q&a

How Ice-Dancing Couple Madison Chock and Evan Bates Make It Work

A woman and a man are ice dancing in a rink. The woman has her brown hair pulled into a ponytail and is wearing a nude costume covered in multi-colored beaded fringe. The man is wearing a blue velvet jumpsuit with a plunging v-neck.
Photo: Joosep Martinson/International Skating Union via Getty Images

Since they started ice dancing together in 2011, Madison Chock and Evan Bates have skated in three Olympics and over 80 major events. They earned an Olympic silver medal in the team event in 2022 and last year were crowned world champions. Their kick-ass performance themes delight fans and judges and blur the lines between sport and art: In the last Olympic cycle, they skated to a medley of Daft Punk songs in costumes designed to resemble an astronaut and an alien. This season, they’re dancing to Pink Floyd and wearing a Salvador Dalí–inspired melting-clock costume for a program about “liberating yourself from the concept of time.” The team uses their almost one-foot height difference to their advantage, with Chock able to wrap herself around Bates while he lifts her in complex, high-velocity, high-scoring moves. Their precision speaks to a deeper connection — engaged since 2021, the ice dancers have been a couple for the past seven years.

Chock, 31, and Bates, 34, now live in Montreal, along with their toy poodles Henry and Stella. There, they train under husband-and-wife team Patrice Lauzon and Marie-France Dubreuil, who they joke are sometimes more like therapists. “Sometimes we’ll be working on a new element, and it just turns into a couple’s session,” Bates says over video call. The Cut caught up with Chock and Bates ahead of the 2024 Prevagen U.S. Figure Skating Championships, beginning on January 23, where they are expected to capture their fifth gold medal and solidify their status as one of the most decorated American teams to take the ice. Some fans speculate that the duo is on the cusp of retiring, as they’re the oldest world champions to take that title, but after winning gold in every event they’ve competed in this season, the team has a solid argument for making it to the Olympics again in 2026. First, the couple are looking forward to a destination wedding this summer. Here, they talk wedding planning, how training affects their relationship, and what life might look like after competition.

On getting together:

Madison: When we started dating, we’d already spent five years together with an established relationship on the ice and as friends. So when it shifted into a romantic relationship, we knew that if we go for this, there’s no turning back. If something were to happen, it would probably affect our skating. Was it something that we were willing to take that risk for? Absolutely. We just have such a great bond and chemistry together that it seemed like a no-brainer. But when we made that shift, we learned that our personalities are different on the ice. I’m a bit more fiery and competitive, whereas at home, I’m super chill.

Evan: It was difficult at first, to continue to express the love that we have for one another in the midst of putting on that competitive hat, like, All right, I’ve got to push myself mentally, physically.

On how training affects their relationship:

Evan: I think both of us have developed a more competitive persona on the ice over the years. We’re both just a little bit, I don’t know …

Madison: A little more sharp. Because of the reality of training, you become hyperaware and hyperattuned to body language or facial expressions. You’re like, Is he looking at me mad? Did he just roll his eyes at me? Why did he roll his eyes?!

Evan: If you’re training hard, you’re putting yourself into discomfort for as long as you can maintain. That’s gonna fray on you, your partner, and the relationship. All of a sudden, this person that you’re really familiar with off the ice turns into that competitive, edgier person, and you’re like, Okay, where do I fit in?  

We’re ingrained with this athlete’s mentality of like, I can do it again. I can do it better. We realize now the trap that can become. As older, more experienced athletes, we’ve needed to take the time to listen to our own bodies. As we’ve matured, we’ve learned how different we are — in a good way. What Madison needs is different from what I might need. We’re each doing as much as our bodies allow us to do.

On creating their routines:

Evan: The special thing about our partnership is that we have a ton of contrast. I could never perform the way that Madison can on the ice. She’s the most unique and expressive skater in the world. My job is to make her shine, to frame her and help her move on the ice and feel free.
 
Madison: And Evan’s so creative. He’s adaptable and able to create the situations for us to both skate as comfortably as we can.

Evan: We get into this rhythm where we can make up a sequence together without saying anything. But then it gets to the point where maybe I’d expect one move, and I can’t read the other person’s mind. It’s this balance of verbally explaining an action versus being in this abstract, artistic space where we’re improvising.

Madison: That’s where I like to live, because I like feeling through things. I don’t want to talk about it, I just want to repeat the move. I’m not sure how to articulate what I want Evan to do, because I’m not sure what I want him to do! Evan is much more verbal. Sometimes he looks at me, and he’s like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “I don’t know, what are you doing? You can’t read my mind?”

