Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett enter their first Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver only weeks after winning their first national title. In 2009, a little over a year into their partnership, Denney and Barrett finished second at the U.S. Championships then placed ninth at the World Championships, the highest ranking of any American team. The pairs competition in Vancouver is the first figure skating event of the Winter Games, beginning Feb. 14 with the short program and concluding the following day with the free skate.
They were briefly partnered in 2006 but split when Denney left Florida for Colorado Springs, Colo., to focus on her singles skating. Barrett looked for a new partner but was out of luck until Denney’s mom, DeeDee, called in 2008, breaking the news that Denney moved back to Florida and wanted to try pair skating again. Barrett said that was the defining moment of his life.
Jamie Blanchard of Figure Skaters Online recently caught up with Barrett for this interview, originally published by theon TeamUSA.org.
Congratulations Jeremy. Has it sunk in yet that you’re headed to the Olympic Winter Games?
Sometimes I can’t believe it. Even now, it doesn’t seem real that we are going to the Olympics. It’s something that I have always dreamed of so for it to be real, it’s amazing.
What have the last two weeks been like for you and Caydee?
It has been crazy but also a lot of fun. Today, for instance, we had about 700 people show up to watch us practice at the rink. Yesterday, we had a press conference at the rink-four news stations showed up and seven reporters. Every day, we have been on the front page of a lot of our local papers and we’ve been on all the TV stations. Caydee and I have never had this much attention before.
Is this what you expected it to be like?
I didn’t realize the impact Caydee and I winning nationals and making the Olympic team would have on the community. We have so much support and it means a lot to us. Today, a father told me that his child was going to do a report on us for his school project. You never think things like that are going to happen.
Has the attention been stressful for you?
It hasn’t been stressful. We have a great agent, Kendall Almerico, and a great staff at the rink who keeps things very organized for us. There are specific times that the press and public are allowed to come to watch us. The rest of the time we get to keep our normal training conditions and schedule.
What is the coolest thing that you’ve been able to do since making the U.S. Olympic team?
We haven’t done a whole lot since being home. We’re just focusing on our training. But the rink threw a reception where about 2,000 people showed up and we signed autographs for everyone. They also presented a letter from the governor of Florida congratulating us.
Is the governor’s letter the best congratulations you have gotten so far?
It was an honor to be recognized by the governor but I would have to say the best was after the exhibition at nationals. We met all of the past U.S. Olympic gold medalists [in figure skating] and were able to talk to them. We also heard about their past experience when they were in our position. It was great.
Looking forward, besides the skating, what are you excited for?
I’m really looking forward to the Opening Ceremony. I just bought a flip camera so I can capture it all. They Ceremonies are supposed to be amazing. I’m also hoping to get out to Whistler to see some skiing.
Are there any athletes you’re hoping to run into?
Not anyone specific. I just want to meet as many people as I can. I want to take in the whole experience.
When are you leaving for the Olympics?
We are leaving for Vancouver Monday morning. It’s coming up pretty quickly.
That is soon. Thanks for squeezing this in before you go.
Oh, no problem. Don’t worry-Olympians don’t get to have fun Friday nights. [Laughs]
It’s OK. But for the record, interviewing you is a fun Friday night for me. [Laughs] When you can have fun, and you know, don’t have the Olympic Winter Games coming up, what do you like to do?
I love to spend time out in the sun. Tomorrow I’m planning on laying out by the pool if it’s not raining. Besides that, I love watching movies and having friends over at our apartment.
Who is coming to Vancouver with you?
My mom, dad, sister and brother are all coming to watch me and Caydee skate.
And, of course, your girlfriend, Amanda Evora, will be there competing with her pairs skating partner, Mark Ladwig.
We’ll be spending Valentine’s Day at the Olympics, skating our short programs. That will make for a good story when we’re older.
I hadn’t even thought about the pairs short program being on Feb. 14. Does it make it more special to be sharing the Olympic experience with Amanda?
It’s definitely special to share this with Amanda because I know the Olympics have always been her dream as well. I’m happy for her and Mark. I know they deserve to be going to Vancouver just as much as Caydee and I do.
Did you and Amanda ever talk about going to the Olympics together?
Actually, my dad’s been the one telling us the whole year, ‘Oh, I think you both can make it.’ It’s hard to imagine getting to this point now, but the fact we both have made it is something that’s pretty special.
What are your goals for the Olympics?
Caydee and I just want to skate the best programs that we can. In every competition, we want to skate better than the competition before. If we can skate better than we did at nationals when we’re at the Olympics, I think that would just be great for us.
Have you made any changes to your programs since the 2010 AT&TChampionships last month in Spokane, Wash.?
We haven’t made any changes to the programs. We were very happy how they went at nationals so we didn’t want to change them.
Just a few years ago, you didn’t even have a partner and here we are talking about preparing for the Olympic Winter Games. After Caydee moved to Colorado, did you ever want to quit skating? Did the thought ever cross your mind?
I never thought about quitting skating but I did think about retiring from competition. I thought about it a lot. I have a lot of close friends who skate with Disney on Ice and I was very close to joining. I was almost ready to move on when Caydee’s mom called me and said they had moved back to Florida and she was looking for a partner.
If Caydee didn’t move back when she did, do you think you would have retired by now?
Is it weird to think about that?
It is. The last time nationals was in Spokane [in 2007], I was not even skating. I was just there to watch. So to be there three years later and win … it’s very meaningful. Now Caydee and I are Olympians.
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