposed to be,” says Chock, choking back tears. “It’s just not something you want to have happen. We worked so hard this season to reinvent ourselves, and I think we’ve done that. It just sucks that this happened at the Olympic Games. But it’s okay. Life goes on, and we’ll go on, we’ll be okay.”
Shpilband was at a loss to explain the error as well. While their entrance into the spin is a difficult one that requires Chock to jump into the spin, it’s one that they’ve done without problems thousands of times. “I have to look at the video to see what was happening,” says Shpilband. “It wasn’t anything they are not capable of doing or struggling to do or have any technical issue with, not at all. It’s a good program and a good message but unfortunately they had a fall. You never want that to happen but it was the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The fall meant they earned no points for the combination spin, which dropped Chock and Bates to ninth place overall. But they are already looking ahead. “I wish we could have the moment back but that’s part of sports, that’s part of life,” says Bates. “We’ve got to come back. We’ve got to come back and redeem ourselves. That’s part of our story now.” That chance will come next month, at the world championships in Milan, Italy. “We will go home, train, and put out the performances we wanted to put out here at worlds,” says Chock.