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SENIOR PAIRS WHAT A FEELING Although the competition itself could

be described as lukewarm, the senior pairs event had some of the most interesting and inspiring story lines in Kansas City. There was the battle of attrition, in

which 15 teams dwindled to just nine by the free skate because of withdrawals, in- juries and illness. There was the emergence of first-year

team Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, whose long lines, talent and experience helped them win the short program and capture the bronze medal. There was 33-year-old Deanna Stella-

to, who wiped the dust off of skates that had been sitting in a closet for 16 years and, with Olympian Nathan Bartholomay, inspired all of us with her determination and exuberance on the ice en route to the pewter medal. And there was the punishing fall by

defending champion Tarah Kayne during a throw triple flip in their short program, which left everyone breathless and deep- ly concerned. Although she courageous- ly finished the program, Kayne was later diagnosed with a concussion, forcing her and partner Danny O’Shea to withdraw prior to the free skate. But the best feel-good story of the

competition was delivered by this year’s champions, Haven Denney (SC of New York) and Brandon Frazier (All Year FSC), who missed the 2015–16 campaign be- cause of a severe knee injury suffered by Denney during an off-ice practice. She tore her ACL, LCL and meniscus while doing a routine throw double flip. Surgery in April 2015 put the Chicago-based team on the competitive shelf until this past summer. Their victory in Kansas City — after winning the silver medal in 2015 — was the culmination of months of rehabili- tation, ups and downs, hard work and self-reflection. In the end, they said, it was all worth it. “This is a feeling I haven’t had since winning Junior Worlds,” Frazier, 24, said. “She did such a tremendous job. We both went through the darkest of times in our

20 MARCH 2017

Denney and Frazier overcome ‘darkest of times’ to win gold

Castelli and Tran, Cain and LeDuc grab silver and bronze BY TROY SCHWINDT

(l-r) Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran, Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier, Ashley Cain/ Timothy LeDuc, Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay

career and sport to get to this moment, to come to the U.S. Championships and fight. It wasn’t perfect — and we know where we need to improve — but being able to still put out a good program and come back from a tough short (program) was …” “Brandon and I have worked so hard

to just get to the point where we are right now,” Denney, 21, added. “We still have so much more room to grow and improve, so I’m happy to know that it was enough to- day.”

Denney and Frazier won silver at

Skate America and were fourth at Skate Canada, and were considered the favorites heading into Kansas City. They struggled early in their short program to “Don Juan Est Mort” by Felix Gray when Denney put a hand down on the throw triple loop and underrotated their side-by-side triple Sal- chows, but they finished strong, posting the second-best score of the segment, 3.94 points behind Cain and LeDuc. “I think maybe we were just a little bit

tight today,” Denney said. “It felt like we were testing the waters, so I think we know

the feeling now so we can have even more attack and sureness in the long.” Performing their free skate to “Some-

where in Time,” choreographed by Marina Zoueva, Denney and Frazier enjoyed an overall strong performance that included two Level 4 spins, four Level 3 lifts, strong footwork and a smooth inside death spi- ral. She singled a couple of jumps, one in combination, and they received nega- tive marks on their throw triple Salchow. Denney and Frazier had the second-best program components score behind silver medalists Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran. Most importantly, however, they were

the only team in the top seven not to fall. They finished with a total score of 188.32 points.

“Haven and I, we’re perfectionists,” Fra-

zier said. “You should see us training. Today was about going out and we had to fight. The results are always a bonus for us, but we are excited to be out here again.” “Sometimes we do elements that

are just so easy,” said Denney, whose old- er sister, Caydee, is a two-time U.S. pairs


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