Pairs’ figure skaters Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson announced the end of their partnership on social media Sunday, with Johnson then announcing his retirement from the sport in a subsequent post.
Calalang, 27, and Johnson, 26, earned the silver medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships each of the past three seasons, though never competed at a world championships or Winter Olympics.
“The last 4 years have been the filled with so many unforgettable moments,” their joint Instagram post read. “Between our growing years as a team, our Free Skate performance at the 2020 U.S. Championships, the Covid-19 season, the USADA nightmare & everything else…we stuck by each other’s side every second of everyday.”
Calalang and Johnson teamed up leading into the 2018-19 season following mediocre careers with Zack Sidhu and Chelsea Liu, respectively.
After finishing fifth in their debut season together, the Irvine, California, based team had the highest scoring free skate at the 2020 U.S. Championships, elevating them to the silver medal. Set to compete at the 2020 World Championships, it was canceled days before the start when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
The 2020-2021 season was highlighted by the cancelation of many competitions due to the pandemic, but they did win the virtual ISP Points Challenge and finish second at the domestic Skate America and U.S. Championships, both times to training mates Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier. After once again making the world team, Calalang and Johnson had to withdraw when they learned she tested positive for 4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid (4-CPA) in January, the “USADA nightmare” mentioned in their statement.
Calalang fought to clear her name and had a breakthrough that summer when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency determined that chlorphenesin, a non-prohibited substance found in certain shampoos and lotions, can metabolize into 4-CPA. Turned out it was Calalang’s makeup that caused her to test positive. She was finally cleared by both USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency on Sept. 30, in time to finish fourth at Finlandia Trophy and fifth at Skate America in October for a solid start to the Olympic season.
They wrapped the season with a third consecutive U.S. silver medal, this time to Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, but both Cain-Gribble/LeDuc and Knierim/Frazier (who did not compete at the U.S. Championships after Frazier tested positive for Covid) were named to the Olympic and world teams ahead of them.
“I realize that many people will be shocked by this, but I feel the need to move on with life,” Johnson included in his retirement post. “Skating has been a wonderful, thrilling, emotional, and heartbreaking experience and is a time that I will reminisce upon with smiles and gratification.”
Of note, both skaters apologized to each other.
While he wrote to Calalang that he was sorry he could not go on, she included the below in a tribute to Johnson:
“Brian, I am so sorry for everything that caused you any sort of hurt. You didn’t deserve any of it. I am sorry that it didn’t go the way we wanted it to.”
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