Pairs come up big in short

Published On January 10, 2014 | By Alice Cook

The spilt triple twists were sky high. The throws were huge, and the side by side jumps impressive. Pair skating is a completely different event than it was in the days of Tai and Randy.- or Cook and Fauver for that matter.  Side by side triples did not exist.  Throw triples were not attempted, let alone landed.  Not much has changed  through the years  with the lifts, spins and death spirals.  It’s a whole new world when it comes to the big tricks.

Nobody skated bigger or better  in the short program than Marissa Castelli  and partner Simon Shnapir.  The home town favorites were the last skaters to take the ice and they did not disappoint the local faithful.

“I think when we first heard that Boston was the site for 2014 nationals we were nervous. We looked at each other like, “oh, no,” said Castelli. Through success and failures, and we just want to make this special. Today was a great day. We thought we came up to the challenge.”

Castelli and Shnaper have been together for 8 years.  The defending United States  pairs champions owned the ice the second they stepped  on it. Skating to Santana’s “Black Magic Woman”  they were sexy, smooth, a spell binding.  The triple twist was a like a rocket launch and the landing was a soft as silk.  Seconds later they nailed their side by side triple jumps then  motored into the throw triple salchow.   Castelli’s flight covered nearly the width of the ice, and the perfect landing was never in doubt.

I had to laugh when Castelli and Shnaper talked about their relationship the post-skate news conference.  All pair teams fight, my partner and I certainly did.  So when Marissa and Simon were asked about their ups and downs it was clear that their career has not been a bed of roses- it’s like a marriage, it takes work.

“Simon and I, we’ve had our ups and downs. We fight, everyone knows that about me, but we come together at the end of the day,” said Castelli.

“Sometimes we thought we were going to give up on each other and we just looked at each other, took some time off and just came back together and said, “we’re not done, we’re not ready, we have more potential.” It’s just time and patience,” said Schnaper.

The team of Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay find themselves in  second place  going into the long program.  It was the same situation for my partner and I  in our Olympic year.   There wasn’t much buzz about Felicia And Nathan going into the U.S Championships, now they are one great skate away from Sochi.  

Zhang and Barthalomay skated like young lovers to  Rogers and Hammerstien’s  “Carousel Waltz.”    It flowed, it was fast, fun and lyrical.  Every element was executed flawlessly.  Again, the throws were breathtaking.  You know it’s a great program when you don’t want it to end.  That’s how I felt.

The way this sets up for Saturday’s long program is how it should be.  The long program will determine who stands on the podium.  And third place won’t be good enough for a ticket to Russia in February. Only two teams are going.

It’s been a long time since any American pair team has won an Olympic medal.  From what I saw in the pairs short program, this could be the year the United States plays hard ball with the Russians and Chinese.

After watching  the pairs short program, it seems to me there are several teams that are ready to compete with the big boys.  American pair skating is making a comeback.   It’s about speed, power and fearlessness.  Although it looks pretty, these skaters are tough.

Bring on the long.  I heard rumblings that Marissa and Simon are pulling out their “quad” throw.  Can’t wait.




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About The Author

is a veteran television sports reporter and Olympian. Her experience includes 25 years of sports reporting for WBZ-TV, the CBS and former NBC affiliate in Boston. Cook has worked for ESPN, Turner Sports, and WTBS. Cook is a feature writer for She's Game Sports and She is also President and Founder of She's Game Sports LLC.