Look for the general Olympic pairs preview coming later this week! Here is a closer look at the American Olympians in the pairs event.
Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett
Jeremy Barrett competed at pairs for years with Shantel Jordan, but his highest nationals placement was 10th. He teamed up with the much-younger Caydee Denney in 2006, but that didn't last. However, when the pair came back together in 2008, something clicked, and they have been found fast success on the pairs circuit. Their major breakthrough was the 2009 U.S. Nationals, where they skated two clean programs and stole the spotlight from repeat U.S. pairs champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker. Denney and Barrett won the silver medal, and would skate clean again at the world championships, where they would place ninth.
Grand Prix success has not come as easily to Denney and Barrett. They did not medal in either of their events this season, and did not receive particularly high program components scores. They have started showing more passion artistically, although they have a way to go before they can truly compete with the best in the world.
At the recent 2010 U.S. Nationals, under the most pressure of their careers, Denney and Barrett once again skated two lights-out programs, and won their first nationals and an Olympic bid. I'm not sure they're ready to contend for a medal just yet, but they will hopefully be able to get a top ten finish and put together clean programs.
The Programs: I like their programs this year; I think they're an improvement on last season and I love their attack. I don't think they quite have the presentation of some of the other top pairs, but that will hopefully come with time.
Latest Performance: Solid short and a solid free skate. Can't ask for too much more...
Strengths: Consistency, ability to handle the pressure, side by side jumps, throw triple lutz
Weaknesses: Not the most unique presentation - they stand out more for their consistency than anything else. Their death spiral in the short program is not that attractive.
I think it's awesome when: They come into a competition and force people to pay attention to them by skating solid programs.
Outlook: It would be amazing for this pair to somehow contend for a medal on the basis of clean programs, but I don't think they're competitive enough internationally just yet. They may need some more polishing and experience to build up that international reputation.
Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig
Evora and Ladwig have been competing with each other for nearly ten years and they have been slowly but surely moving towards this position. They hovered in the fourth/fifth range at Nationals for years, until a passionate and energetic performance in the free skate at Nationals helped propel them to a silver medal and an Olympic berth.
Evora and Ladwig have speed and beauty on the ice and some great lifts. Unfortunately, they are prone to errors and they have never medaled on the Grand Prix circuit, nor have they ever competed at the world championships. However, this opportunity and their performance at nationals will hopefully instill them with the confidence they need in order to compete with the best in the world at the Olympics. They are also quite a feel-good story - after years of trying they finally medalled at Nationals just in time for the Olympics. They were not truly on the radar prior to Nationals. Although I and others named them as potential medalists, I don't think I would have bet money on them for an Olympic spot, which makes this all the more sweet.
Additionally, Denney and Barrett and Evora and Ladwig train together in Florida with the same coaching teams led by Jim Peterson. And...fun fact! Barrett and Evora are dating.
The Programs: Both are nice programs and a good way to showcase their strengths as competitors. Hopefully they can skate clean. I actually prefer their presentation to Denney and Barrett's - it's softer and smoother.
Latest Performance: They had a fall and other small errors in the Nationals free skate but were able to regain the momentum throughout the program, which is extremely important.
Strengths: I like their presentation and I like their lifts specifically.
Weaknesses: Error-prone on jumps and throws.
I think it's awesome when: They do their lifts. Very difficult entrances and exits and great to watch.
Outlook: Unlikely that they will medal here. But this may be a good start for them to increase their international exposure and take their partnership to the next level.