Q&A with Evan Bates
U.S. ice dancer Evan Bates finished eighth at the Sochi Olympics with partner Madison Chock. He also competed at the Vancouver Games with a different partner. Since Sochi, Chock and Bates have won a national title and two Worlds medals.
What are some intense things about figure skating that people don’t normally see?
The mental side of figure skating is the biggest challenge. There are no opponents on the ice with you when you are out there competing. So in a way, it is really like you are competing with yourself. I like that part about skating. It's always about trying to beat your best effort.
Are there misconceptions about figure skating that you want to correct?
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about male figure skaters. I faced these misconceptions often at school and at the ice rink. There are assumptions that figure skating is a sport for girls and that boys are out of place in figure skates. I think the athleticism and demanding nature of figure skating is often overlooked because good skaters are so graceful and make it look easy.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
In many cases, these athletes have been training for the Games their entire lives. We start this journey before we can even make the decision for ourselves. I think it would surprise most people to know how long the journey is for Olympic and Paralympic athletes to reach the final destination.
What’s your earliest figure skating memory?
I remember being in my first ice show, dressed as a leprechaun. I was 5 years old and 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.
Can you explain your 2010 injuries? How did you come back from that?
I skated through the 2009-2010 season with a stress fracture in my back. I still managed to make it through the year and compete in my first Olympics in Vancouver.
Later that year, in the fall of 2010, my Achilles tendon was fully severed by my former partner's blade. I missed the entire competitive season. Once back on the ice, I changed partners and started skating with my current partner, Madison Chock. It is a very difficult injury for an athlete to come back from. My road to recovery was 10-12 months before fully healed.
When was the first time you saw the Olympics?
I come from a running family and one of my earliest Olympic memories is of Michael Johnson running the 200m in his gold shoes. He's a great one. I never imagined myself being on that stage. At least not until I reached a very high level in skating and realized it was possible for me, probably 12 years later.
More recently I have followed and cheered for Alyson Felix.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Learn to enjoy the process
Have you become friends with competitors from other countries?
Of course. The skating community is very small and through the years I have made friends with a lot of foreign competitors. I have known Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue from Canada for 15 years. They are great friends of ours.
Who is your most interesting teammate? Why?
Madison Chock. She 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.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I have done karaoke. "Big Poppa" by the late, great Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls
What’s your favorite emoji?
The hug emoji
What are some of the perks of living in the Athletes’ Village at the Olympics?
Mixing and mingling in the cafeteria. Getting tickets to check out other events. Meeting elite athletes from all over the world and making new and unexpected friendships
Did you play any other sports growing up?
I love sports and play a lot of them. I've played golf my entire life since my mom is a coach and brought me up with the sport. I played baseball, basketball, soccer as a kid. I was on the swim team and competed in tennis and golf tournaments. I even raced in ski races. I still love playing sports but am pretty careful if I play anything at risk of injury.
What sports teams do you root for?
I'm a University of Michigan fan. I grew up in Ann Arbor and graduated from U of M in 2013. I am a sports nut and literally know way too much in general about sports. I follow pretty much everything. I root for Detroit sports teams.
Is there a Summer Olympic sport you would like to try out?
Tell us about your dog.
I have a toy poodle named Stella. She's amazing. I live alone so I hang out with my dog an awful lot. It's great to have somebody waiting for you at the door when you get home from the rink.
What’s your biggest fear?
Does anyone like snakes, spiders, or heights? I'm scared of all those things.
What about biggest fear on the ice?
Letting down the team
Do you collect anything? How did your collection start?
Guitars. I have a lot of guitars. I have been playing since middle school and collect guitars. I have actually built a Telecaster guitar in wood shop. I have a pretty decent guitar collection. Currently at 9 guitars and a ukulele.
I also have a lot of sneakers, but I donated some recently so I don't have quite so many. You don't need that many sneakers. I just like them and have accumulated too many sneakers over the years.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an athlete?
What’s your favorite animal? Have you gotten to see it in person?
I love whales. A good whale spotting is so exciting. I have seen some whales in Hawaii. They are majestic animals!
Describe your perfect day off.
Play golf in the morning, have a lovely brunch after, take a siesta, go out for sushi and catch a concert in the evening. What a day!
What do you do to unwind after a competition?
Usually just come home and recover after a long trip home and don't go to the ice rink for 2-3 days.
What’s your favorite movie?
I loved La La Land this year. I like jazz music and that movie has some great jazz bits. I liked the kind of old Hollywood feel and studios don't really make musicals anymore, so I liked that they took a chance and made a musical.
What do you like to watch on television?
Chopped, Fixer Upper, Island Hunters, Saturday Night Live