2020-21 U.S. Pairs Figure Skating

skylark

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Starting a thread for the new season, where we can keep up with new and interesting tidbits about US Pairs. :)

The following link is a live chat (55 minutes) that Jordan Cowan of On Ice Perspectives recorded with Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc in late May.

While he interviews them, we are watching a split screen of Jordan's warm-up videos of them, in preparation to creating the On Ice Perspective that he then published. Ashley, Tim, and Jordan are also watching the video (done in October 2019). It's really interesting to watch all three of their reactions while watching. Jordan looks entranced -- you can tell he just loves and adores doing what he's discovered and created as his mission. Ashley and Tim occasionally share little details of how their elements are changing for this next season's offerings, how they're developing their skating. It's fun to see more of their friendship and connection and hear more of their thoughts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30ZklxFgYBQ
 

Skater Boy

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I hope Alexa and Grant enjoy the process of getting to the point they are competitive. You just never know what is going to happen. There are probably two spots for Worlds and olympics and lots of good teams.
 

jcmerman

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wow! They are genuinely happy and it shows. They are gelling (is that a word?) so well. There is too much experience there, on both sides, for them NOT to contend. They could be magical and dangerous. So excited!!!!!
 

noskates

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This is the team I'm the most anxious to see in competition. Just from that clip I have to admit that Brandon looks a lot more solid than Chris ever did - and I loved Chris and Alexa together mostly because of their obvious chemistry on the ice. I also think Alexa is a stronger skater than Haven. Like the music, too.
 

BlissfulSynergy

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I'm looking forward to seeing the new pairing of Alexa and Brandon. It won't be a normal season of course, but they are looking good so far as a recently formed team. Their individual past experience and knowledge of each other as friends has probably helped them come together so quickly. Brandon has also been a good friend of Alexa's husband, Chris, during their former training days in Colorado.

What do U.S. pairs fans think of the probable new pairing of T.J. Nyman with Haven Denney? It's known that Haven was still interested in skating, so perhaps she put feelers out to Dalilah Sappenfield, or vice versa. It looks like T.J.'s brief partnering with the young Russian Nadezhda Labazina didn't work out well. Maybe Labazina is staying in Dalilah's camp though and another partner will be found for her.

On Dalilah's Instagram there's a recent group photo (that looks to be a celebration of Labazina's 16th birthday), and Haven is pictured with the group. TSL claimed on their latest broadcast that Denney/Nyman is a new partnership, but there hasn't been an official announcement.
 

BlissfulSynergy

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This is the team I'm the most anxious to see in competition. Just from that clip I have to admit that Brandon looks a lot more solid than Chris ever did - and I loved Chris and Alexa together mostly because of their obvious chemistry on the ice. I also think Alexa is a stronger skater than Haven. Like the music, too.

Chris and Alexa had a totally different vibe because Chris' personality is completely different. The dynamic between Chris & Alexa was special in its own right because they were immediately drawn to each other on a personal level and eventually became a married couple off-the-ice. Their style was definitely very romantic and those were the kinds of musical themes they selected for their programs. Brandon & Alexa are obviously grateful for this new opportunity together. They seem to have a very spirited athleticism so far, with excellent speed and good unison that they're still working on. Their style will continue to develop with time. At the moment, it looks as if they are choosing vibrant and identifiable musical themes that are pleasant but generically abstract.

I see the partnering differences between Chris and Brandon as more of a personality dynamic, plus their differing physicality, as well as different motivations. Toward the end of his career, Chris was frustrated and unhappy. That might be partly what you are picking up on in your comparison.

Chris is also tall and lanky, so his profile on the ice was different. Chris has excellent partnering skills and he was also a good athlete, but he got injured and that led to his frustrations and problems with lacking consistency on his jumps. When that happens, it affects both partners. The same situation occurred with jump inconsistency for Haven & Brandon, largely due to Haven's knee injury. Even though she remarkably healed from that devastating injury, I think it must be mentally hard to come back all the way with confidence in your jumping ability after such an injury. So it will be interesting to see how well Haven and T.J. might progress as a team.

