by Liz Leamy
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc Take Top Spot in Senior Pairs Short Program in Commanding Fashion
Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, the 2019 U.S. pair champions, catapulted to the top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Championships in Nashville with a stellar short program that earned them a 79.39, putting them ahead of the rest of the competition by more than two points.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, who train in Euless, Texas with their coaches, Darlene and Peter Cain (Ashley’s parents) and Nina Mozer, brought down the house at the Bridgestone Arena with their clean, crisp and powerhouse performance to music from ‘The White Crow’ soundtrack by Ilan Eshkeri, which generated a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd at its conclusion.
“We’re grateful to have the U.S. Championships and do something we love,” said LeDuc. “We had a great time out there today.”
This talented duo, who have been skating together for more than four years, skated with the poise, confidence and demeanor of seasoned international championship contenders, knocking out a split triple twist, side-by-side triple loops, a throw triple flip, a soaring lasso lift with a cartwheel exit and low back outside death spiral with a cool free leg variation, among other distinctive things.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc’s side-by-side elements, including their spins, jumps and footwork, were perfectly synchronized and executed with terrific acumen and ease.
For Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, the main focus at this competition was for them to do their job.
“We’re so thankful and happy to be here,” said Cain-Gribble. “We have prepared in every way possible to be prepared for this event.”
The two also addressed the importance of being prepared for any sort of situation that might go along with skating at a competition.
“We try to plan for everything so that nothing surprises us,” said LeDuc. “One of the greatest things that have helped us achieve success is adaptability.”
Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson, the 2020 U.S silver medalists, scored second in this segment of the competition with their engaging short program to Gary Clark Jr.’s and Junkie XL’s engaging cover of the Beatles classic ‘Come Together’ for which they racked up a 77.48.
Calalang and Johnson, who train in Irvine, California with Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, the three-time World medalists and three-time U.S. champions, Nina Mozer and Christine Binder, skated a clean and powerful program that featured a big split triple twist, side-by-side triple Salchows, a throw triple flip and innovative death spiral in which the two changed hands.
Also a crowd favorite of this event, Calalang and Johnson earned a loud standing ovation at the end of their program for their efforts.
According to the two, the biggest victory was just being out on the ice at Nationals again skating in front of a live audience.
“We definitely train for this event and overall were just feeling good out there,” said Johnson. “We really worked through the hardships of training, especially for such an important event.”
For Calalang and Johnson, it’s all about preparing the mind as much as the body for competitions, especially one as big as the U.S. Championships.
“For me, my legs are burning every single day [out on the ice] and we train so hard for the moment,” said Johnson. “You have these tools and definitely keeping the mind as calm as possible makes that process a little bit easier.”
“We’ve been pushing ourselves, especially our minds, leading up to this event,” said Calalang.
Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov were another standout couple in this showdown and garnered a 68.11 for their short program that put them in the third position.
Skating to a pumped-up remix of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ and Destiny Child’s “Survivor’ by 2WEI/TMX, this duo reeled off such memorable elements as a dramatic death spiral, lightning-quick split triple twist, side-by-side triple Salchows, a well-extended lasso lift and big throw triple flip, among other things.
Lu and Mitrofanov train at the Skating Club of Boston in Norwood, Massachusetts with Alexsey Letov and Olga Ganicheva.