Just watching the pair teams warm up, gives me butterflies. I remember the excitement I felt as a 19 year old skater, in second place with my partner. Bill Fauver and I were just one performance away from what every skater dreams about- the Olympics. The teams here in Boston were in the same situation we were, only two teams would represent the United States at the Games. We weren't supposed to be one of them, which took the pressure off.
The heat was absolutely on for hometown favorites Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, and they played into it beautifully.
Skating to a James Bond theme, there was nothing stealth about what they had planned. They've had a throw quad in their repitoire all year. No matter what, they were going for it. Things started on a positive note a stellar triple twist lift. Then the throw quad which landed in a splat. Remember in the new judging system, you get points for trying. Which is important. There were some glitches with the side by side jumps, but it didn't matter. This team promised each other going in that they would hold nothing back. Marissa told Simon not to worry about making a mistake, it didn't have to perfect, and it wasn't.
Castelli and Shnapir are competitors. What they lost in the side by jumps they made up with perfect side my side spins. Their lifts cover the entire ice. At the end of the day, they held their position in first which all that mattered.
Now they wait. The Olympic berth will not be announced until Sunday, when a committee decides who will go to Sochi. Castelli and Shnapir are not in until they receive a text message confirming it. Finding out you made the Olympic team by text? Times have changed.
"We did our job today , and it's out of our hands," said Castelli. "We will allow ourselves to celebrate when we know for sure."
Marissa Castelli reminds me so much of pairs great Kitty Carruthers, it's uncanny. Kitty and brother Peter won silver at the 1984 games in Sarajevo. Pound for pound they have to be the two toughest pair skaters ever. When I asked coach Bobby Martin about the resemblance, he agreed.
"She's a tough little Italian, what can I say?," said Martin.
The last team on the ice, Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay were spectacular. In my mind, start to finish it was one of the best pair performances I have ever witnessed. Skating to the soundtrack from "Les Mis" this team nailed every throw and jump. Beyond that, they skated with emotion and energy- making it incredibly complete. When Zhang threw her arms in the air in three triumphant fist pumps on the final lift, the crowd was on it's feet.
Zhang and Bartholomay could not out- point the leaders, in what was a spectacular pairs event.
On a local note, Hingham's Gretchen Donlan and partner Andrew Speroff's program to the "Nutcracker" was beautiful, but flawed. She fell on the side by side triple, bobbled the side by side double axels, and touched her hand down on the a throw triple. I almost didn't care because their presentation was so good. This is a team that skates to every beat of their music, and has terrific chemistry. I really hope they stay at if for another four years because they have all the goods. The last five beats of their "Pas de Duex " were as dramatic as anything I have ever seen at the Boston Ballet's Nutcracker. It gave me chills. They need to keep going.
Former U.S. Champions Caydee Denney and John Couglin skated a dramatic program to "Phantom of the Opera" They have huge throws and pulled a clean loop and flip. John had some trouble on his side by side jump combination, and their side by side sit spins were not in unison. Overall, it was an impressive performance, good enough for third place.
American pair skating has struggled on the international stage in recent years. I have a feeling that is about to change.
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