Jeremy Barrett is retiring from competitive skating. That leaves Caydee Denney to start over again.
The two paired up three years ago, forming a partnership that shocked the US pairs world — these two had something really special! Last season, they one the National title and an automatic berth on the Olympic team. Still, their raw talent didn’t completely make up for their lack of experience together, and they weren’t as successful on the international stage. But hey, what can you expect from a 2-year-old team?
This year, they changed coaches to train with former Pairs Champion, John Zimmerman and his wife Silvia Fontana. Some questioned this move, others thought it was just what they needed to take those same pairs elements that were weaker to a new level. And some things did improve. Their artistry became more mature, their lines and attention to detail much stronger. But the still struggled to keep up with the world’s best.
Then, Jeremy proposed to girlfriend and fellow skater Amanda Evora (paired with Mark Ladwig). But with the two now training hours apart, time together was limited. I began to wonder how long these two teams would last.
Well, we now have our answer.
Jeremy and Caydee missed the world team, and missed 4 Continents after a bizarre training injury that required 40+ stitches in Jeremy’s leg. At that point, it seems, the decision was made.
I can respect Jeremy’s desire to do other things. He’s been at this a while now, and I could see the strain the distance from Amanda was putting on him.
But I have to say…people criticize US pairs, complain about their lack of competitiveness internationally, and wonder why we just can’t get it together. I propose that these 2-3 year partnerships are to blame.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily justifying systems or federations that make decisions for their skaters. But pairs teams that are put together as novice skaters and stay together throughout their career are always going to have stronger pairs elements. It just makes sense. So when we put our best skaters out there (take John and Caitlin, partners since 2007) against life-long partners from China or Russia, it’s no wonder we can’t keep up.
I’m not sure what the solution is, as we certainly don’t have a system that forces skaters into a partnership for the duration of their careers. But such a system, right or wrong, does create a stronger commitment, and a stronger determination to work things out. They’re partners. Win, lose, draw. Essentially, for better or worse.
Think Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates. They’re the best US example of being a real pair, and their ice dancers. But their rise to the elite level comes through the strength of their dance elements –the things they do together. As a team. Through the good of being Olympians, and the bad of a season-ending injury.
Somewhere there has to be that extreme kind of commitment, because that is when the world will be forced to sit up and take notice.
Best wishes, of course, to Jeremy and Amanda. Love them, and hope they have a blast planning a wedding!
And good luck to Caydee as she searches for a new partner. She still has a lot to offer.
What do you think? Are long-term partnerships as important as I think they are?