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2014 U.S. National Championships

Castelli and Shnapir Capture Second U.S. Title with Arresting Bond Program, Prevail with Fellow Easterners Over Talented U.S. Field

by Liz Leamy

(11 January 2014)  The East Coast pairs were the undisputable leaders in this year’s dramatic national pairs showdown with Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir of the Skating Club of Boston claiming their second consecutive U.S. title and Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay of the Skating Club of New York and Southwest Florida FSC placing second due to their fantastic lifts, textbook-like triple twists, huge throw triple jumps and sophisticated style.

Castelli & Shnapir racked up the highest total score of the competition, a 205.71 and 132.58 for their compelling portrayal of the James Bond theme. She, donned in black, and he, wearing black slacks and a white shirt with a holster, dramatically depicted all the mystery and drama of this iconic international spy film series and racked up high scores for their soaring lifts, fast spins and gigantic throw triple Salchow.

Although they missed their throw quad and she doubled a triple toe, they skated with attack and abandon, which validated their place as leaders of this talented 12-member field, of which most teams knocked out split triple twist and fast, bilateral lasso lifts with the skill and ease of seasoned international contenders.

“We made a couple of mistakes but overall we were happy,” said Castelli, 23, a Rhode Island native who, along with Shnapir, agreed that this was one heck of an event.

“What a strong field,” said Shnapir, 26. “It was a good competition.”

The leaders of U.S. Figure Skating noticed the high standard at this event and entire nationals as well.

“I am happy with the standard I have been seeing among the skaters,” said Patricia St. Peter, president of U.S. Figure Skating. “It is very exciting.”

The pair said that the fact that having their family, friends and skating students in the stands also played a big role in their first-place finish.

“My entire family from Rhode Island came up,” said Castelli. “It was great to see familiar faces everywhere, they gave us so much support.”

Zhang, 20, and Bartholomay, 24, scored silver with their wonderful performance to music from the ‘Les Miserables’ soundtrack for which they earned a 135.22 and total point score of 201.72.

Dressed in deep red, blue and black, this team, who has only been together for approximately two years, skated with the confidence, fire and sophistication of seasoned world veterans. They executed an array of difficult lifts, throw triples and pair spins with power, aptitude and synchronicity.

Their program, one of the only clean ones in the entire event, was a crowd favorite and generated the loudest applause of the afternoon.

“We felt like we didn’t leave anything on the table and skated as hard and passionate as we could,” said Bartholomay.

Upon learning of their marks, Bartholomay jumped up and down pumping his fists in the air as Zhang hugged their coach, Jim Peterson, who taught Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, the 2010 U.S. Olympic team qualifiers.

“I think we are both on cloud nine,” said Bartholomay. “We just feel it was a great competition and there was a wonderful audience, a really incredible event.”

Caydee Denney, 20, and John Coughlin, 26, of the Broadmoor FSC and Kansas City FSC earned a 136.03 for their electric rendition of the “Phantom of the Opera” score and a 201.43 total that put them in the third spot.

This team, who were the 2012 U.S. titlists, but did not compete last season due to injury (Coughlin had a torn hip labrum), earned accolades for their poignant portrayal of this tragic love story about a ghost inhabiting a French opera house whose singing attracts the attention of a beautiful diva.

Skating with the energy of extreme athletes, the team reeled off a crisp and quick split triple twist, huge throw triple loop and nice side-by-side triple toes.

There were some flaws, however, in their performance, which made all the difference at this competition. Coughlin singled his side-by-side double Axel and Denney two footed the landing of the throw triple flip.  Despite the errors they placed first in this segment, but they needed another 0.29 points to have placed second overall and be assured an Olympic team berth.

“I wanted that Axel a little bit,” said Coughlin. “All Caydee and I talked about since the short was making sure every second of our free that we were in the moment. I think we did that and we had a lot of fun.”

Still, the team seemed satisfied with their outcome.

“It’s emotional for us to be here period and to be in contention and to skate well like that, it’s icing on the cake,” said Coughlin. “We were thrilled to be here no matter what considering a year ago I had a bike pedalling my leg for me.”