Nathan Bartholomay

Ashley Cain, Timothy LeDuc win first U.S. pairs’ title in event marred by major mistakes

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DETROIT — Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, after being doubtful they would even compete at the championships a few weeks ago, won the U.S. pairs’ title on Saturday. It is the first title for the team, who have been together three seasons.

Cain suffered a concussion in December after falling on her head during a lift in a competition in Croatia.

Cain and LeDuc skated last in the session, finishing their free skate and falling to their knees.

“It just was a release and I think this medal isn’t just for us but for everyone who helped us get here,” Cain said after the free skate.

“We know that we’re fierce competitors,” LeDuc said, which he said afterward that he reminded the both of them before they took the ice.

All of the pairs’ elements received positive Grades of Execution.

Full pairs’ results

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the 2017 U.S. champions, scored 133.32 points in the free skate for a total score of 201.64 and the silver medal.

Their softer, melodic program, set to selections from The Irrepressibles, was choreographed by 2014 Olympic ice dance champion Charlie White.

Deanna Stellato and Nate Bartholomay took home the bronze medal after scoring 131.74 in the free skate for a total score of 199.92 points. Their relatively clean skate stood out among the other teams.

“Well that’s a lesson learned,” she said in the mixed zone after being asked if she swore in disappointment after finishing the free skate. She appeared upset to have missed a feature in the team’s lift. “I was on the jumbotron, you could clearly see what I was [saying].

“That reverse lift, we win every competition with that lift. It’s fabulous. I move my arms, I’m not only balancing up there, I’m moving freely with my arms, in comparison with other teams who have been together for a decade and stay stationery. We always win with that lift and tonight I couldn’t do it. That was straight +5’s we left on the table and I knew it was going to matter.”

She said it wasn’t the placement they were looking for at the championships, but “we wanted to go to Four Continents because we desperately need points, so I’ll take the win.”

The Four Continents team announcement is expected Sunday morning.

2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, who held a lead after the short program, fell to fourth. They scored 126.81 points in the free skate for a total overall score of 198.64 points.

They received -1.90 GOE on their side-by-side jumps, triple Salchows, despite opening their program with a strong triple twist. Kayne and O’Shea bailed out of their third lift attempt, receiving zero credit.

“Sometimes you mess up when it counts most,” O’Shea said the skate. “It’s hard. There’s no reason. Why do you overthrow the ball in football? Why do you mess up the pass that goes right through your hands? That’s what it equates to… I lost us 8.5 points-ish, cost us a trip anywhere else this season.”

Husband and wife team Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim fell apart after a disappointing short program on Thursday. The two-time national champions (2015, 2018) received negative GOE for their side-by-side double Salchow combinations, were downgraded on their side-by-side double toe jumps, and received zero credit for their third lift when they bailed out early.

They scored 109.86 in the free skate for a total score of 171.42 for seventh place, their lowest ever as a team.

MORE: Excellent men’s event leaves Nathan Chen knocking on the door of third national title

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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U.S. Championships pairs preview: One Worlds spot on the line

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Three national champion pair teams are in the field this weekend at the 2019 U.S. Championships in Detroit. Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim are looking to claim their third national title and defend the one they won last year to vault them onto the Olympic team, while Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea know with only one spot at the world championships, the battle for first place will be hard-fought. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the 2017 champions, will also compete.

The short program is Thursday and the free skate is Saturday. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

Here’s a closer look at who might land on the podium.

Husband/wife duo Knierims aiming for third national title

The Knierims, who married in 2016, won the U.S. title in 2015 and 2018. They finished 15th at the world championships and the Olympics in 2018 and said wanted to make a change in their career. They split with longtime coach Dalilah Sappenfield to move to Germany and train with PyeongChang gold medalist Aliona Savchenko. After a few weeks, though, the couple unexpectedly split from Savchenko and moved to California to train with Todd Sand and Jenni Meno. They’ve been the top U.S. pair for several years not but inconsistencies, especially on their jumps, leave them vulnerable to threats from other teams.

