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U.S. pairs set new goals for Torino worlds

Hope to improve scores, qualify for three spots

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig have been refining their skating with Judy Blumberg.
Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig have been refining their skating with Judy Blumberg. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/16/2010) - Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, and training mates Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, are looking beyond their 10th- and 13th-place finishes, respectively, at the Olympics to the World Championships in Torino next month.

Last night in the mixed zone, Barrett revealed their primary ambition.

"We want to build off these performances," the 25-year-old skater said. "Our big goal is to qualify three U.S. teams for [2011] worlds next season. The U.S. has a lot to offer in pairs, and I think we showed that here."

Barrett defended he and his partner's performances after a reporter reminded him that the Vancouver Games were the country's worst-ever Olympic showing in pairs.

"Caydee and I have only been skating together for two years," he said. "This is Shen and Zhao's fourth Olympics. Our goal, coming here, was not to medal, it was to start building an international reputation for four years from now. We wanted to skate well and I think we did. We made huge improvements in the last year and obviously, we still have a ways to go."

"For us, it's repetition," Denney, just 16, added. "Doing it over and over again in practice."

To qualify three U.S. teams for worlds, the combined total of the two pairs' placements cannot add up to more than 13. That amounts to one team placing sixth, and the other seventh.

Jim Peterson, who coaches both teams in Ellenton, Fla., thinks it is an ambitious but realistic goal.

"That opportunity could be on the table; there are going to be some retirements, some teams who won't compete in Torino," he said. "You have to set big goals. Hey, this gives us something to shoot for."

In Peterson's mind, Denney and Barrett -- who won the U.S. title in Spokane last month with two clean programs -- have a good chance of bettering their Olympic performances.

"We had some scary days leading into Vancouver," he said. "I don't really want to talk about it, but Jeremy had a rib situation. There were a few times he could barely breathe. For him to get out there and do two good programs is a victory in itself.

"We have a full month to train; we'll get the death spirals organized. We know what the weaknesses are."

Denney and Barrett lost points on their death spirals here, giving up levels in both the short program and free skate.

The coach is also hopeful that Evora and Ladwig's 10th-place finish here, in a stacked field, will add to their international luster.

"Right now, Amanda and Mark are absolutely one of the top teams, if not the top team, in the U.S.," he said. "They've skated together for eight years, and longevity counts. [In the free skate] Mark popped a triple toe. That's basically it for the big mistakes. Amanda, who has been plagued by cheated [under-rotated] jumps her entire career, skated back-to-back clean with two triple toes and a double Axel.

"It's such an inspiration to see kids everyone second guessed, including a lot of people in their own country, get 16 points better than their personal best in the short program alone. That says a lot. There is depth, there is quality in U.S. pairs, we have to go out and push it."

Peterson added that the couple, who are 25 and 29, have definitely decided to compete next season.

"If I love the sport, if I'm capable of doing that [personal best], I'll keep skating," Evora said. "Same for Mark. I'm still young. I still have hopes for the future.

"We take one year at a time. We're still not finished with this season. There's still worlds."