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Madison Chock, Evan Bates lead ice dance at worlds with brilliance years in the making

MONTREAL – There is a moment late in their rhythm dance when a moving Madison Chock leaps into Evan Bates’ arms, and he immediately spins her up into a rotational lift at his shoulder level.

It happens so smoothly and in less time than it will take you to read this paragraph, so you go back and watch over and over again to see how they can look so effortless and secure in a potentially dicey few seconds.

“Evan is very good with his coordination,” Chock said. “He’s good at catching things, throwing things. I’m in good hands. But for sure, if you’re just going to launch yourself into someone’s arms, it takes a lot of trust.”

It takes the kind of trust that develops over a 13-year partnership in which the couple has –- pardon the pun -- built a resume chock full of achievements, including five national titles, a world title and an Olympic gold medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

The U.S. team took a strong step toward adding a second straight world title to that career record by scoring a season-best 90.08 points in Friday’s rhythm dance, giving them a solid 2.56-point lead over runners-up Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada were third, 1.01 behind the Italians. The free dance is Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET, Peacock).

“We felt like this was our best performance of this program of the season,” Chock said. “We certainly had the most fun of all our performances thus far, and the crowd was a big, big part of that.”

Chock, 31, a Californian, and Bates, 35, a Michigander, are almost homeys here. They have trained in Montreal since after the 2018 Olympics and live close to the world championships venue, the Bell Centre, where they never had competed until this week.

Marie-France Dubreuil, one of their coaches at the Ice Academy of Montreal, cited the length of their partnership as a key part of executing eye-catching elements like that rotational lift.

“The longer you are together, the more your instincts develop so that with your eyes closed, you know where the other person is,” Dubreuil said. “It takes a while for two people to be that connected.”

Ice dance programs sometimes have so much over-the-top glitz, frippery and tomfoolery that it is hard at times to remember just how difficult and perilous the discipline’s elements are. High-speed footwork, eye-catching lifts and synchronicity in movement are the underpinnings of elite ice dance.

“It’s possible people don’t realize how hard it is because they (Chock and Bates) make it look so easy,” Dubreuil said.

Their partnership will take on another aspect after their June wedding. While Chock and Bates have said they are taking their competitive career year-by-year, Dubreuil feels their future plans include training for the 2026 Olympics, which would be his fifth Winter Games.

“I think right now they’re really aiming for 2026,” Dubreuil said. “Of course, they have their wedding soon and tours and other stuff, but I think they still have their eyes on that.”

If they win a medal in 2026, they may get it before the team event medal (now gold) from 2022, since the doping imbroglio involving Russian skater Kamila Valiyeva has delayed the presentation for more than two years.

Talk about tomfoolery.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to