As well, Haven and Alexa have different personalities. Alexa to me seems more fiery and outgoing, while Haven seems quieter and very sweet, but also just as courageous and determined as Alexa. They both have comparable pairs skills too. Again, Haven's knee injury seriously slowed her career momentum and impacted her confidence on jumps. It's amazing she even came back to skate at all after that injury. Everything she's able to accomplish is gravy considering what she's been through. Alexa also suffered physically from that strange illness, which slowed her career momentum. So that whole experience was a mental hurdle for her to overcome. If not for those unfortunate setbacks, who knows where both former teams would be today. Both former veteran teams went through difficult setbacks and probably learned a lot that they can take forward in their renewed pursuits. Probably these partner switches are for the best and will give everyone involved a new lease on the life of their pairs careers.
 

noskates

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I wasn't - or didn't mean to - criticize either Chris or Haven. I'm well aware of the physical differences. I just think that Brandon and Alexa look more solid together - that's the only way I can explain it. But since I made my last post I see that Haven might have a new partner. Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmmmm.........
 

Seren

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Count me as someone who thinks Alexa and Brandon look stronger together. However I fully disclose that I was never a fan of Chris's skating. Later in his career he kind of gave off the vibe that he didn't really want to be there. Alexa always seemed like the skater who was hungrier for success.

I also fully disclose that 90% of my interest in US Pairs is my love of Ashley and Tim's adorable friendship. :dance2:
 

skylark

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Count me as someone who thinks Alexa and Brandon look stronger together. ... Later in his career he kind of gave off the vibe that he didn't really want to be there. Alexa always seemed like the skater who was hungrier for success.
I don't disagree, but over the months since March I've re-watched all of Alexa & Chris's skates from the Worlds and Olympics. And I noticed something I think many people have forgotten ... all the way, through 2018 Olympics and Worlds, Chris was the more reliable jumper at the high level competitions. Often, as they left the ice and in K&C, he was comforting her. Alexa was supportive of Chris when he struggled, but when she missed something she was very angry (at herself) and disappointed.

It'll be interesting to see if Alexa and Brandon can do those beautiful jumps in competition as well as practice. Some factors: 1. Alexa DID have a lot to overcome in the years after her very scary illness, and she may be so much stronger now. 2. Alexa has credited Rafael Arutunian for helping her confidence in her ability to do the jumps. And she and Brandon are continuing to work with Raf.

Having said all that, I realize the value that consistent jumps will have for Alexa and Brandon -- partly because that's mainly what held K/K and D/F back. But I'm more interested in seeing how all the other factors of pairs skating develop for them. I know that pairs need to develop all the elements ... but my favorite moment in the clips is when Brandon picks Alexa up and twirls her while he skates forward and circular. Alexa's positions are so stellar and beautiful, and the two of them just look happy. Understandably, they have to work right now on getting basic positions and lifts, but in the future I hope to see more moves like that, new and unique to them.



I also fully disclose that 90% of my interest in US Pairs is my love of Ashley and Tim's adorable friendship. :dance2:

:love:

I've always been keenly interested in US Pairs, but I :love: your comment and your interest, since I adore Ashley and Tim's musicality, unison, connection, and adorable friendship.:hap93:
 

skylark

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I'm looking forward to seeing the new pairing of Alexa and Brandon. It won't be a normal season of course, but they are looking good so far as a recently formed team. Their individual past experience and knowledge of each other as friends has probably helped them come together so quickly. Brandon has also been a good friend of Alexa's husband, Chris, during their former training days in Colorado.

What do U.S. pairs fans think of the probable new pairing of T.J. Nyman with Haven Denney? It's known that Haven was still interested in skating, so perhaps she put feelers out to Dalilah Sappenfield, or vice versa. It looks like T.J.'s brief partnering with the young Russian Nadezhda Labazina didn't work out well. Maybe Labazina is staying in Dalilah's camp though and another partner will be found for her.

