American ice dancers Evan Bates and Madison Chock skated to a season’s best on Monday (Sunday night stateside) in their first routine at the 2018 Winter Olympics, ending in seventh place to advance to the event’s second half on Tuesday.
It was, all things considered, an energetic performance to be proud of, Bates later told reporters — in addition to everything else because Chock has for months been dealing with a foot injury that flared up again during their warmup, minutes before they took the ice.
“We just had a weird moment” when Bates was lifting Chock, she said afterward. “It was the exact same thing that we did that originally injured my foot, and so that was just kind of traumatic.”
“I think considering everything, considering the stumble in the warmup and the pain that Maddie’s competed in, it’s incredible,” Bates, 28, said of their 75.45 result, which trailed American teammates Zach Donohue and Madison Hubbell and Alex and Maia Shibutani.
“We’ll definitely take that performance and that score and look for a special performance tomorrow,” he said.
Her injury, Chock, 25, explained to a group of reporters following their short dance, is an “osteochondral lesion in my foot.”
Basically: “There’s a loose bone fragment that’s in the joint that just is being held in by the cartilage right now,” she said. “And so when that happens [the moment in the warmup], it kind of just jostles it more and it just doesn’t feel very good.”
“But I’ve been dealing with it all season so it’s really no different,” she said. “I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing, just maybe a little extra ice and PT today.”
Chock, who has reportedly been dating Bates for about two years, stressed that the discussion of her foot injury — which had been largely kept private — was not and would not become their focus. But she conceded to reporters that she was in pain after competing on Monday.
“This is bad to say, but I guess I’m used to it at this point,” she tells PEOPLE after being asked how much pain she felt while in the rink.
“Really before it happened, like, I’ve been feeling pretty good, haven’t been hurting,” Chock says. “But I have a feeling it’ll be very sore a little bit later today.”
As Bates recalled, Chock first was hurt last summer “right before” a training camp.
“We did exactly the same movement [that they later did at the Olympic warmup] and Maddie suffered the injury,” he said. “And at the time we weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to do the Grand Prixs,” referring to an international series of competitions.
But Chock “taped it up every day, she’s gotten cortisone shots and she’s been really quiet about it and just been so tough and so resilient and skating so well,” Bates said. “And then we literally did it [the move that caused the injury] with 10 seconds left on the five-minute warmup at the Olympics, and it’s just one of those things you can’t even write or imagine.”
Even so, backstage before they competed, “I just knew Maddie was going to skate well, and she did, and that’s just a testament to her character,” Bates said.
He did not know during their short dance that Chock was hurting — something she effectively concealed both from the cameras and the audience.
“We didn’t want anything to take away from our programs this season,” Chock told reporters of why they have previously not discussed her injury.
“It’s an Olympic year, we didn’t want that to be a focus,” she said. “We knew it would probably surface eventually, as it has, but it definitely isn’t the focus. I mean, still, it won’t be the focus because I’ve been dealing with it all season and nothing will change. We’ll still skate a good free program and be ready to go. [I have] a great team around me and a great support system right next to me, so it’ll be fine.”
Bates and Chock certainly had other things to discuss, including a color-streaked feathered costume she wore that she said was inspired by the red and blue macaw. “It’s such a lively theme [in the ice dancing event] and we really wanted to embody that in the way we felt and in our costumes,” she said.
Yes, Chock said, she was in a “little bit” of pain after competing, while speaking with the press. “But it’s okay,” she said. “It’ll be fine.”
They had another day of competition — the free dance — to think about.
“It feels really good,” Chock said of returning to the Winter Games, where they competed in 2014. “It feels great to be on Olympic ice.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.