Becky Bereswill finds ‘new joy and strength’ in pairs

By Jamie M. Blanchard
Figure Skaters Online

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Becky Bereswill has competed at three consecutive national championships. But when she steps on to the ice next week at the 2011 U.S. Championships in Greensboro, N.C., it will feel like the first time.

After all, the event marks the national unveiling of Bereswill the pair skater. The 2008 Junior Grand Prix Final Champion put her singles career on hold in April 2010 to compete in senior pairs with Trevor Young.

“I love the aspect of skating with someone else, and getting to skate with Trevor has been such a privilege,” Bereswill said. “Holding hands through the good and the bad during daily training has brought a new joy and strength to my skating.”

Young is a veteran pair skater who last competed with Andrea Best, taking 12th at the 2010 U.S. Championships at the senior level. Internationally, Best and Young placed fifth at 2009 Winter Universiade, second at 2007 Finlandia Trophy and sixth at 2006 Junior Grand Prix Czech Republic. He also skated with Chelsea Young (1999-2000), Caitlin Wilson (2002-04) and Amanda Hrbacek (2004-05).

Bereswill finished 13th in the senior ladies competition at the 2010 U.S. Championships in Spokane, Wash., while skating with two stress fractures that developed in her back in 2008. She won the 2008 Junior Grand Prix Final and made her Grand Prix debut at 2009 NHK Trophy, placing 11th.

“I wasn’t nervous at all because I knew the kind of skater and the kind of person Becky was when I teamed up with her,” Young said. “She has great physical and mental strength, both of which are extremely important to be successful in pair skating.  It was a little difficult at first, but not because of anything Becky did, but because I was out of shape. I was struggling to keep up with her in several aspects of skating, particularly in our side-by-side jumps.  I think I’ve caught up now though.”

For Bereswill, the transition from singles to pairs has been a challenge.

“For me, the hardest part has been adjusting to the ‘the team’ dynamic in practice and learning to skate synchronized with a partner,” she said. “In the beginning, we spent a lot of time developing elements such as the lifts, spins and throws and working on our connection on the ice. Controlling my skating to a concise number of steps to match Trevor’s has been our most important focus.”

Bereswill also had the tough task of testing from pre-juvenile through championship pairs in a short time span. Before she was invited to tryout with Young, she had never considered anything but singles.

“There are many differences and I have learned so much from pairs already. Pair skating requires absolute commitment to every element by both skaters, which has taught me to be more aggressive with my skating. In training, there is a lot more to work on also,” Bereswill said. “While in singles the focus is on choreography, jumps and spins, pairs skaters train connection, jumps, spins, pair spins, lifts, throws, twists, death spirals and more which requires more organized and goal-oriented practices on a daily basis.”

Bereswill and Young made their competitive debut at Octoberfest in Canada, scoring 37.12 for the short program and 69.22 for the free skate. At the Midwestern Sectional Championship, the pair showed great improvement, scoring a 49.24 and 87.16 en route to a silver medal, which qualified them for the U.S. Championship.

The pair hopes Greensboro provides other stepping stone.

“Our goals are to have a strong competition and continue improving on our personal best scores,” Bereswill said. “Our training has been solid leading up to nationals and we are hoping for a top half finish. Personally, my goal is to express and really dramatize the strength and joy I feel daily during pairs training.”

The pair is coached by Johnny Johns, who helped Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski to a gold medal at the 2007 U.S. Championships. Their programs are choreographed by Johns as well as Marina Zoueva.

“Our short program is to ‘Song of India’, a beautiful, lyrical song from the Russian Opera Sadko and composed by Rimsky-Korsakov. It is an elegant piece that we chose with our choreographer, Marina Zoueva, to compliment our strengths as a team,” she said. “Our long program music is from the musical Chicago. This program is high energy and a totally different style for both of us, which has been so much fun and my favorite to train.”

The programs were built to accentuate the pairs lines, which Young says is a strength of their partnership.

“There’s no hiding that we’re both on the taller side for pairs skaters,” Young said. “Some people think it might be a weakness; I see it as a strength. We have no problem doing any pair elements. Lifts are light and fun. Twists are high and explosive. But what I think really stands out about us is our long lines. We have a unique look, and I think we’re going to use it to our advantage.”

Bereswill and Young, both who represent the Detroit Skating Club, train at the Arctic Edge in Canton, Mich.

“Training as a team is completely different,” Bereswill said. “It is challenging, yet motivating. I’ve learned there are days when you’re both on, you’re both off and days when you rely on your partner’s strength to pull you through, and vice versa ― those are the best days and it really makes you appreciate the teamwork.”

“A new and funny experience, however, has been training along side with a sick partner,” she said. “But with so many talented pair and ice dance couples around, I have learned by observation that a plentiful stock of hand-sanitizer and chewable Vitamin C tablets is a skate bag necessity.”

Among the skaters sharing the ice with Bereswill and Young are Olympic Ice Dance Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who recently withdrew from the Canadian Championships due to injury, and American Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Davis and White are aiming for a third consecutive national ice dance title in Greensboro.

“We train with many talented athletes and the world’s best ice dancers,” Bereswill said. “Training in Canton with them has been a privilege and very inspiring. Everyone is very humble and a great group of friends.”

Along with the transition from singles to pairs, Bereswill has had to transition from Rice University in her hometown of Houston to Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan. She blends in easily with the maize and blue while working toward wearing the Red, White and Blue.

“I started classes at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor this past summer. Being a full time student and skating in the mornings keeps me busy,” she said. “In addition to skating and school, I volunteer 10 hours per month with Circle K, a student community service organization under the Kiwanis Clubs of America. This past fall was fun attending the football games and ‘The Big Chill’, the outdoor hockey game set up in the football stadium. My roommate is also from Houston and has been very supportive of my crazy early morning schedule.”

After a few more early mornings in Canton, Bereswill leaves for the U.S. Championship. The pairs short program gets underway at the Greensboro Coliseum Arena at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on January 27. The free skate is January 29, with the session for Groups 1-3 starting at 10:45 a.m. and the session for Groups 4-5 at 2:30 p.m.

The reigning U.S. Champions Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett and reigning silver medalists Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig are the only pairs medalists returning from the 2010 U.S. Championship. Both pairs represented the United States at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

For Bereswell and Young, Greensboro could be the first step on an Olympic journey of their own.

“Our goal is definitely the 2014 Olympics,” Young said. “After graduating from Michigan, I wasn’t sure if wanted to continue skating or not, and then when Becky told me she was interested in skating pairs, I knew we could do something special.”

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Photos courtesy of Jacque Tiegs

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