Whoever said that you get no points for trying doesn’t know figure skating under the new scoring system. Marissa Castelli went kersplat on their throw quadruple salchow but she and partner Simon Shnapir still got credit for trying a risky move that their rivals didn’t dare attempt.
Their audacity and the 6-point cushion that they’d carried over from Thursday’s short program made the difference Saturday afternoon as the mercurial pair from the Skating Club of Boston held on to their crown at the US Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden despite finishing third in the free skate and all but certainly earned a ticket to next month’s Winter Olympics. “That win for them was really, really big,” said their coach Bobby Martin, who wanted his pupils to take the subjectivity out of the selection process.
While their nomination won’t be official until Sunday after the USFSA’s international committee picks the two pairs for Sochi, it’s unimaginable that the first champions to repeat since Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker in 2009 won’t be named. Still, Castelli and Shnapir will hold off popping champagne corks. “If we get that text message tomorrow, then we’ll go crazy,” said Castelli.
Left to sweat it out overnight were runners-up Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay and former titlists Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, who won the long program but placed third overall by 29 hundredths of a point (201.72-201.43) after coming fourth in the short program. “We know second isn’t locked in,” said Bartholomay.
Had Denney, who skated in the 2010 Olympics with Jeremy Barrett, and Coughlin competed in last year’s nationals and in the subsequent world championships, their résumé might well have gotten them the nod. But they called it a season after his hip surgery and probably needed to win here to be chosen ahead of Zhang and Bartholomay, who were third last year and skated cleanly in both sessions here.
“It’s hard for us,” acknowledged Coughlin, who’ll likely be haunted by his singling his combination jumps. “From where we were a year ago to where we are now, unbelievable. This is what we wanted to do. We wanted to get back here and be at the US championships on our terms, to not have our fate dictated to us by an injury.”
Castelli, who resides in Cranston, R.I., and Shnapir, who’s from Sudbury, weren’t happy just to be on Causeway Street. They wanted to make history by becoming the first pair to land the throw quad sal at nationals. While Castelli got around four times in the air, she crash-landed. “First time I fell all season,” she said. “Kind of a bummer it happened here.”
The important thing, they knew, was how they’d respond to the blown element. In other seasons Castelli and Shnapir might have come unglued. This time, they came back with superb spins and lifts and a throw triple sal that earned them a total score of 205.71, a shade under 4 points ahead of Zhang and Bartholomay. “It’s all experience,” observed Martin. “They know how to bounce back from it and move on.”
When they were done Shnapir took Castelli’s hand and suggested that they stay on the ice and savor the moment. Unless they stick around for the 2016 world championships, which also will be held at the Garden, this likely was their swansong in the Hub. “Amazing city,” said Shnapir, who was born in Moscow and emigrated here when he barely could walk, much less skate.
Now he gets to go back to his original homeland for a chance to take on the world and he and Castelli will bring the throw quad sal with them. Without it, they’re an average pair on the world stage. With it, they could be in the mix. “My money’s on her,” said Martin. “I think she’ll make a big splash and start scaring some people.”