MORE: 3 questions with the Knierims

2016 champions Kayne/O’Shea have Worlds on their minds

Kayne and O’Shea also changed coaches for this season, leaving Florida and joining Sappenfield in Colorado Springs. The move to Colorado did Kayne especially good, who has been injured for the last several seasons; with access to the Olympic Training Center, she said she feels healthy and strong before a national championship for the first time in years.

Kayne and O’Shea told reporters on their media call ahead of the competition that the single world championship spot is “on their minds.”

“We have always gone into nationals trying to skate our best, but this year we know we have to go and do that and we have to win,” O’Shea said.

MORE: 3 questions with Kayne and O’Shea

Cain/LeDuc adjusting goals for the season

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc planned to “break out” as the top American pair this season, but their season took a turn when Cain fell on her head coming out of a lift in a small competition in Croatia in December. She was diagnosed with a concussion and was off the ice for several weeks. The pair remains a factor – they’ve been third and fourth at nationals in the past two years – but they may be hampered by their limited training time.

“We are really grateful that we have this opportunity to compete and we will give it everything we have!” Cain wrote in a lengthy Instagram post detailing her recovery and thanking her support team.

Other factors in the field

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier won nationals in 2017. The Florida-based pair missed Grand Prix France in November with Denney’s ankle injury. This year, they are focused on improving their artistry, so watch for that during the U.S. Championships.

Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay have only been together since the spring of 2016 but finished third and fourth at nationals the past two years. Stellato came down with a stomach illness and the pair was forced to withdraw from Rostelecom Cup on the Grand Prix series after the short program. She said she’s been training at full strength now for about six weeks.

MORE: Nathan Chen goes for third national title

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Yevgenia Medvedeva leads after short program at Autumn Classic

Yevgenia Medvedeva
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Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva leads after Thursday’s short program at her season opener, the Autumn Classic International. In her first competition since moving to Toronto to train under Brian Orser, Medvedeva scored 70.89 points.

Olympic team event bronze medalist Bradie Tennell sits in second place heading into Friday’s free skate with 69.26 points. Tennell, the reigning U.S. national champion, was joined by countrywoman Starr Andrews in Ontario. Andrews scored 56.70 points and finished fifth in the short program.

France’s Mae Berenice Meite rounds out the top three with 58.23 points.

Earlier on Thursday, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres from France scored 73.81 points to build their lead over the pairs’ field. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro from Canada were second with 64.73 points, followed by the two American teams: Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier (61.91) and Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson (50.25), who competed internationally as new partners for the first time.

Competition at the Autumn Classic continues this weekend. Friday features the rhythm dance, men’s short program, and the pairs’ and ladies’ free skates. Saturday concludes competition with the free dance and men’s free skate. The event will stream live on Skate Canada’s Dailymotion page.

Elsewhere in the world of figure skating this weekend, Rika Kihira took the ladies’ short program at the Nepela Trophy in Bratislava. The reigning world junior champion attempted her triple Axel to open her “Clair de Lune” program but fell and was awarded -5 Grades of Execution across the board. She tallied 70.79 points and leads Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva by just 0.8 points. Russian Stanislava Konstantinova is third with 65.03 points.

Russian men lead the field after the short program in Bratislava. Mikhail Kolyada scored 96.82 points while Sergei Voronov earned 81.77 points. Japan’s Keiji Tanaka currently sits third with 77.53 points.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc have a three-point lead on the pairs’ field after the short program with 65.68 points. Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay, the other Americans in the field, are third with 59.60 points in their first competition of the season.

Competition continues at the Nepela Trophy this weekend with the rhythm dance and pairs’ free skate on Friday and the ladies’ free skate, free dance, and men’s free skate on Saturday.

MORE: Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova delays season opener by one week