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Ice Dancing Tips from Olympic Gold Medalists

The sought-after coaches in ice dance have shifted in recent years from Eastern Europe to North America, thanks in part to the international success of Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, who were the first North American team to win the World Championship gold in 2003. As Virtue and Moir trained for their second Olympics in 2018, they worked alongside a promising French team, Papadakis and Cizeron, as well as U.S. national champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. How do the coaches direct all that competitive energy to be motivating rather than toxic?

“In all of our planning and scheduling, and in everything we do, there are no secrets. Everybody knows how much time each of us spends with each team. They said we would grow as athletes and as competitors if we could face this fear and be able to rise above it,” Hubbell says. 

Supporting their ice dance teams

Dubreuil and Lauzon work hard to nurture camaraderie and support their ice dancers. He spends hours a night figuring out the elaborate rotation of coaches and choreographers that ensures each team receives the time and help they need. 

Patch is very OCD about scheduling down to 15-minute increments. They are aware that most of their teams are miles from home, away from family, friends and everything else that is familiar to them. 

“For me, I think [the Russian team] will have to step it up if they want to be in the game,” says Moir, who now coaches at another branch of the Academy in Ontario.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron

The reigning Olympic silver medalists, the French team is ice dance personified. Their deep edges and perfect synchrony make them among the quietest couples as they stroke across the ice. 

Cizeron, who is gay and has been open about his sexuality in the skating community, publicly discussed it for the first time in 2020 in an interview with the French publication Têtu, noting that there is still homophobia that he hopes to dispel. The program started last year as a more traditional tango, says Dubreuil, who choreographed it. It’s not as light as lyrical as Moonlight was,” says Dubreuil, referring to their 2018 free dance.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue

Dubreuil and Chouinard both gravitate toward the same words in describing the American team—raw power. &# Maddie knows how to sell it, and uses her body to dance her technique so it doesn’t really look like she’s doing much technique when she really is.” For Hubbell and Donohue, the coaches wanted to capitalize on that female power and immediately went to Janet Jackson for inspiration. 

Again, Chouinard drew upon a long-time friend who toured with the singer and provided tips on giving the routine that Jackson flair. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of Team USA skate in the Ice Dance Rhythm Dance Team Event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on Feb. 4, 2022 in Beijing, China. 

They intentionally made the decision at the beginning of the year, so they could use their competitions as a way to say goodbye—to each other, to their careers, and to the skating community that has supported them. The lyrics say ‘Hush now and let me feel.’ For us, there have been a lot of voices, but at the end what matters is the feeling we had, the feeling we shared and living those moments on the ice.

She’s been a snake and now she’s an alien, and Chock wouldn’t have it any other way. Since moving to Montreal in 2018, the pair, who are also a couple off the ice, has thrived. 

“We rediscovered the joy of skating, and the joy of going back to the basics.” Bates says they’ve also found their voice. It was after the World Championships in 2020 were canceled due to COVID-19, and “we had adrenalin up to here, they were ready to compete, so I had to do something with this adrenalin,” she says. “Or should we do something more classical? When the music starts, I want them to enjoy every second of their work.”