Castelli/Shnapir hold on for U.S. Nationals pairs title in front of home crowd in Boston (video)

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BOSTON — Simon Shnapir wanted to soak in the atmosphere for just a moment longer.

The Boston-based skated squeezed the hand of partner Marissa Castelli and told her so as the two stood at center ice following their free skate at the U.S. Championships inside TD Garden, the crowd’s roar enveloping them in noise they had never quite heard before.

“I just wasn’t sure when we would ever get another opportunity like that,” the six-foot-four Shnapir shrugged.

He and Castelli later were awarded their second straight national title, beating out 2012 champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, who fell to third place behind Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay.

Two pairs will be named to the U.S. Olympic team Sunday at noon after an international committee considers results from the past season as well as the Nationals scores.

Davis/White win record sixth Nationals in ice dance

It’ll be an especially long night for Denney/Coughlin, who sat out Nationals a year ago while Coughlin recovered from an injury.

“Caydee and I can look back back and say we remember every moment,” an emotional Coughlin told reporters. “You always hope to be a part of a U.S. Championships where everyone is throwing down and giving their best.”

The two had a stronger Grand Prix season than Zhang/Bartholomay, who edged them out by less than a point Saturday afternoon.

“I think we’re both on cloud nine right now,” Bartholomay said. “We’re aware that second place isn’t locked in, but we gave it our best.”

Castelli fell on a throw quadruple Salchow, but otherwise the team skated strongly to “Skyfall” from the “James Bond” soundtrack.

“We made a couple mistakes but overall we were so happy to skate in front of our family and friends,” Castelli, a Rhode Island native, said.

“Boston was an amazing crowd, so loud and so much energy,” Shnapir added.

RESULTS
1. Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir – 205.71
2. Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay – 201.72
3. Caydee Denney/John Coughlin – 201.43
4. Alexa Scimeca/Christopher Knierim – 189.67
5. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier 181.59

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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