It was not the World Championship debut that Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker had hoped for. And it was not one most expected of the promising American pair.
Skating before McLaughlin’s hometown of Los Angeles, the two-time U.S. Champions made a series of mistakes in their free skate, which dropped them from ninth after the short to 11th overall. The duo placed 12th in the free skate.
But the debut of U.S. silver medalists Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett was more than anticipated. The Floridians, who won the short program at the national championships ahead of McLaughlin and Brubaker, received a standing ovation for a dynamic program that secured them ninth place.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won their second consecutive World title with 203.48 points. The silver medal again went to China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (186.52) while Russians Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov (186.39) were third.
“We do it like that every day in practice. And to do it that way tonight, it was awesome,” said Denney, the youngest competitor at the Worlds.
Denney and Barrett (156.84) paired up in June after a short stint two years ago. Throughout their free program, which was the only clean performance among the top 10, they showed the poise of a team that has been together for years.
The highlights of their program were plenty. Besides beaming smiles that reached the last row of the Staples Center, the pair also had side-by-side triple toes, a throw triple lutz, a triple Salchow-double doe sequence and a throw triple loop.
McLaughlin and Brubaker (143.74) were not in the same form that helped them win multiple medals this season. Besides winning a second consecutive national title, they also took silver at Skate America and bronze at Skate Canada.
“It was a little disappointing,” McLaughlin said while holding back tears. “Heartbreaking a little bit to work so hard and then come here and not skate to the best of our abilities.”
They started their saucy program with a massive triple twist. But the program unraveled as the team made mistakes on key elements, although they stayed in character with their West Side Story music.
On the side-by-side triple Salchows, Brubaker put his hand down on the landing while she singled it. McLaughlin fell on the side-by-side triple toes then popped the throw triple loop into a single.
“It’s one of those skates,” Brubaker said.
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