NOVI, Mich. - Excitement is building for the 2018 Winter Olympics and the Novi Ice Arena is not waiting to celebrate the Olympic athletes training at the facility.
The arena presented five ice dance teams with banners celebrating their efforts to compete in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.
Four teams have already qualified to compete:
- Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin for South Korea
- Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland for Great Britain
- Cortney Mansour and Michal Ceska for the Czech Republic
- Oleksandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin for Ukraine
Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates were also presented with a banner. The team needs to compete in the U.S. National Championships in January to officially qualify for the Olympics. It would be their second Olympics competing as a team.
"It was such a surprise. We weren't expecting something so awesome for all the teams. It's really special," Chock said. "We know we still have a very important job in January and we're still very focused on it."
Chock and Bates were the national champions in 2015 and 2016, and silver medalists in 2017. They hope to regain the national title in 2018 in addition to qualifying for the Winter Games.
"It says a lot about the camaraderie we have in this training environment and in this city, too. We feel a lot of support from the city of Novi," Bates said.
The ice dance teams told Local 4 that training on the same ice together pushes them to improve. It also builds camaraderie, and the teams are all very supportive of each other.
"With all the pressure we're under it's good to have a good support group where we're training," said Gamelin.
"All of the staff are very friendly. The ice here is great," Coomes added. "It's really nice to skate on, we're very spoiled. And we have ice dance ice all day, so we're really lucky in that respect."
The athletes said the coaching staff, led by Igor Shpilband, is also a big draw for the teams looking to elevate their performances.
"It was Igor Shpilband, actually. He has trained some of the best ice dancers in the world, and we felt we had to step up our training and train with the best skaters in the world in a competitive environment," Buckland said. "While we're all competitors, we're all really good friends at the same time."
The skaters of Novi are looking forward to going to the Winter Games together -- no matter what country they represent.
"We have a great group of international skaters, many of whom are going to the games in February, and I think it's fun that we get to share it as a group," Bates said.
The Novi Ice Arena is one of three local facilities where international ice dance teams train. The other two are the Arctic Edge of Canton and the Detroit Skating Club in West Bloomfield.
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