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Ailing Chock and Bates claim fifth US ice dance crown

Madison Chock and Evan Bates celebrate in the kiss and cry with coach Patrick Lauzon after winning a fifth US ice dance title at the US Figure Skating Championships in Ohio (MATTHEW STOCKMAN)
Madison Chock and Evan Bates celebrate in the kiss and cry with coach Patrick Lauzon after winning a fifth US ice dance title at the US Figure Skating Championships in Ohio (MATTHEW STOCKMAN)

Reigning World Champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates shook off illness to capture a fifth US figure skating ice dance crown Saturday, continuing an undefeated season aimed at a world title repeat.

Flu-like symptoms for both skaters almost prompted them to pull out of the deciding free dance in Columbus, Ohio.

But after testing themselves in the warm up, they opted to go ahead and delivered a smooth performance to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon".

"It was really thanks to Madi," Bates told broadcaster NBC. "I was really on the fence about whether I wanted to do it today, to be honest. But she's so tough and so strong.

"She wasn't feeling well either, but we just put our willpower together and gutted through it."

Illness might have accounted for a couple of uncharacteristic wobbles from Bates. The couple's demanding lifts were rock solid, but their free-skate score of 123.75 was second to the 126.85 of Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko.

But with a near nine-point lead after a record-setting rhythm dance score, Chock and Bates grabbed the gold with a total of 215.92 points with Carreira and Ponomarenko second on 210.04.

Emily Bratti and Ian Somerville were third with a total of 196.94.

"We didn't know how we were going to feel when we got to the event tonight, but in my heart I wanted to do it and I knew we could do it," Chock said. "It was just a decision we had to make between the two of us to decide whether it was worth it and it was worth it."

The US duo -- who broke through for a first Grand Prix Final title in Beijing in December after coming up short six times in the prestigious event -- will now look to defend their title at the World Championships in Montreal on March 18-24.

At last year's worlds in Saitama, Chock and Bates finally claimed their first title at their 10th World Championships.

This season, they notched wins at Skate America and the Grand Prix Espoo, but their health worries this week cast doubt on whether they will be able to defend their Four Continents title in Shanghai, where competition begins on Thursday.

- Kam & O'Shea win pairs -

The pairs free skate final went off without Emily Chan and Spencer Howe, who had topped the standings after the short program.

With Howe still recovering from shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, the duo withdrew from the free skate, hoping they had shown enough to gain selection to World Championships team.

Second-year pair Elli Kam and Danny O'Shea, last year's US bronze medalists, won the US pairs crown with 187.76 points, edging the first-season pairing of Alisa Efimova and Misha Mitrofanov by 0.85 of a point.

"It wasn't the best performance," Kam said. "It was so shocking. I still can't believe it. Am I dreaming right now?"

O'Shea said the duo is aiming for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

"We want to not just be on the Olympic team but do well there," he said. "It's those steps along the way. Happy to have another step checked off."

Efimova and Mitrofanov, who partnered for the first time last June, were fifth after the short program but won the free skate with 126.43 points.

Kam and O'Shea were second in the free skate on 123.19 but that was just enough for the overall crown.

Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez were third in the competition on 181.03.

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