Ice Network

Second helpings not on the menu for Chock, Bates

Homemade pie, cookies tempt ice dancers; New Year's Eve a non-holiday
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With so much riding on their performance at the upcoming U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Madison Chock and Evan Bates are maintaining their focus this holiday season. -Lynn Rutherford

Top North American figure skaters have two kinds of December holiday seasons: brief and briefer.

With the U.S. and Canada holding national championships the third week of January, there is little room for extra helpings of turkey and pie...and don't even think about overindulging on New Year's Eve.

"New Year's is pretty much a non-existent holiday for most North American skaters," Madison Chock said. "The championships are so close, right in that month, that we don't acknowledge it as a holiday. We just power through."

"We have to skate on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day," Evan Bates said. "It's three weeks before nationals, which for us is really crunch time in terms of preparation."

Fresh off their silver medal at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, the U.S. ice dance silver medalists managed a brief respite from training last weekend to perform in "Holiday Dreams on Ice," a festive outdoor event combining skating with singing and fireworks held at the state-of-the-art Twin Rinks Ice Center in East Meadow, Long Island.

The team revived their Dr. Zhivago free dance from the 2012-13 season -- "It fits with the snowflake theme, and the dress is long-sleeved and warm," Chock said -- and debuted a new program to "Ave Maria."

Samantha Cesario, who trains full time at Twin Rinks, showed off her sultry side in "Santa Baby." Local competitors, including the Skyliners' juvenile synchronized skating team and top 12-year-old juvenile girl Emilia Murdock, also joined in.

With six-time U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White not competing, new U.S. ice dance champions will be crowned in Greensboro, North Carolina, next month for the first time since 2009. Chock and Bates' strong Grand Prix season makes them favorites, but they will get strong competition from Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who placed fourth at the Grand Prix Final, as well as Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who won two Grand Prix medals this fall.

"We're going to train hard for a few days and then take a four-day rest," Bates said. "So we will be off the 25th to the 28th and just spend the holidays with our families in Michigan."

For Bates, that means spending time with his two baby nieces.

"We're doing the whole Santa Claus thing, leaving carrots out on the roof for the reindeers and all, and I'm really excited," he said.

Chock will share the holiday with longtime boyfriend Deividas Stagniūnas, the Lithuanian ice dance champion (with Isabella Tobias) who retired after the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships.

"Deividas' brother, Donatus, is coming into town, and he is going to cook for Christmas Eve, which should be a surprise," she said. "I've never had his cooking before, but I'm sure it's going to be good. My mom and I will cook Christmas Day dinner."

In a sport that prizes svelte figures and tight costumes, festive dinners bring their own challenges. Reminded of this, Bates groaned.

"We have a little experience with this, because we trained the day after Thanksgiving," he said. "I ate so much, and we came into the rink the next day and we had to do our short and free. I was struggling; it was tough."

This year, the ice dancer plans on eating just one piece of older sister Alexis' classic apple pie.

"She takes a lot of pride in her crust," Bates said. "You just can't have too much of it, because you'll be kicking yourself when you're training."

Chock finds it easier to turn down second helpings than her partner does.

"I let myself have a little bit of everything so I don't crave it so much," she said. "'Everything in moderation' is my motto. My mom makes some really delicious Christmas cookies: snowballs, cookies she calls melt'ems, butterscotch. It's just a cookie frenzy at our place. I'll take one of each and I'll be set."

As for New Year's, don't even ask -- nothing is planned.

"This is the halfway point in the season and, thus far, we are really pleased with it," Bates said. "We want to have a strong second half of the season. It's going to come down a little for the holidays and then ramp up for the second half."

"We have the rest of our lives to celebrate New Year's," Chock said.