Castelli and Shnapir ready to go

Published On February 11, 2014 | By Alice Cook

By Alice Cook, She’s Game Sports

The first team event in figure skating has made its Olympic debut, and so have New England’s own Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.The United States finished third behind the Russians and Canadians, which means Marissa and Simon will return to Boston with a bronze medal, no matter what happens from here.

The individual competition will present a completely different set of challenges for this pair team, and they are keeping their expectations real.

“We are not looking to win Olympic gold, we are looking to put out a strong performance and for a top ten finish,” Castelli said before the team left for Sochi.

Even though they have been together for 8 years, Castelli and Shapnir are relatively new to the international skating scene. After winning their first national title last year, the team placed 13th at the 2013 World Championships.

“Of course everyone wants to bring home a medal,” Shnapir said. “ For us it’s about getting the full experience. We want to put out the strongest programs we can.”

Castelli and Shnapir have had their share of ups and downs as a team, and almost called it quits a few years ago. The 23- and 26-year-old share the same August 20th birthday. They joke that they are both “strong willed Leos,” and you can see it in their skating.

In the team event, Castelli and Shnapir shook off a flawed short program and came through with a solid free skate. The event served as an excellent warmup for them, and should give them plenty of confidence going into the individual event, which begins Tuesday (10 a.m.) and concludes Wednesday (10:45 a.m.).

What I like about this team is their pure athleticism and speed. Their 16 inch (she is 5’0 and he is 6-4) height difference makes for some high-flying lifts and throws, including a throw quad.

If Marissa and Simon land the quad throw cleanly, it could mean a top five finish, and that would be quite an accomplishment given the level of competition.

I don’t think I have ever seen a pairs event more loaded with talent and experience. Two of the best teams in the world are still competing well into their 30s.

The Russians have a trifecta of teams that are capable of sweeping the podium. The top Russian team of Tatiana Volososhar and Maxim Trankov were easy winners in the team event short program.

The number two Russian team of  Ksneia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov was just as impressive in the free skate. The Russians dominated pairs skating from 1964 to 2006. They are back to being a superpower in this event.

Both the silver and bronze medalists from the 2010 Winter Olympics are back for another go. The German team of Aliona Savachenko and Robin Szolkowy are 29 and 34 years old. The Chinese team of Pang Qing and Tong Jian are even older.

If this aging gracefully trend keeps up in pairs skating, Castelli and Shnapir could easily be back for more in 2018.

New England’s best hope in figure skates should just enjoy their Olympic experience. The pressure is off. In many ways, Marissa and Simon are just getting started.

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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.