American ice dancers Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates may not be the front runners for the 2010 Olympic Games, but they are certainly among the contenders in a wide open field in which the point differentials between top teams become less and less each season.
The dancers, just 19 and 20 respectively, have been partners for more than eight years, taking a medal at U. S. Nationals every time they have competed at every level.
They also won the 2008 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, placed second at both the 2007 and 2008 JGP (Junior Grand Prix) Finals, and won a bronze medal at the 2009 Four Continents Championships.
Yaroslava Nechaeva and Yuri Chesnichenko train the dancers, who skate in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their training is rigorous this summer but not unusually so.
"We didn't want to change our training too much just because it was the Olympic year," Samuelson said. "Our coaches always have us well prepared and as long as we keep improving, that's all we need to do."
"We have one of the most regimented schedules of anyone," Bates added. "Skating and school and sleep."
The dancers usually work for about four hours on ice and three hours off ice, five days a week with ballet, conditioning and off ice lift practice occupying their off ice time.
"We're working on our lifts more than on any other elements," Bates stated. "We're trying to make them more challenging."
"We're trying to avoid the Biellmanns and donut positions to preserve Emily's back," he continued. "You can do something aesthetically pleasing and still conform to the positions of ice dancing."
"Yuri spends so much time on our lifts," Samuelson said. "He does all the creative work and then tries them out with us first."
"Yuri picks Emily up and makes it look easy," laughed Bates. "Then I pick her up and it's hard."
"We also want to make our dance spins faster and learn our new footwork," Samuelson noted. "It's brand new so we're putting in hours of repetition to make it more comfortable."