NBC Olympics.com - Madison Chock and Evan Bates are making their second trip to the Olympics together, but with some new labels for each other both on and off the ice.
On the ice, Chock and Bates added a U.S. national championship title to their resume in 2015. They earned national silver medals in 2016 and 2017, and bronze there in 2018. They won two world championships medals, a silver in 2015 and a bronze in 2016. At the Four Continents Championships, they've won medals in three consecutive years. Most notably was their bronze in 2017, as the event was held in PyeongChang, South Korea, in the same venue that will host Olympic competition this month.
"It's really hitting us this week," Chock told reporters on a recent teleconference. "Part of it feels like, 'my gosh, I wish we had more time.' And another part of me wants to be there already. But we are so excited and ready to go."
Off the ice, they've made some changes, too. They've upgraded from on-ice couple to real-life couple, and explain that it was the natural progression of their relationship.
"Being a couple off the ice, I think the experience will be a lot more personal together," Bates said of the PyeongChang Games.
They'll spend Valentine's Day together at the Olympics, but will likely keep it a low-key affair.
"It's just enough that we're going to be at the Games together," Chock said. "I'm sure they'll have something going on for Valentine's Day. Probably hit up whatever booth they have and take some photos. Just enjoy our day together, which is something we normally do. But just wish each other a 'happy Valentine's Day' at the beginning of it!
"A giant teddy bear would be awesome," Chock added with a laugh.
Bates competed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with a different partner, making PyeongChang his third Olympics. This time, he'll come to the Games as figure skating team captain. He was elected by vote of his teammates.
The U.S. has three of the six best ice dance teams in the world. All three teams have qualified for the prestigious Grand Prix Final for three straight years. All three of the dance teams the U.S. is sending to PyeongChang have national titles under their belts.
Most recently, in December, the three U.S. teams finished within a point of each other. Then, at nationals, they were within a point of each other again. Interestingly, at nationals, the Maia and Alex Shibutani won the short dance, Chock and Bates won the free dance, but Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won the overall title.
What does it mean to have all three U.S. dance teams so close?
"The closeness between the top American teams has really given a lot of credence to our sport," Bates said. "Ice dance in the past has been regarded less as a sport than any other discipline."
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from Canada and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron from France are widely expected to contend for gold and silver medals. The bronze, however, is believed to be waiting for whoever is the best U.S. dance team on that day. Chock and Bates believe it could be them.
"You feel like you have a chance at every competition, even though you were third at nationals," Bates continued. "We've got a good chance to go in and win a medal. That belief is not only possible but realistic because of where the sport is right now."