A chat with Ann Arbor native and Olympic ice skating captain Evan Bates' biggest fan
On his first skating years, being a U-M alum, and Olympic dreams realized
ANN ARBOR – This year's Olympic figure skating captain, Evan Bates, is a born and raised Ann Arborite.
A graduate of Huron High School and University of Michigan, his roots here grow deep.
We caught up with his mom, Nancy Bates, via email before she heads to PyeongChang to see him compete in his third Olympics.
When did Evan begin skating?
"Evan started skating at age four with lessons at the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club. He was fortunate to have Russian ice dancers as coaches who were hired by the AAFS club here in Ann Arbor when he was just eight years old. They paired him with a partner, and together Evan and his first partner, Emily Samuelson began successfully competing nationally and eventually internationally."
I can imagine how much time and dedication it takes to commit to skating. Was it difficult for Evan in middle school, high school and university to keep up with schoolwork and friends while competing?
"Initially, his skating was low-key and was contained to out-of-school hours. As Evan and his partner became more successful, his training required more time and commitment. By the fifth grade he was leaving school early to practice every day. Throughout middle school and into high school his school day shortened and he worked with a wonderful tutor several times a week. I credit her for his ability to write well and succeed at the University of Michigan."
Why did he choose to go to University of Michigan?
"He graduated from UM in December 2013. We are very proud of him. He is the 52nd member of my husband's family to graduate from UM. Bates blood runs blue!"
What was the experience like for you as parents?
"My husband Eric and I have three children and two granddaughters. Evan is our youngest. Alexis, our daughter is four years older that Evan and because she was a competitive freestyle skater, he became one too.
"Our older son Andrew was a soccer, golf and baseball player so my job for many years was driver and spectator. At age twelve, Evan had to decide between several sports to commit to his skating. (That year), Evan and partner Emily won their first national title at Intermediate level.
"Evan's commitment to his skating goals has always been strong. He's a competitor. They skated together for 11 years into the 2010 Olympics. After the 2010 Olympics, Evan suffered a severe injury when his Achilles' tendon was severed by his partner's blade in training. We thought that was the end of his career. He had incredible surgery at UM hospital and followed that with a year of physical therapy.
His passion for skating took him back to the ice and a fresh start with his current partner, Madison Chock. Their successful partnership, (which) began in 2011, is in its seventh year with no end in sight! Together they have a national championship, two world medals and this will be their second Olympics together."
Madison Chock and Evan Bates skate in the Smucker's Skating Spectacular during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 7, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Do you travel with Evan to every competition?
"I have traveled with Evan to most overseas competitions, a total of 17 countries."
What do you think it will feel like to sit in the stands in PyeongChang and see him compete as the U.S. team captain?
"When we're sitting in the stands at PyeongChang it will be nerve-wracking and exhilarating. We have attended all of (his competitions). There is also a true feeling of national pride when we see him representing our country. This is his passion, his hard work every day and his commitment to his goals. So it is his success we speak about with intense pride."
Catch Evan and Madison compete in the Short Dance event on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 8:00 p.m. EST and the Free Dance on Monday, Feb. 19 at 8:00 p.m. EST on NBC.
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