by Liz Leamy
(4 January 2018) The country’s premiere pair teams, helmed by Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, the 2015 U.S. champions and Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay of Ellenton, Florida, the 2017 U.S. fourth-place finishers are some of the teams at the helm of this year’s U.S. pair roster at the U.S. Championships in San Jose, which kicks off on Thursday, January 4th at the SAP Center.
This year’s contingent of American pairs, who are known, more than anything, for their solid technical acumen, are expected to put on quite a show as they rally for podium position and the lone U.S. pair spot at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang this February.
The Knierims, who scored silver at the 2016 Four Continents Championships, are known for their exceptional lifts and throw jumps and are planning to do a quad twist as part of their technical arsenal in the free skate at this event.
“We feel very prepared physically and mentally going into Nationals and feel like we’re hitting our stride,” said Chris, 30, during a pre-Nationals teleconference call with reporters. “We’re feeling prepared in terms of where we are going [as we prepare] for San Jose.”
According to Chris and Alexa, 26, who train at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs with Dalilah Sappenfield and Larry Ibarra, work over these past few weeks has been fruitful and productive.
“We’re in a good space,” said Chris. “We’re confident.”
This season, the Knierims, who placed second at the 2016 U.S. Championships (but had withdrawn from the 2017 U.S. Championships due to the fact that Alexa had undergone abdominal surgery, something which she has since fully recovered from) are skating to ‘Come What May’ from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack for the short and ‘Ghost – The Musical’ for the free program. (They also placed fifth at the 2017 Bridgestone Skate America event.)
“We’re excited to keep pushing ourselves,” said Alexa. “We’re focused on improving and if we do that, things will fall into place.”
For the Knierims, it’s all about lessons and strength learned from the whole journey of skating.
“It’s all about the journey and the joy behind it,” said Alexa. “[This has] helped us to be our best going into the [U.S. Championships].”
Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the 2017 U.S. titlists who train in Geneva, Illinois with Rockne Brubaker and Stefania Barton, are another premiere pair to consider in this event.
Known for their soaring lifts, throw jumps and split twists, among other things, Denney and Frazier skate with fire, confidence and command and are always ones to skate top-rate programs that are always a big hit with crowds.
This year, they are skating to ‘All of Me’ by John Legend for their short and ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ by Queen and David Garrett for their long program.
Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran, the 2017 U.S. silver medalists are another top entry to watch at this event.
Castelli, a Cranston, Rhode Island native who competed at the 2014 Olympics with Simon Schnapir (where they were ninth) and Tran typically rack up big points for their huge throw triples and lifts. They train with Bruno Marcotte, Richard Gauthier, Sylvie Fullum and Bobby Martin.
Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, the 2017 U.S. bronze medalists, are also a top-seeded entry in this event.
This talented duo, who have only been skating together since May 2016, train in Euless, Texas with Ashley’s father, the reputable Peter Cain, and are known for their terrific speed, style, confidence and aptitude.
Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Nathan Bartholomay, the powerful pair who train in Ellenton, Florida with Jim Peterson, are another force to take note of here.
This duo placed fourth at the 2017 U.S. Championships and eighth at the 2017 Bridgestone Skate America and are known for their big throw triple jumps and beautifully extended lifts, among other things.
Bartholomay, notably, competed at the 2014 Olympics with Felicia Zhang, where the two had finished 12th. (They were second at the 2014 U.S. Championships.)
Stellato-Dudek, a Chicago native and former International Skating Union Grand Prix ladies singles contender, decided to try her hand at pair skating with Bartholomay in July 2016, a venture which seems to have been a good decision based upon the results she and her partner have garnered thus far.
Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea, the 2016 U.S. champions known for their speed, power and electric lifts and throws, are another vital team who should rack up big points at this event.
This dynamic duo, who trains with Jim Peterson and Amanda Evora in Ellenton, Florida, are skating to ‘Take Me to Church’ by Hozier for their short and ‘A Song of India’ and ‘Marche Slav’ for their long program this season.
Although they missed competing at the 2017 U.S. Championships due to an injury, they are said to be skating better than ever and seem determined to earn a spot on the podium and even reclaim the National crown.