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2014 U.S. National Championships

Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir Slam Field in Pairs Short Program

by Liz Leamy

(10 January 2014) Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli did their home city proud and knocked out a rock-solid win in the championship pairs short program yesterday afternoon at the U.S. Championships in Boston.

The team, who are the reigning U.S. titlists and represent the Skating Club of Boston, host of this year’s event, skated a high-energy program to a Santana medley of ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Smooth.’

Their exceptional skating skills including a soaring lasso lift, solid throw triple Salchow, quick triple twist lift and horizontal left back inside death spiral, among other things, helped them earn their best-ever short program score to date, a 73.13.

“I was in shock at first,” said Castelli, a Rhode Island native, about the score. “I wasn’t expecting that, we just like to be very powerful and strong.”

Getting to this point in their career has not exactly been easy for this team, however.

Back in 2009, Castelli and Shnapir placed third at the World Junior World Championships and were deigned as rising stars on the international competitive stage.

Although they’ve come up with some good results at major events since then, this talented team has dealt with injuries and some jump consistency issues.

During these impasses, the two admitted to have gotten frustrated and discouraged at themselves and with one another.

Through these moments, the two always seemed to find their way back to one another which has ultimately made their union stronger.

“We’ve had our ups and downs but at the end of the day we come together,” said Castelli, 23, who said a group of her family members are coming in Saturday to watch her in the free skate, many for the first time ever.

Shnapir, 26, agreed.

“I almost think we’re stronger as a team,” he said. “We’ve found a way to make it work and commit to a common goal.”

The duo, who is coached by Bobby Martin and Carrie Wall, and whose choreography is done by Julie Marcotte, said the crowd gave them a big boost in their performance here in this showdown yesterday.

“We had so many of our family and friends out there,” said Castelli. “It was great and gave us extra energy.”

Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay of the Skating Club of New York and Southwest Figure Skating Club place came up second with their outstanding rendition to the “Carousel Waltz” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The team, who trains with Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnston and Amanda Evora in Ellenton, Florida, skated with the expertise of seasoned championship-level skaters and earned high scores for their fantastic footwork, throw triple loop and perfectly synchronized side-by-side triple toes.

This performance was so good, in fact, the audience even cheered during their straight-line sequence, something that is very unusual at competitions, particularly for this element.

“We’re just really happy with how the elements went,” said Bartholomay. “It’s a good feeling to know if you put down good programs you get rewarded.”

The team, who was third at the 2013 U.S. Championships, was also lyrical and evoked a classic style characterized by nice edges and good flow.

“We’ve been training so hard the last few weeks and have been thinking that anything can happen,” said Bartholomay.

Dee Dee Leng and Timothy LeDuc of of the DuPage Figure Skating Club and Eastern Iowa Figure Skating Club were third with their dramatic rendition of “The Feeling Begins” by Peter Gabriel for which they earned a 66.40.

Leng, who bears a resemblance to the iconic Michelle Kwan, the nine-time U.S. champion who was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame last night, and LeDuc scored big marks as well as a standing ovation for their high energy lifts, spins and jumps.

The team, who train with Serguei Zaitsev in Indianapolis, did a soaring throw triple Salchow, quick triple twist lift and horizontal death spiral, among other elements.

"We are very happy with it. It's a step forward for us today. We had fun out on the ice,” said Leduc. "There are moments when you have theatrical chutzpah, and that happened with us today. We looked at each other and said, "It's our time."

Back in 2009, the two started skating together in 2009 but then stopped. Several years later, their coaches made contact with each other and they reconnected again in 2012.