Madison Chock and Evan Bates win age-record-breaking US ice dance title

SAN JOSE, Calif. – They both entered the new Olympic cycle as the undisputed national leaders in their figure skating disciplines, cementing that status with U.S. titles Saturday – the fourth for ice dancers Madison Block and Evan Batesthe second for the parent team of Alexa Kneerim and Brandon Frazier.

At the moment, their respective paths to the 2026 Winter Games seem clear and free of challengers.

The question for the dancers and the couple is how far they want to go down that road.

“I don’t know what the next four years will bring,” Chock said. “But we are committed to each other and our goals, and we will decide when the time comes.”

Chock, 30, and Bates, 33, engaged to wed in the summer of 2024, have been at this for a long time. And their trophy cabinet is packed to the brim, with the only gaps being a world title and an individual Olympic medal.

They have competed together at the senior level for 12 seasons in the U.S. Championships, winning medals in the last 11. They have gone to nine world championships, won three medals and three Olympics (four for Bates), and won an yet-to-be-awarded team medal last year in Beijing.

(The unsolved doping case involving a Russian skater Kamila Valiyev has delayed the awarding of the 2022 team event medals. Maybe it will be a wedding present for Chock and Bates. Or a gift for a fifth birthday…)

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Until this year, Chock and Bates had faced formidable rivals on the national scene: 2014 Olympic champions Mary Davis and Charlie White; Olympic bronze medalists 2018 Maya Shibutani and Alex Shibutani; and 2022 Olympic bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zakary Donohue, with whom Chock and Bates have traded gold medals for the past four seasons. All have withdrawn from the competition.

On Saturday they reached the gold medal with 22.29 points more Caroline Green and Michael Parsonsthe largest margin of victory for ice dance among nationals since 2006. In a discipline where established hierarchy weighs heavily, Chock and Bates find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being on a metaphorically easy street to the top step of the American podium.

“We – at least I – were nervous today,” said Bates. “We (still) felt compelled to skate well. The lack of perhaps the Hubbell-Donohue back and forth did not detract from today’s specialness.”

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, have similar longevity in Nationals, even though they only teamed up in 2020 and took the U.S. title in their first season together.

Knierim skated on seven nationals with her husband, Chris, won three titles, Frazier on seven with Haven Denneywin once.

Knierim and Frazier had expected to retire after last season, when they missed out on national titles due to Frazier contracting Covid, but ended up finishing sixth in the Olympics and unexpectedly becoming the first U.S. team to win a pairs world title since 1979. Their experiences on the Stars on Ice Tour led them to reconsider.

“It made sense on our timeline to move forward,” Knierim told me in September. “We did everything we could in two years.

“Still, it felt like it could be sad or disappointing to end a really talented career together so soon. Being on tour had opened our eyes to how in sync and united we felt on the ice. So there was a little bit of curiosity, a sense of ‘What else are we capable of?’”

Their personal circumstances have changed over the course of this season. Chris Knierim will start on Thursday as skating director of an ice rink in the Chicago suburbs, and the Knierims recently bought a home in that neighborhood.

Knierim and Frazier trained at an ice rink in Irvine, California. Should they decide to continue as competitors after this season, it would almost certainly mean a move to Chicago for Frazier.

Knierim insisted her house purchase was no indication of what her plans are for Frazier.

“Right now we’re staying on track, based in Irvine at the World Championships (late March),” Knierim said before winning her fifth U.S. title.

“We do have some changes ahead. But I would hate to jump ahead and say yes or no to next season. We learned that last season.”

Frazier spoke on Saturday about reflecting throughout this season on their personal journeys and their collaboration, the kind of reflection that often comes with doing something for the last time.

“We’re just trying to take it in as if it could be your last, but the future is unknown,” Frazier said.

Knierim and Frazier triumphed on Saturday with the largest margin of victory, 31.11 points, in the 18 years that the International Judging System has been used in nationals.

Her quick thinking saved them several points.

After Frazier put his hand on the ice on the triple toe loop that would open a triple double jump combination, Knierim saw her partner would follow with just a single jump and followed suit. It led to the delightful oddity of side-by-side single toe loops.

Nicely executed too.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at every Winter Olympics since 1980, is a special contributor to

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