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Pair books ticket

Denney, Barrett going to Olympics

Airborne Caydee Denney can see all the way to Vancouver as she and partner Jeremy Barrett were nearly flawless. Airborne Caydee Denney can see all the way to Vancouver as she and partner Jeremy Barrett were nearly flawless. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)
By Nancy Armour
Associated Press / January 17, 2010

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SPOKANE, Wash. - A few months back, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett were doing a simulated competition with training partners Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig and the other pairs teams in their rink.

“There was just one moment when they were on ice and I thought, ‘You know, if we keep this up, we could get two Florida teams at the Olympics. I just know it,’ ’’ Evora recalled yesterday. “And here we are now.’’

On their way to Vancouver.

Denney and Barrett continued their meteoric rise, winning the US title just 18 months after they began skating together with a high-energy, action-packed “Sheherazade’’ program that overwhelmed the competition. Evora and Ladwig weren’t quite as impressive, but were solid enough to finish second overall and claim the other Olympic spot.

When Denney and Barrett finished, she crossed herself and then punched the air, her smile lighting up the entire arena. Coach Jim Peterson was overcome with emotion at the boards, burying his head in fellow coach Alison Smith’s shoulder.

“Our free skate today was one of the best programs we’ve ever done,’’ Denney said. “It was just so much fun, and I will remember that forever.’’

Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker won’t forget this day for a long time, either, but for very different reasons. The former prodigies, considered a lock for Vancouver after winning the national title in 2008 and ’09, produced perhaps the biggest surprise at nationals, taking themselves out of contention with yet another flawed performance. They finished fifth overall after making three significant mistakes.

“Sometimes things don’t always work out the way you’d like them to,’’ Brubaker said. “And we’re young. We never thought about doing just one Olympics.’’

If McLaughlin and Brubaker stick around, the Americans might actually have the makings of a solid pairs program, something no one would have imagined two years ago.

Caitlin Yankowskas of Pelham, N.H., and John Coughlin finished sixth.

What makes Denney, 16, and Barrett so impressive already is their power and strength. Their program was jam-packed from the opening notes of their music, with not even a second to take it easy. He was clearly exhausted when they finished - you try skating the length of the ice while carrying someone with one hand - but she looked ready to go again, hopping up and down on the ice and sprinting a few steps.

They did side-by-side triple toe loop jumps and two double axels in sequence, and knocked them out easily. They raced around the ice with grace and control.

The Americans haven’t won an Olympic medal since Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard’s bronze in 1988, and the only world medals in the last decade have come against watered-down, post-Olympic fields. But Denney and Barrett were ninth at their first worlds last year, and Peterson said there’s no reason they can’t improve on that in Vancouver.