Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir were the top American pair team on the junior international scene last season. When they make their senior debut Oct. 15-18 in Paris at Trophee Eric Bompard, the opening event of the 2009 Grand Prix, they hope the success translates.
“Being our first year on the senior level we have no real big expectations,” Shnapir said. “However, we would like to go out and skate two strong programs at Trophee Eric Bompard and also to execute more difficult side-by-side jumps.”
The pair also wants to finish in the top six at the 2010 U.S. Championships. Previously, they claimed the bronze medal as juniors at the 2009 U.S. Championships, the bronze novices at 2008 nationals, and were 9th in 2007.
Castelli and Shnapir won the bronze medal at the 2009 World Junior Championships. The pair also finished fourth at the 2009 Junior Grand Prix events in the Czech Republic and Great Britain. They were the only U.S. pair to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final, where they placed sixth.
The pair, who are coached by Bobby Martin, Carrie Wall and Sheryl Franks, took a break from training at the Skating Club of Boston to answer questions from fans.
Erin (California, USA): Marissa and Simon, congratulations on your performances last season, especially at the U.S. Championships and World Junior Championships. Are you excited to be on the senior level this season?
Marissa: Thank you Erin! Yes, Simon and I are thrilled to be competing on the senior level this year. It is a huge leap from junior to senior but I know were ready for it.
Simon: Thank you Erin. I am definitely looking forward to competing on the senior lever this year and to skate our new programs. Marissa and I are ready for the challenge.
Jenny (Massachusetts, USA): What are your overall goals for the season? And what are your goals for the Trophee Eric Bompard?
Marissa: Since our slight set back this season with my injury, our goals for the season are to become a strong pair team and place in the top six at nationals. We would like to skate clean programs internationally.
Simon: Being our first year on the senior level we have no real big expectations. However, we would like to go out and skate two strong programs at Trophee Eric Bompard and also to execute more difficult side-by-side jumps.
Elsie (New Jersey, USA): Congratulations on making the Grand Prix circuit! Can you tell us your thoughts on competing at Trophee Eric Bompard?
Marissa: Thank you! I am really excited to compete in Paris. It will be great experience for us and we are also going to use this competition as a building block for the future and hopefully more GP’s to come.
Simon: To compete no only at a senior Grand Prix but also among some of the best skaters in the world, it will definitely be a thrilling experience. Just being on the ice with the other world class athletes is enough for me although we would like to skate well too.
Michele (France, USA): Have you ever been to France before?
Marissa: I have never been before but, I heard it was amazing and can’t wait to go!
Simon: I have been to France a couple of times with my family. We traveled to Burgundy, Normandy and Loire Valley. I am excited to go back for Trophee Eric Bompard.
Lois (New York, USA): Last year, you were the best performing American team on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. Where do you see yourselves fitting in with the American pairs on the senior circuit?
Marissa: I feel like we’re going to fit in perfectly. We have been working on new lifts and jumps our new programs are coming along also. There isn’t really a lot of pressure on us this year so we are just going to go out there and give it our all.
Simon: I think we have made some major improvements this year and we’ll be a highly competitive senior team. One thing to keep in mind is that it is our first year as seniors so we don’t have any huge expectations.
Julie (Ohio, USA): Can you tell us about your programs for the season?
Marissa: Since we had a good response from our last year’s programs we wanted to evolve and make something even better. I really was drawn to the music from the soundtrack Elizabeth: The Golden Age soundtrack by A.R. Rahman and Craig Armstrong for our long and “Freedom”. For our short programs we wanted something fun and fast so we choose “Prelude” by Jesse Cook.
Simon: Both of our programs are new this year.
Amy (Pennsylvania, USA): With your height difference, is it ever hard to choreograph your programs?
Marissa: Sometime the height difference does come become an issue when creating choreography but, with our style we are able to create different and unique programs that suit us.
Simon: We try to use our height difference to our advantage coming up with unique moves and transitions. Also, we try to use Marissa’s incredible flexibility to our advantage.
Melinda (Nebraska, USA): To move from juniors to seniors, what are some of the elements that you’ve added to your programs? Have you upgraded your technical difficulty?
Marissa: We have increase our technical difficulty in our jumping passes also we worked a lot with our component side of skating. I feel that we had a lot of strong elements and we just have to work on our overall skating more.
Simon: I think the biggest upgrade we’ve made has been our jumps. Last year we were performing double jumps, now we’re doing double axels and triple Salchows in the programs. We are always trying to increase the difficulty of our other elements as well.
Aubrey (Oregon, USA): Congratulations on making the move from juniors to seniors! I think that you are going to do great at the Trophee Eric Bompard Marissa and Simon. My question: What is the biggest improvement you think you need to make, skating wise, to be competitive as seniors?
Marissa: Our biggest improvement this year has been our side by side jumps.
Simon: Thank you! I think we need to improve on our side-by-side skating: jumps, spins, and skating skills.
John (Washington, USA): It might be too much to think this far ahead but what are the goals for the 2010 U.S. Championships in Spokane, Wash? Are you aiming for a spot on the 2010 Olympic team or do you think that the 2014 Olympic Winter Games are more likely?
