As a duo, ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are two-time medalists at the World Championships, two-time national champions, and have competed at the 2014 and 2018 Olympics. The current world No. 1 pair in their selected discipline, they slide into the new year as favorites at the upcoming U.S. Figure Skating Championships and 2022 Winter Games.
It’s taken a decade of artistry, “grueling” workouts, and teamwork to make it this far. Get to know the United States’ poodle-loving ice skaters, Madison Chock and Evan Bates.
SEE MORE: 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships: Preview, how to watch
One of Evan Bates' earliest figure skating memories easily could have turned him away from the sport. "I remember being in my first ice show, dressed as a leprechaun," he told NBC Olympics. "I was so nervous that I wet myself, right down my green pants. That certainly was not the moment that propelled me to dedicate my life to skating."
Born on February 23, 1989, Bates took to the ice at 4 years old; he started competing a year later. His first Olympic memory is watching with Michael Johnson's famous 200m win at the 1996 Atlanta Games -- in which the runner wore golden shoes.
Chock was born July 2, 1992 in Torrance, California, and began skating at age 5. Her full name is "Madison La'akea Te-Lan Hall Chock;" La-akea means "sacred light from heaven," and Te-Lan translates to "special or unique orchid." Chock is of Chinese-Hawaiian descent on her father's side, and says that Hawaii is her favorite place in the world. Like Bates, she recalls a very specific Olympic moment spurring her interest in the Games: Michelle Kwan's silver medal-winning performance at the 1998 Nagano Games. Chock was so inspired, she tried to replicate Kwan's jumps in her living room: "[Kwan's] got class, a wicked good work ethic, and positive attitude."
Both Chock and Bates excelled at figure skating when younger, though both started in singles. Bates' first partner was Emily Samuelson, with whom he won a world junior title in 2008. The two would compete at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where they placed 11th. At 12 years old, Chock teamed up with Greg Zuerlein. The duo won the world junior title in 2009.
Several months after those Olympics, Bates' Achilles tendon was fully severed during an accident on the ice. He sat out the entire competitive season and took about a year to recover. When he felt good enough to return to figure skating, Bates partnered with Chock for the 2011-12 season. Chock and Bates proved a perfect match. After winning back-to-back silver medals at the 2013 and 2014 Nationals, they made their Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games, where they placed eighth.
Chock/Bates have only upped their Game since Sochi. From 2014 through 2018, they earned medals at numerous tournaments, with highlights including silver at the 2015 World Championships and bronze at the following year's competition. Their momentum slowed a bit towards the 2017-18 season, though the duo placed third at the 2018 U.S. Nationals -- paving the way for a spot on the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics roster. In South Korea, they placed ninth -- behind U.S. teammates Alex and Maia Shibutani, who earned bronze, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who placed fourth.
But PyeongChang marked their first Olympics as a couple -- in the romantic sense.
"We are together all the time," Chock said of Bates. "It's almost like reading my favorite book. I can often see what he's thinking by a single look, and other times he can still take me by surprise, especially with his creative ideas."
Bates also complimented his partner: "[Chock] brings a lot of light to my life. We spend almost all of our time together and yet I never grow tired of her. She has a great, light sense of humor and a very happy outlook on life."
The Shibutanis effectively retired after Pyeongchang. Chock/Bates continued to hone their skills and compete across the globe. "Everyone in this sport works very hard to perfect their programs every year," Chock said. "And it's tough, yet exciting to start over at the end of the season. You basically start from scratch and have to come up with new programs, elements, everything."
SEE MORE: Figure Skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics
Following another four years of skating success, Chock (now 29) and Bates (now 32) head towards what is perhaps their final Olympic Games in strong shape. Though they earned their highest combined total at the 2020 Four Continents with 213.18 points, Chock/Bates scored a personal best short dance of 86.02 points at November's NHK Trophy. That short dance score contributed to one of the two silver medals the duo won at their Grand Prix assignments.
First up for the new year: the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Chock/Bates won that tournament in 2020, and came in second last year. They are practically a lock for the 2022 Winter Olympics, where they will be medal favorites.