Evan: Ice dance is so collaborative, but we speak a bit of a different language. We’re kind of like right-brain, left-brain. We’re lucky that, because we’ve been together for so long, I can reference something from five or six years ago and we’ll immediately know what we’re talking about.

On how their home environment impacts their skating:

Madison: There’s such a focus that’s required to have a good, safe training day. You don’t want to be distracted when you’re trying difficult things with blades on your feet.

Evan: But if we keep a messy apartment, and we’re behind on the dishes or whatever, it will wear on us and our mental health. We’ll be a little more on edge. Once we clean up our place or we’ve made an organized plan for ourselves for the week, we get back to that feeling of being productive. When we let things pile up, things go a little haywire.

Madison: At the root of our relationship, we have a really good sense of humor. If one of us is peeved, the other one will make a little joke. Maybe we’re just tired or hungry — it helps keep it light, to remind us that it’s about us and the relationship. All the other stuff, skating, competing, it’s just frosting on the cake.

On wedding planning:

Madison: Evan has proven himself to be a highly skilled planner. He planned our wedding next summer — he became a total groomzilla!

Evan: After we got engaged, I did a super amount of research. Where do we want to do it? How many people should be there? Do we want a wedding planner? All those initial details. It was so comforting once we offloaded some of the responsibility to a wedding planner. Not getting too stressed on the day would be nice.

Madison: I don’t think we’ll be super stressed. Well, ha, I won’t be super stressed.

Evan: Pshh. Everyone we care about will be flying to watch us get married! There’s a lot of responsibility!

Madison: Maybe I’ll be stressed a little bit. Evan will probably be more stressed. We just took a vacation to check out our wedding venue and do the food tasting. It was so fun. It’s all coming together. Everyone’s starting to RSVP, and it’s very exciting.

On carving out personal space:

Madison: Our performance coach encourages us each to do our own thing and have the space to recharge and be away from each other’s energy. I think that’s really important in any relationship — especially when we’re together so much — to do something that is fulfilling only to you.

Evan: I’ve always had a passion for sports and music. I grew up playing baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming, tennis, track, and golf in addition to skating. My mom was a golf coach, so I would attend her camps in the summer. I also started getting into music and playing the guitar when I was 13. My older sister, also a skater, would drive us to skating practice and listen to John Mayer. So I wanted to learn to play and I started taking lessons.

Madison: And I’ve loved art and drawing since I was a kid. I found it was a huge creative outlet during the pandemic. I took up drawing portraits of friends and people who inspire me. I think it’s important to take time to cultivate your hobbies and take the time for yourself — like Evan loves playing his music. Sometimes he’ll go in the other room and play his guitar, and I’ll be watching Netflix or hanging out with the dogs. We both try to spend time with our close friends. I also love reading and how stories have the power to take you into another world. I’m always looking for more book recommendations!

On life after competition:

Evan: A conversation that we keep having is, What do you want to be when you grow up? I never would have dreamt that we would be able to skate until this age and have such a long career with one another. But it will end, and soon. Hopefully not too soon — we’d like to shoot for another Olympics. But who knows? We’re both in our 30s. It’s like, Okay, what’s the next act? It’s a little scary. Madison launched her design company this year, which is an amazing new adventure. But it’s hard to do both while competing.

Madison: Right now, it’s a side hustle. I love designing costumes — it’s one of my favorite parts of the creative process in figure skating. I’d love to do this for other people, and I’ve done some already, but only in the offseason. But it’d be nice to continue working together with Evan. I can’t imagine going from putting all of our energy into one shared goal, to then going to different workplaces and not seeing each other all day. It would be so strange.

Evan: We’re so used to working together. Are we going to continue to work together? I sure hope so. It’s tough to step away from the world of elite sports. We’ve seen a lot of athletes retire and then feel a void that’s difficult to fill.

Madison: I do want to keep skating in the fold, because we’ve learned so much over our multi-decade career. We want to give that knowledge back to young skaters and help them find the joy that we have found. Skating has been a series of life lessons, and we faced so many obstacles and pushed ourselves mentally and physically. There’s always going to be a high, there’s always going to be a low, no matter what you’re doing. To learn from each other and navigate through all of those situations — that’s how you build a strong, lifelong partnership.

More From This Series

See All
How an Ice-Dancing Power Couple Makes It Work