Marissa: We try not to think that far in advance and take the days they come but, I believe we are aiming more towards the 2014 Olympic Games because we will have more experience under our belts. Simon and I are competing as seniors for the first time this year. Heading in to 2014, we hope to have five senior seasons.
Simon: We would like to finish well at Nationals and skate good programs. Although we don’t have our sights set on these Olympic games, you never know. I think 2014 is much more likely.
Kerri (Illinois, USA): Marissa and Simon, what were the biggest changes that you two thought you made between the Junior Grand Prix season and the 2009 World Junior Championships? Your results were a lot better at World Juniors so I’m wondering if you changed something in your training.
Marissa: There wasn’t really a big change in our training but, we had a lot of support from our coaches and we really worked on the mental side of our skating. Also Brooke Castile came in for a week and helped us train for Junior Worlds and since she went through all of this before it was really good to learn from her.
Simon: We changed our training regiment a little bit and had some guest coaches work with us as well. I think most of all though, we just peaked at the right time…Junior Worlds. I also think the experience from the other competitions gave us the confidence to skate well at Junior Worlds.
Erica (Florida, USA): What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment in skating?
Marissa: I felt that my biggest accomplishment in skating was qualifying for the JGP Final. It was unexpected and really gave us a good competitive drive through nationals and Junior Worlds.
Simon: For me winning a medal at Junior Worlds has definitely been the single greatest accomplishment so far. Hopefully more medals are in order.
Illiana (Colorado, USA): Amazing job last past season! I really enjoy watching you two skate. What have been the best and worst moments of your career thus far?
Marissa: The best moment of our career has to be placing third at Junior Worlds. Also placing second after short in Junior Worlds was mine personally. Our worst moment has to be nationals this past year because we didn’t skate our best and we had a lot of errors.
Simon: I can’t say we’ve had any real “worst” moments—some competitions have been better than others—but medaling at Junior Worlds for me has been the greatest moment.
Priscilla (Nevada, USA): What is it like training at the Skating Club of Boston? Do you spend a lot of time with the other skaters like Katrina Hacker and Emily Hughes or do you only train with the pair skaters?
Marissa: I love skating at the Skating Club of Boston. It is a great atmosphere and everyone is great. I do hang out with other skaters at the rink. I hang out with Katrina all the time but I am sad she is leaving and going to college and Emily comes around once and awhile. I hang out with everyone at the rink.
Simon: Training at the Skating Club is a great and gives us the opportunity to skate with other elite skaters. We don’t have any specific pair sessions so we skate with singles skaters as well.
Judy (Virginia, USA): Simon, I read on your Web site that you are a student at Emerson College. Are you going to continue going to school now that you’re a senior level skater? Or are you taking a break for the Olympic season?
Simon: I’m actually taking classes this semester. I think it’s important to have other activities in your life besides skating. School helps me balance my life out and also makes skating more enjoyable.
Melissa (Maine, USA): What are you studying at Emerson College Simon? I think it is great that you’re pursing a college degree even though you’re a world class athlete. It’s so rare for skaters to do both while they are still competitive.
Simon: I am studying Marketing at Emerson. Going to school has really helped to put things into perspective and makes training easier. I think no matter what level of competition you are at, getting a good education is crucial.
Erica (Florida, USA): How do you balance school and skating?
Marissa: I don’t really have time to go in for courses but, I am taking online courses so they are more flexible.
Simon: I go to school part-time for now while I’m still competing. In the off-season I will take an extra class though.
Ashley (Florida, USA): What are three words you’d use to describe yourself?
Marissa: Short, energetic and fun.
Simon: Outgoing, focused and leader .
Erin (California, USA): What are three words you’d use to describe your partner?
Marissa: Tall, Russian and funny.
Simon: Artistic, talented and funny.
Todd (South Carolina, USA): What is one thing you know about your partner that other people would be surprised to know about?
Marissa: He watches a lot of movies and always quotes them while we are skating.
Simon: Marissa loves anything to do with Disney.
Candice (Colorado, USA): Simon, what is your tattoo of? And do you have any tattoos Marissa?
Simon: I have a Leo, my zodiac sign, on my shoulder.
Jessica (California, USA): Marissa and Simon, what are your hobbies?
Marissa: My hobbies are watching movies, listening to music, working out and hanging out with my friends.
Simon: I like hanging out with friends, watching movies, listening to music and playing basketball. I am passionate about New England sports.
Brit (Oklahoma, USA): Marissa, just wanted thank you for tweeting a lot. I have been reading your Twitter for a couple months now so I have learned a lot about the lives of figure skaters. You guys seem like a fun group. Simon, do you have a Twitter too?
Marissa: I am so glad you follow me on Twitter! I think it awesome that people use Twitter and I really love following celebrities.
Simon: I actually don’t have a Twitter but I’ve thought about getting one.
Jamie (Oklahoma, USA): Thank you for taking questions from your fans Marissa and Simon. Is there anything that you would like to add?
Marissa and Simon: Thank you for the questions. We appreciate all of your support. Please check our official Web site (www.figureskatersonline.com/castelli-shnapir/) for news and photos throughout the season.
Jamie (Oklahoma, USA): For more information on Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, visit their official Web site Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir Online at www.figureskatersonline.com/castelli-shnapir/. Fans can also follow Castelli on Twitter. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions.
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