It’s no secret that I am often frustrated by the U.S. pairs landscape. Not because we don’t have talented pairs to choose from, but because more often than not, the game of “musical partners” is more intriguing than their actual competition results!
This year, there were the usual swaps. Caitlin Yankowskas finally found herself a partner in Joshua Reagan (who skated at last year’s Nationals with Ashley Cain).
Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim paired up, and surprised everyone with exceptional scores in Nice and at NHK — they’re senior Grand Prix debut.
Meanwhile, Mark Ladwig, who skated for so many years with Amanda Evora, found a new partner in Lindsay Davis (who formerly skated with Themi Leftheris and Alex Merritt). They started the season at the Senior B in Salt Lake and … well, they had a lot of work to do. To their credit, they were much improved by their second GP event.
At least Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff and Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin are still together … though neither team has had the kind of success this season they’d hoped for. Both teams are, though, in the running for a medal in Omaha.
And if all the new partnerships aren’t enough for you, let’s make absolutely sure that there’s no chance for a repeat National Champ — John Coughlin? Done for the season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. For him and Caydee Denney to not be able to finish the season is such a shame; they were having a fabulous year.
But, what that does mean is, the pairs competition is the one event in Omaha that will not feature a reigning champ. In fact, there isn’t a national champion in the field.
But, despite all the turnover among U.S. teams, the new headliners of the event seem to stand alone.
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir have been skating together since 2006. That’s ancient history in pairs years! And, to top it all off, they’ve been having a career year. A strong start at Skate America led to a convincing Ice Challenge Graz victory, which they followed up with bronze at the NHK Trophy.
The only team to post scores anywhere close to Castelli/Shnapir’s (except Denney/Coughlin, mind you) is that of Scimeca and Knierim.
This is Marissa and Simon’s year, it seems. The question is, will they live up to the moment?
Here’s how I see it.
Don’t forget to follow me on twitter (@FromTheBoards) for updates from Omaha. And, if you’re an instagramer, follow me @TaraBethW for pictures throughout the week!