On Dalilah's Instagram there's a recent group photo (that looks to be a celebration of Labazina's 16th birthday), and Haven is pictured with the group. TSL claimed on their latest broadcast that Denney/Nyman is a new partnership, but there hasn't been an official announcement.

Welcome to the Goldenskate forum, BlissfulSynergy! Post long, and post often!

I think you and I have a connection. I love your username. "Blissful synergy" is an apt description of one of my favorite intangibles in pair skating, and in so many areas of life: creativity, artistry, relationships. I could go on ....

As to your question, I'm really thrilled for Haven, and thrilled that (apparently, if reports are accurate) we're going to get to see more of her beautiful skating. I think she's US Pairs' best "in the air" ... her positions, grace, and expressiveness when she's in lifts are all just gorgeous and communicate so much more than technical proficiency, although plenty of that. I hope she and TJ can capitalize on this. I think it may take time, though, considering TJ is only 20 years old and likely can develop more strength. And they need to develop trust in each other over time.

I would love to see Haven and TJ do something really creative with their jumping: create (with choreographer, of course) a jump sequence that isn't the highest point advantage but that highlights musical talent and unison. Something unique to them that would create a sensation or feeling beyond tech difficulty. Recognizing that, at least now, it might not garner the most points ... but using other elements to up their scores. Since it's clear that Haven took her time to evaluate whether she wanted to continue to compete and decided that indeed she does, I'm interested to see them continue whether or not they reach highest levels. This can be seen as a great opportunity for TJ, too. I hope he appreciates it. He's been through a lot of partners already, but that sometimes happens with pairs. This could be the magic combination, who knows.


Haven's knee injury seriously slowed her career momentum and impacted her confidence on jumps. It's amazing she even came back to skate at all after that injury.

Absolutely. :cheer2:
 

twirlingaround

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Haven is an amazing skater no matter if she struggles with jumps. But, realistically if she and TJ want to be competitive on the world stage they will need to get 2 triples. But regardless, Im glad we will still get to see her skating. I’m sure TJ will make a great partner and no matter what, he’s young and he can gain experience with skating with a veteran like Haven!
 

skylark

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Haven is an amazing skater no matter if she struggles with jumps. But, realistically if she and TJ want to be competitive on the world stage they will need to get 2 triples. But regardless, Im glad we will still get to see her skating. I’m sure TJ will make a great partner and no matter what, he’s young and he can gain experience with skating with a veteran like Haven!

They could aim for being among the top ten at Worlds. Or, as Deanna and Nate said before they ended their partnership, to be "one of the best in the world." Competitive doesn't have to mean being in contention for a world medal, as so many pairs have shown. And you don't have to be in the top three in the world to be successful.

I agree with you that this is a great opportunity for TJ. Best wishes to both him and Haven.
 

ice coverage

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The coaching team of Olga Ganicheva and Aleksey Letov is moving to Skating Club of Boston, where they will be the new High Performance Directors.

Two Team USA pairs (as well as other Team USA skaters) will be joining them at SCOB.

Presumably one pair is Lu/Mitrofanov, based on their comments in an interview last season.


And I think Chan/Howe are the only other Team USA pair coached by G and L?

ETA (on Sep 5):

Quite a few of G and L's skaters are listed among new members of SCOB -- in the same issue of the club newsletter, but on a much later page (which I saw only after my original post about the G & L article).

Lu, Mitrofanov, Chan, Howe, Harrell, Ashley Lin, Krasnozhon, Emilie Mao are on the list of new members.​


BTW, there have been some glimpses on social media of Max Fernandez (former U.S. junior champ with Joy Weinberg) -- training again as part of Team Peterson and Evora (both before and after their move to Michigan).

I vaguely recall (but am not 100% sure) that both Joy and Max announced their joint retirement way back when ... but anyway, he has a new partner [ETA (on Sep 5): per his Insta bio].


I think it is helpful (at least for me) for each season's new thread to have a link to the previous season's thread. So I am adding the link to the 2019-20 U.S. Pairs thread:
 

BlissfulSynergy

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Welcome to the Goldenskate forum, BlissfulSynergy! Post long, and post often!

