Such episodes hint at the hidden tensions in a sport that achieves moments of seamless beauty by relentlessly consuming competitors' time, egos, and money. The cost of training, costumes, travel, and equipment for competitive skaters averages between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.
Like other elite skaters, Samuelson and Bates receive training subsidies from the United States Figure Skating Association. But it's a sign of how invisible ice dancing is that they have not been able to attract sponsors, though "we'd love them," says Samuelson.
Even if they make the Olympic team and do well there, they won't get rich. Only a handful of skating stars, like the iconic Michelle Kwan, get big endorsement deals. "Whatever I might accomplish in figure skating," says Bates, "isn't going to pay the bills."
Both Bates and Samuelson expect to have careers outside of skating, though they're not sure yet what those might be. "Evan's not going to be skating forever," says Nancy Bates.
But that doesn't diminish their determination to make the most of their opportunity. They've been working toward this Olympics for half their lives. Bates, who dragged his skates when his mom suggested ice dancing, now says, "I can only say I'm very grateful for my mom for getting me involved."
You might also like: