Denney, Barrett win pairs title, ticket to Vancouver

Silver medalists Evora and Ladwig secure second spot on 2010 U.S. Olympic Team

Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett are excited about the upcoming season.
Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett are excited about the upcoming season. (Getty Images)


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By Becca Staed Bishop, special to
(01/16/2010) - When it came time to lay it all down on the ice in one of the most important years to win the U.S. pairs title, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett didn't flinch.

After winning the short program Friday night with 63.01 points -- a slim lead over the rest of the field -- Denney and Barrett catapulted ahead in the free skate with 190.30 points, a 16.52-point lead to win the 2010 U.S. pairs title and one of two spots on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.

Their training mates, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, collected the other Olympic berth after opening the final group of teams in the event with a beautiful free skate to Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2" that earned 173.78 points to win the silver medal.

"I don't think anybody would have ever thought two teams from Florida would ever be going to the Winter Olympics," Barrett said. Two-time U.S. champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin collected their second-consecutive U.S. bronze medal after coming in second in the free skate with a 115.41 segment score that gave them 173.18 points overall.

Denney and Barrett, last year's U.S. silver medalists, delivered a flawless "Scheherazade" free skate that received nary a negative Grade of Execution (GOE).

"Before the event I was watching Peter Carruthers talk about how much muscle memory he had before the Olympics and I couldn't agree more," Barrett said. "We train these programs so much. Once we got out there, we let our bodies take over."

The pair opened with a beautiful level-two triple Lutz twist lift, which earned a 1.30 GOE, as did their throw triple loop. All three of their lifts, two of which were Group 5, their forward inside death spiral and both of their spins garnered Level 4s. They landed their side-by-side triple toes and double Axel-double Axel sequence in complete synchronization, and brought in the highest program component mark of 58.56 -- a testament to their hard work in trying to improve those marks since their U.S. Championships debut in 2009.

"I feel that in this competition we have definitely stepped up our components, so hopefully we are not just known as a trick team anymore and can hold up internationally," said Barrett.

Ever the underdogs, Evora and Ladwig's seven U.S. Championships appearances have yielded a two best finishes of fourth place. It seems the eighth time's the charm for these two who will accompany Denney and Barrett to Vancouver in February.

"We have always thought we were in the mix," Ladwig said. "It's all about performance and execution and knitting that program together when it counts, and we really stuck to it and did it."

The duo never fails to rally the crowd to its feet and succeeded once again after nailing their free skate to earn a 115.02 segment score and all-around personal bests at this event.

They opened with a clean triple Lutz twist lift, followed by a triple toe-(downgraded) double toe jump combination that cost them 2.14 points in GOEs and a shaky throw triple Lutz that lost another two points in GOEs. They didn't let those mistakes irk them, however, rebounding quickly with three Level 4 spins, two Group 5 level-four lifts, and a Level 4 backward outside death spiral.

Their strongest element was a Group 5 rotational lift that earned two points in GOEs for an element total of 9.15.

"It's like the first time you break the 100-point mark in the free skate," said Ladwig of the high mark.

"I know that that wasn't a perfect program," said Evora. "But one thing I always try to bring out in our skating is hope and humility. It is not supernatural to go out there and do what we do. We are humans too, and it's OK to make mistakes. It's about learning how to keep going and never give up, and I feel that we have done that."

Bronze medalists Inoue and Baldwin were not as excited about their finish after delivering a stalwart free skate to selections from Tchaikovsky that brought the crowd to its feet and tears to Inoue's eyes.

"I was shocked," Baldwin said. "It's not like we got any downgrades or anything, but the judges do what they want to do. We have never been more comfortable than we are right now in our skating. To put out a program like that and not get rewarded for it, it's a little discouraging."

The nine-time U.S. pairs medalists and 2006 Olympians' free skate featured a clean side-by-side double Axel combination, a strong throw triple loop and level fours on all of their lifts and spins, as well as their backward outside death spiral, which earned the second-highest GOE mark of 0.60 in the routine. They lost points more than two points total on their opening double toes, level-one triple Lutz twist lift and throw triple Axel.

"The decision [of who to name to U.S. Olympic Team] is not up to us, but my performance, obviously I took it as my last competition program," said Inoue. "I skated how exactly I wanted it to be."

Whether Saturday's free skate will be the duo's last competitive performance remains to be seen, but it would give the two time to focus upon their impending marriage said Baldwin.

Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski finished fourth with 169.95 points, moving up one spot after their fifth-place short program performance. The duo won the U.S. pairs title in 2007, the first year the U.S. Championships were held in Spokane.