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Castelli and Shnapir in position to repeat pairs title on home ice

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With a home-ice advantage at TD Garden, defending champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir lead the pairs competition after Thursday’s short program of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Representing the Skating Club of Boston, Castelli and Shnapir began with a triple twist and executed three triple Salchows to record a 73.13 score.

Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who won the bronze at last season’s event, are in second with 66.50, and DeeDee Lang and Timothy LeDuc are in a close third at 66.40.

“We really wanted to represent Boston well, and just having our fans, family members and friends here supporting us, allowed us to skate our best,” the 23-year-old Castelli said.

Castelli and Shnapir said they were at first nervous skating in front of people who have watched them for eight years together now, but they feel they rose to the occasion.

“Thank You Boston, what a crowd,” said Shnapir, who was born three years to the day earlier than his partner. “There was such energy, such excitement, such support, we couldn’t have done it without all of our supporters. We’re looking for a strong long program.”

Originally from Cranston, R.I., Castelli said more of her family will drive up for Saturday’s long program, which will be at 12:45 p.m. MT on NBC.

Zhang (Skating Club of New York) and Bartholomay (Southwest Florida SC) credited their calmness during their short program, which featured a triple toe loop and triple flip.

“I’m really happy with how the elements went,” Bartholomay said.

Midwesterners Lang and DeLuc also hit a triple toe loop and triple Salchow throw.

“This is the most fun we’ve ever had competing so far,” Le Duc said.

The last U.S. pairs team to medal in an Olympic Games was Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard, when they placed with the bronze at Calgary in 1988, and no American team has ever won gold.

During her press conference earlier in the day, USFS President Patricia St. Peter spoke on how the organization is working with the pairs to compete on an international level.

Caydee Denney and John Coughlin are in fourth going into the long, defending silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim are in fifth, and Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff, who also represent the SC of Boston, are sixth.

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