I told you I’d write again when I was inspired from something at Nationals this week. Well, that inspiration has come in the form of John Coughlin and Caitlin Yankowskas. First off, a quick recap of the Pairs Short.
Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig had the…um, “opportunity” to be the first on the competition ice. They debuted a new program to “Sing Sing Sing” that really highlighted their personalities brilliantly. They made it through their elements nicely with only a bit of a pitch forward on the throw. They seemed a bit tight at times, possibly due to the newness of this program, but they had a maturity and a confidence that elevated their performance. They held onto the lead for nearly 3 groups. They generally skate well in the long, so they have a good shot at the title.
Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin put out a very respectable performance. Some of their elements are a bit simplified because of the newness of their partnership, but they were clean and strong. Their footwork sequence was very nicely choreographed to the “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I’m happy for Tiffany, and she looked gorgeous, by the way!
Perhaps the surprise moment belonged to Rockne Brubaker and Mary Beth Marley. Now, I’ve had my eyes on them since I heard of their paring, and was expecting great things. They had a bobble on the triple twist element, but otherwise, their pairs skills are very impressive, and their strong singles skills work well in their favor. I’m excited for their long program, for sure.
The defending champs, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett skated late in the line up. The leaderboard was pretty set, but all expected them to at least be top three. However, a very rare Caydee fall on the side-by-side triple toe cost them in the short, where everything matters. They skated with a maturity and expressiveness that was nice to see, however, I’m not sure this program really highlights their strength. Caydee is such a fireball, full of energy and spunk. While it’s nice to see a more serious, slow, emotional side to them, this just doesn’t blow me away. That, added to the fall, landed them in 4th. But, the’re only out of third by .31 points, so they still have as good a shot as any for a medal. They’re nearly 7 points out of first, so they have lots of work to do in the long, but they’re capable of it.
Okay. Now, for the highlight of the night – John Coughlin and Caitlin Yankowskas.
John’s been through a lot this year, namely dealing with the loss of his mother. He has said skating this season has been healing for him, and this competition, in particular, means more than winning or losing. When he spoke with Figure Skaters Online, he said, “I’m skating for me and for my mom, for the family I still have, and the friends that have helped me along the way.” (P.S. – you should really read that article. Such a touching story.)
The free skate for John and Caitlin is a tribute to his mother, set to “Ave Maria.” But while the emotion in that moment will be exceptionally strong, their short program brought out more emotion than I’ve felt towards a US pairs team in years.
The program is an emotional masterpiece, set to the eerie, almost haunting music of Astor Piazzolla’s “Tango Oblivion,” and the duo didn’t leave any second, any note, unused. And with the emotion of the year weighing heavy on their hearts, they captivated the Coliseum and the nation with technical excellence, and artistic superiority. They cast a spell on the crowd who felt every moment, every emotion right along with them.
This is a team I’ve fallen in love with over the past few seasons, and I was expecting them to skate well here. What I wasn’t expecting was my own intense reaction to their skate. Chills, tears, the works. They reminded me what is so special about the art of skating. Their training paid off, as Coughlin said, “Good training will never betray you.” But it was their heart, their ability to express all the emotion of that moment, in the way a painter tells a story with a brush or a musician reaches deep with a melody.
The unfortunate reality of the competition is that only two teams will continue on to Worlds, while there are at least three teams who deserve a chance. But if the short is any indication, there will be plenty of drama as that decision unfolds in the long.
By the way, find complete results after the Pairs Short here.
Ladies short starts in just a few minutes! I may post after that as well…