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Bates sidelined after injuring Achilles in practice

Surgery scheduled; will miss about six months

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were skating in practice when the blade of her boot sliced his Achilles.
Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were skating in practice when the blade of her boot sliced his Achilles. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(09/29/2010) - Olympic ice dancer Evan Bates said he suffered a "complete laceration'' of the Achilles tendon on his left leg after a mishap on a lift Tuesday at his training rink in Canton, Mich., and will undergo surgery Thursday at the University of Michigan. Bates said the doctors told him to expect to miss about six months, effectively ending competition hopes for Bates and his longtime partner, Emily Samuelson.

Samuelson and Bates, the 2010 U.S. bronze medalists, had been scheduled to compete in two Grand Prix events, the NHK Trophy Oct. 22-24 in Nagoya, Japan, and in the Trophee Eric Bompard Nov. 26-28 in Paris. The 2011 U.S. Championships are in January in Greensboro, N.C. Samuelson and Bates have not officially withdrawn from any competitions but it would be remarkable if they make a comeback in time for nationals.

"It seems like it's going to be a difficult road to recovery, probably six months,'' he said. "But hopefully, I'm a freak and I'll recover super fast.''

According to Igor Shpilband, who coaches Samuelson and Bates along with Marina Zoueva, the couple was performing a lift in its free dance routine when the blade from Samuelson's skate sliced Bates's tendon.

"It really was not a difficult move, which is somewhat pathetic,'' Bates said. "I kind of wish it had been a difficult one.''

Bates was diagnosed with two stress fractures in his back last season, forcing him to take a month off the ice in December and then another month after nationals. But he managed to recuperate and represent the United States at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

When reached on his cell phone Wednesday afternoon, Bates said he remained in a "state of shock'' from the accident, but maintained much of his trademark good humor.

"I'm doing pretty well,'' Bates said before adding with a dry laugh, "for being immobilized.''

The injury is a big setback for the team which entered this season with a lot of promise and hopes of competing in the Grand Prix Final and with a goal of placing in the top seven at the 2011 World Championships.

"It is tough,'' Shpilband said. "They were making great improvements, especially in the last few weeks after coming back from Champs Camp [in Colorado Springs]. But I do want to say this is not the end of the world. It's all treatable. It will be a setback, yes, but they will be OK.''

Samuelson and Bates had spent 10 years working with coaches Yuri Chesnichenko and Yaroslava Nechaeva in Ann Arbor, Mich., but announced in late April that they would switch coaches to work with Zoueva and Shpilband in Canton, Mich. Zoueva and Shpilband also coach several of the world's top ice dancing teams, most notably Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Samuelson and Bates placed third at the 2010 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash., and went on to place 11th at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. They placed ninth at the World Championships.

This injury isn't the first one the couple has experienced. Back in 2007 at the World Junior Championships, Samuelson fell during the free dance and Bates accidentally stepped on her, slicing a tendon in the middle finger of her left hand.

But if past history is any proof of this team's resiliency, note this: After Samuelson underwent surgery for her finger in Germany (the first time she ever had surgery of any kind), she made it back to junior worlds in time for the awards banquet.

"Emily feels really, really bad about this,'' Bates said, "but now I guess it's even between the two of us.''