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 on Saturday afternoon as the mercurial pair from the Skating Club of Boston held on to their pairs 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.
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,” she said.
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 points (201.72-201.43) after coming fourth in the short program. “We know second isn’t locked in,” acknowledged 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 this time 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, 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 their coach Bobby Martin. “They know how to bounce back from it and move on.”
Dancing was routine
There were no surprises in the final dance standings and no complaints from the top three. Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the reigning world champions, won a record sixth straight title by nearly 20 points over Madison Chock and Evan Bates, with siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani in third place. It was the same order of finish as last year’s event in Omaha and it should make the decision easy for the selectors, who’ll name the three couples for the Olympic team on Sunday.
Davis and White, whose final tally was 200.19 points, will be making a return trip to the Games, where they won the silver medal in 2010. Bates, who competed in Vancouver with Emily Samuelson, will get a return trip as well. It would be the five-ringed debut for the Shib Sibs, who were juniors in 2010.
Ready to jump up
If defending men’s champion Max Aaron appeared unruffled about being in fourth place heading into Sunday afternoon’s free skate, it may be because that’s where he was last year before he vaulted above everybody to dethrone Jeremy Abbott, who again is the leader after the short program. “I have the arsenal in the jump contest,” says Aaron, who has two quadruple jumps, including his leadoff quad salchow-triple toe, to Abbott’s lone quad toe. Abbott, who’s looking for a return ticket to the Games, is more than seven points up on Richard Dornbush. If he wins the title, he’ll be the first man to claim four since Chatham native Todd Eldredge won his sixth in 2002.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.