I think you and I have a connection. I love your username. "Blissful synergy" is an apt description of one of my favorite intangibles in pair skating, and in so many areas of life: creativity, artistry, relationships. I could go on ....

As to your question, I'm really thrilled for Haven, and thrilled that (apparently, if reports are accurate) we're going to get to see more of her beautiful skating. I think she's US Pairs' best "in the air" ... her positions, grace, and expressiveness when she's in lifts are all just gorgeous and communicate so much more than technical proficiency, although plenty of that. I hope she and TJ can capitalize on this. I think it may take time, though, considering TJ is only 20 years old and likely can develop more strength. And they need to develop trust in each other over time.

I would love to see Haven and TJ do something really creative with their jumping: create (with choreographer, of course) a jump sequence that isn't the highest point advantage but that highlights musical talent and unison. Something unique to them that would create a sensation or feeling beyond tech difficulty. Recognizing that, at least now, it might not garner the most points ... but using other elements to up their scores. Since it's clear that Haven took her time to evaluate whether she wanted to continue to compete and decided that indeed she does, I'm interested to see them continue whether or not they reach highest levels. This can be seen as a great opportunity for TJ, too. I hope he appreciates it. He's been through a lot of partners already, but that sometimes happens with pairs. This could be the magic combination, who knows...

Hi @skylark. Thanks for the welcome. Yes, we must think a lot alike, especially regarding pairs skating. :luv17:

I picked this user name exactly because it describes for me something intangible and indefinable about what can happen between two athletic souls in pairs when they hit the sweet spot or the zone together after long, long hours and years of hard work and toughing it out together for their mutual goals. Figure skating is such a difficult sport, and pairs skating is even that much tougher, IMO. So special performances and moments are rare, but they do happen. And I love it all, the entire process and journey of all the pairs teams who touch my heart and even those who don't. Pairs is the 'divine discipline,' to paraphrase a famous quote championed by a famous pairs blogger! :hap10:

I also enjoy ice dance for similar reasons. Overall, I'm very excited about the prospects for U.S. pairs. I love Ashley & Tim, and I've followed their career from the beginning. And I'm stoked about the magical pairing of Calalang/Johnson. It's lovely to see Jessica enjoying and building success after putting in all that work with her former partner who had to retire with a back injury. There's just something about pairs skating I love. I also love ballet, and there is surely something that pairs, ice dance and ballet share which intrigues and uplifts my spirit.

Your user name is pretty special too. I love birds altogether. Plus, I used to have a cat named Lark!

Thanks to @twirlingaround for your thoughts about Haven. I agree. And @skylark you have also expressed some great points about Haven's prospects with T.J.! That's sound advice I think regarding how they might approach tackling jumps. Apparently, T.J. also has been involved in creative pursuits off-ice with his singing talents. Reminds me of Andrew Torgashev's talent as a painter. Both guys have shared their creative work on Instagram.

Thanks for your thoughts also @noskates and @Seren. I agree that Alexa and Brandon are an exciting pair who look very solid together. But how they have meshed so quickly has a lot to do with the skills and experience they built with their former partners. It is really cool that they've come together so well and appear to match up in an intriguing way that's different from the vibes they had with their former partners. They are definitely in a great training camp too, which probably factors into how strong they look and how happy they seem to be skating together.
 

skylark

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^^^^ :agree: All of the above.

To begin with your ending sentence, I think it's amazing how Jenni and Todd coached sort of under the radar for many years. They always had pairs who were rising and competing at nationals. Now in the past year, really, all of their groundwork has blossomed and come to fruition, especially with Jessica and Brian, both of whom they coached with their previous partners. I also think Chris Knierim is a great addition to the coaching staff, for more reasons than Alexa/Brandon.

I just watched and listened (again) to the last third of Ashley and Tim's Entrevista interview. It's inspiring and also helpful in a practical way, especially to anyone who practices any creative pursuit, or to anyone who's interested in a creative pursuit, or to anyone who likes the nuts and bolts approach. Masha pulled some "dig deeper" answers from them.
 
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