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2008-09 US Yearbook: Pairs Edition

The second part of the 2008-09 Yearbook takes a look at the American pair crop. The American pairs are becoming that kid in class who the teacher just couldn't reach, although she or he had such high hopes for them. Let's hope this year goes a bit better. There are two US Skate America berths that haven't even been determined yet. So, USFSA is obviously waiting to see what happens with the first Grand Prix events. I also left various pairs off (i.e. Castelli and Schnapir) so feel free to talk them up in comments if you think they'll have a shot.

Rena Inoue and John Baldwin

2008-09 Grade: C

Absences: N/A

Recommendations: Hmm. Skate like it's a few years ago? These two only have one Grand Prix assignment thus far, so it appears the US may be holding out to see if they've still got it after their first assignment to decide whether to give them that Skate America spot or whether they will instead give it to an up and coming pair. I guess I would say that they have to skate their NHK Trophy like it's an Olympic tryout. Because I have a feeling it kind of is. Maybe they shouldn't try the throw triple axel anymore unless it's rock solid, because it becomes tedious to watch them fall on it so many times in a season. They really need to show more life out there. There was very little spark last season.

Chances of Making the Olympic Team: Fair. I think USFSA may be ready to move on, but this team can be fairly clean and has a ton of experience, which should keep them in the running for the team.

Superlatives: Super Seniors, Most Likely to have Proposal Broadcast on a Jumbotron, Most Likely to Chaperone

Quotes: Associated Press 05/19/09: "We are honored that they have accepted the challenge of coaching us through the next Olympic Games," from Baldwin, regarding the team's coaching switch to Jenni Meno and Todd Sand.

Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker

2008-09 Grade: B

Absences: N/A

Recommendations: Brubaker was hurt last season but that probably doesn't completely explain the sophomore slump (problems further evidenced by the fact that they changed coaches to John Nicks after the season ended). They have great chemistry and great speed, with exciting lifts that can score. They just need to make fewer mistakes.

Chances of Making the Olympic Team: Great. I think USFSA is considering last year to be growing pains and thinks this team will be able to get past that and become a medal contender for the US in the future.

Superlatives: Best Hair (Keauna, except not the scrunchies), Coolest

Quotes: From Universal Sports, 05/22/09: "This is going to be one of the toughest years for us, having it be our first Olympic season, and we felt comfortable going with someone that had that experience." (McLaughlin, regarding switch to coach John Nicks)

Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett

2008-09 Grade: B+

Absences: N/A

Recommendations: These two won over skating fans during Nationals by skating the programs of their lives. They also did well at the World Championships. Now that their surprising Nationals debut is over, it's time to get down to business. They have to add more difficulty to their programs, and they need a bit more pizazz (can't believe I wrote that word. Is that even spelled right?) and experience with each other so they really flow. If I could take their ability to skate clean and combine it with McLaughlin and Brubaker's programs, they could be medal contenders.

Chances of Making the Olympic Team: Fair. I don't see America ready to crown this team the Future of US pairs skating just yet (as evidenced by their loss at Nationals), but I think they have a very good chance if they skate as well this season as they did last. Let's also not forget that this was the team that made it into the Worlds top ten, and they had only been skating together since last year!

Superlatives: Hardest Working (see: Barrett), Most Likely to Cause Reporters to Scramble to Find out Something to Write About Them...

Quotes: ESPN 01/22/09: "I'm not sure it's really sunk in yet." (Barrett, regarding the pair's showing in the short program at nationals.

Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski

2008-09 Grade: C

Absences: Cup of China, Cup of Russia

Recommendations: I'm not even sure what's going on with this team (cannot find anything about them post-January 2009). They aren't competing in the Grand Prix this year, it would appear. They've been plagued by injuries, and they only came in fifth place at last year's Nationals. I think they've dropped off the radar. My recommendation would be that if they compete in Nationals, they have to skate like they've never skated before, because there are only two spots to fight for.

Chances of Making the Olympic Team: Unlikely

Superlatives: Quietest, Most Likely to Miss Class

Quotes: Castile-Okolski web site, 01/24/09: "We need more experience competing at big events," said Brooke, who had problems with her jumps for the second program in a row. "But although we haven't competed, I feel my skating has improved a ton." (Castile after Nationals in 2009)

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig

2008-09 Grade: C

Absences: N/A

Recommendations: Well, they have been in the top five at Nationals for several years, but other pairs have consistently leaped over them - they just don't appear on the same level with the some of the other skaters in quality and then they make mistakes, compounding the issue. There's a lot to improve upon.

Chances of Making the Olympic Team: Unlikely

Superlatives: Most Likely to be in Top Five at Nationals but Not Win

Quotes: N/A

Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin

2008-09 Grade: C+

Absences: N/A

Recommendations: Get better, get more experience competing and more experience skating together. They are starting to get the basics down but have not put it all together yet. And they lost ground in the 2009 Nationals by dropping in placement.

Chances of Making the Olympic Team: Unlikely

Superlatives: Most Likely to Be Inexplicably Pictured in Sports Illustrated.

Quotes: IceNetwork: "She is a diva to the maximum," her coach, Dalilah Sappenfield, said endearingly. "She does not like being second. She won't go down without a fight. That's just who she is."