The top of the mountain proved to be the slipperiest of slopes for Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker.
The two-time defending pairs champions were not only unceremoniously dethroned at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Spokane Arena, they were denied an Olympic berth when a committee affirmed Saturday’s final outcome and voted to send the top two finishers to Vancouver next month.
Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett skated away with the gold medal, finishing more than 16 points ahead of runners-up Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig – with McLaughlin and Brubaker well back in fifth place.
Their skate in Saturday’s free skate was an improvement on the short program the day before – but it could hardly have been worse. Two ugly falls by McLaughlin left the pair in seventh place, and any chance of a scoring windfall in the free was lost when she had to put down her hand to keep her balance landing a triple and turned the following double toe loop into a single because of a lack of speed.
With U.S. Figure Skating’s International Committee Management Subcommittee meeting after the competition to select the Olympians, Brubaker acknowledged that “we made it a lot harder for them” to ignore Saturday’s placements in making the decision.
“I think they know we’re one of the most competitive teams internationally,” he said. “I think nationally and internationally get judged a little different. But I think our track record speaks for itself. But sometimes it’s about being in the moment and doing it when it’s on the line.”
McLaughlin, who’s 17, and Brubaker, 23, plan to continue skating together.
“We never thought about doing just one Olympics, it was always going to be two Olympics,” Brubaker said.
Even one Olympics will have to wait.
“It’s one thing getting to the top,” he said. “People don’t fully grasp the idea of what it’s like having to stay on the top. Along with having the title comes responsibility and those types of challenges. We don’t like (losing) it. We love that title and, rest assured, regardless of what happens – Olympic team or no Olympic team – we’re going to get it back one day.”
One big happy family
It may be a first to have figure skaters from Florida represent the United States at the Winter Olympics, but it’s not unusual to have two skaters from the same house.
Denney-Barrett and Evora-Ladwig represent the Southwest Florida FSC.
It’s an interesting combination. Evora, 25, and Ladwig, 29, have been partners for eight years, Denney, 16, and Barrett, 25, about 18 months. Ladwig is married with a newborn son, Evora and Barrett live together, and Denney doesn’t even have her driver’s license.
“We do know when it’s boyfriend- girlfriend time and we know when it’s skating time,” Evora said. “I’ve always believed that personal is personal and business is business. That’s what I was taught when I was younger. It makes complete sense in my mind, but I know it seems odd to a lot of people.”
Ready to Weir
For better or worse, Johnny Weir generates as much buzz for his laundry as for his toe loops.
At the 2006 Olympics, the three-time U.S. men’s champion had this molting swan thing going on, with a red glove on his right hand that he named “Camille.”
For Friday’s short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, he showed up in a, well, corset of what he called “oil-slick Lycra,” bound by pink straps.
Kids, don’t try this at home, he said.
“When I’m on the ice, I wear a costume,” he emphasized. “That’s something I’ve never lost sight of. I think it’s so funny when I get dissected so much about the costumes I choose to wear on the ice.
“You wouldn’t go to a theatre and they’re putting on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and they’re wearing street clothes. People imagine you should go on the ice and wearing clothes you think reflect your personality, but I dress to represent my program and performance and the theatrics of that. To sum up my idea of one-ice costume sense, it’s probably that too much is never enough. And (today), I am wearing fur.”