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The shift in U.S. pair skating

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim of USA perform their routine at the Pairs Free Skating event during the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships on January 24, 2014 in Taipei, Taiwan.
Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images

It seems like pair skating teams are dropping like flies in the wake of the 2014 Olympic Games. Teams are splitting left and right, while other teams are being sidelined due to injury.

Pair skating has been a struggle within the U.S. for decades without having an Olympic medal won in pairs since 1988. It’s been quite a long drought and with the recent changes within pair skating it is unlikely to shift upward for quite some time.

Two-time national champions and Olympians, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, were one of the first U.S. teams to split following the Olympic Games. The following month it was announced that 2012 national champions, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, would have to sit out the season due to injury. Now it was announced just this week that U.S. silver medalists and Olympians, Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay are also parting ways due to Felicia’s retirement. This means that the pair teams who placed first, second and third at the 2014 National Championships, are out this season, with two of the teams completely dissolved.

Marissa Castelli has since paired with Marvin Tran who recently was approved to transition from skating for Canada to the United States. Tran will not be officially released to skate for the U.S. until the 2015-2016 season, which means they will be sitting out this upcoming season.

Simon Shnapir has partnered with DeeDee Leng and has been selected to skate at both the NHK Trophy and Rostelecom Cup during the 2014-2015 Grand Prix season. It will be interesting to see how this newly formed team will do, but either way it will still take some time for them to develop. In the meantime, with Caydee Denney and John Coughlin out of the picture many are looking toward the 2014 U.S. Nationals fourth place finishers, Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, to be the shining light in what looks like a bleak season for U.S. pairs.

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim are a strong team with a lot of potential. They have only been skating together for a little over two years, but are currently engaged and their connection on and off the ice only seems to be helping them. They are a beautiful team and as long as the pressure does not get to them, they could very well become America’s new sweethearts.

There is also some young talent on the horizon that shows some promise. Skaters like Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier and Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea may be able to take advantage of this season and walk through a very large open door. Yet, even though they may succeed on a national level the U.S. has a long way to go when it comes to making an international statement in pair skating.

Hopefully, this reorganization of teams will lead to stronger pair teams in the future, but for now it is up to the next generation of pair teams to determine the future of U.S. pair skating.

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