by Liz Leamy
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc Reclaim the U.S. Championship Pairs Crown
Ashley Cain-Gribble (SC of New York) and Timothy LeDuc (Los Angeles FSC), the 2019 U.S. champions, triumphantly reclaimed the U.S. Championship title in the pairs final, skating a superb high-octane free skate for which they earned a 145.84 and 225.23 total, putting them more than 15 points ahead of the rest of the competition.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, who skated to a beautiful piano selection from Abel Korzeniouwski’s the ‘W.E.’ soundtrack, the same piece they had used when they clinched the 2019 U.S. title, flew around the ice as they executed difficult elements such as a soaring split triple twist, throw triple Salchow, side-by-side triple loops, a throw triple Lutz and artful, fluid lifts that covered the full circumference of the ice, among other things.
Throughout their program, Cain-Gribble and LeDuc owned their moves and elements and skated them in perfect synch and with confidence and command much to the delight of the crowd who gave them a thunderous standing ovation.
For Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, the victory was ultimately the fact that they did their job.
“I’m pretty speechless right now but have so much gratitude,” said Cain-Gribble.
“We have worked so hard and I think we came into this competition feeling like we were the best version of ourselves,” said LeDuc. “We’re so grateful to be back and competing.”
Cain-Gribble explained their program was a dedication to those people who feel like they don’t fit in.
“We want to dedicate this performance to those people who think they don’t belong,” said Cain-Gribble. “We want to be a beacon for those people who feel like they don’t belong.”
Jessica Calalang (DuPage FSC) and Brian Johnson (SC of New York), the two-time U.S. silver medalists, claimed silver with their power-charged program to ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ by the Tenors featuring Lindsay Stirling for which they racked up a 132.39 and 209.87 total.
This duo, whose style is defined by great power, executed a sensational split triple twist, throw triple flip, soaring lifts in which they covered the circumference of the ice with strength and command, a dramatic forward inside death spiral and terrific pair spin, among other things.
The pair did however, not manage to synchronize on their side-by-side jumps as Calalang doubled a planned triple Salchow.
In addition, although the two did an amazing throw triple Salchow, Calalang went down on one knee on its landing, causing them some deductions .
“We just wanted to stay present,” said Calalang. “We took everything step by step in our program and got through the elements.”
Johnson said the duo was delighted to have had the opportunity to compete at this year’s Nationals, especially with all that’s been going on in the world.
“We’re grateful to be back and competing,” said Johnson. “This whole week has been a bunch of fun.”
Audrey Lu (SC of Boston) and Misha Mitrofanov (SC of Boston) scored bronze with their dramatic program to ‘Ancient Lands’ by Ronan Hardiman for which they earned a 123.43 and 191.54 total.
Lu and Mitrofanov, who placed fourth at the 2021 U.S. Championships, opened up with an electric split triple twist, side-by-side triple Salchows-half loops-triple Salchows (in which he had touched a hand down on the landing), electric and beautifully extended lifts and a stunning forward inside death spiral, among other things.
“The fact that we’re just here is a big accomplishment for us,” said Mitrofanov, after the couple had gone through some challenges several weeks prior due to a fall on a death spiral. “We’re very happy and grateful to be here at this event.”
The members of the 2022 U.S. Olympic pairs contingent will be announced at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Sunday, February 9th.