Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea win the U.S. pairs title in Columbus

By Gina Capellazzi, Team FSO website administrator
Photos by Robin Ritoss
(Photos from the short program – free skate photos coming soon)

Even before the U.S. Championships began in Columbus, the pairs event was considered the most unpredictable event of all the disciplines given the fact that the reigning U.S. Champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier were not competing and that the 2023 U.S. silver medalists Emily Chan and Spencer Howe had been sidelined all season after Howe had shoulder surgery in May.

The pairs event became even more uncertain when Chan and Howe, who were in the first place after the short program, withdrew from the free skate so that Howe could continue his recovery. It remains to be seen if the team will petition for one of the U.S.’s three World spots for pairs.

With that, after the short program, it was a wide open race as the teams in second through sixth place were only separated by 4 points or less.

In second after the short program were the 2023 U.S. bronze medalists Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea. In their Music from the Nocturnal Animals soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski free skate, the team landed side-by-side triple Salchows, but Kam fell on both the throw triple loop and triple Salchow. The team’s side-by-side triple toe was also called on the quarter. They earned a free skate score of 123.19, which was second in the free skate, and a total score of 187.76 to win the gold medal. This is Kam’s first U.S. title and the second for O’Shea. The 32-year-old won the U.S. title in 2016 with his former partner, Tarah Kayne.

“It always feels good to stand on the podium. It’s something that I was talking with Ellie about as they called our names to go out and bow for the medal ceremony – soak up the moments, really live in the moment and enjoy it because you never know when the next time you’ll get an experience like this. It’s been eight years since the last time I stood up there and I can’t be more grateful or express how thankful I am to be here again,” O’Shea said.

Kam and O’Shea will compete at the 2024 Four Continents Championships in Shanghai, China next week.

The winners of the free skate was the new team of Alisa Efimova and Misha Mitrofanov, who were fifth in the short program. The team landed a throw triple Salchow and triple loop. Their only mistakes in their “Iron 2021” by Woodkid free skate was that their triple toe in their side-by-side triple toe-Axel-Axel sequence was called underrotated and they received negative GOEs on their side-by-side triple Salchow. The team earned a free skate score of 126.43 and a total score of 186.91 to win the silver medal.

Efimova had previously competed with Ruben Blommaert for Germany. They competed at the 2023 World Championships, but their partnership came to an end when Blommaert retired from competitive skating shortly after Worlds. Not long after, Efimova received a message from Mitrofanov on Instagram, proposing a tryout.

“I was just open to anything. I knew I wanted to continue. I was hungry after last season. It was a lot of new stuff for me. It was my first Europeans, my first Worlds and then my partnership just ended and I knew I wanted to continue so it was obvious that I will go (do the tryout),” Efimova explained, noting that their tryout went well and they decided to team up.

Due to the fact that Efimova competed at Worlds last season, both she and Mitrofanov are not able to compete internationally this season.

The winners of the bronze medal were Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez, who were in fourth after the short program. In their Top Gun free skate, Plazas and Fernandez doubled their planned triple toes. Their double Axel in their double Salchow-double Axel sequence was called underrotated. They also received negative GOEs on their throw triple flip, but received positive GOEs on their lifts and triple twist. They earned a free skate score of 117.85, which was fourth in the free skate. However, they finished with a total score of 181.03 to claim the bronze medal.

“It’s a very humbling experience to be here at the [U.S] Championships and medal. We’ve been working so hard the last few years to get to this point and it’s just surreal. It was a great opportunity for everybody, and it was nice to go out there and fight. I think everybody felt the same,” Fernandez said about making the podium.

Like Kam and O’Shea, the two will also head to the Four Continents Championships next week.

The new team of Chelsea Liu and Balazs Nagy, who medaled at Skate America this fall, were in sixth place after the short program. In their “A Thousand Times Goodnight” by Abel Korzeniowski free skate, their triple twist received 2.91 GOEs, but Liu fell on the side-by-side triple Salchow. Their double Axel in their double toe-double Axel sequence was called on the quarter and they also struggled a bit with both of their throw jumps. They earned a free skate score of 118.70, which was third in the free skate, and a total score of 178.83 to move up to fourth place and claim the pewter medal.

“I felt a little less nervous today than I did before the short,” Nagy said after his and Liu’s free skate. “I think both of us are a little bit frustrated that we weren’t able to show off our throws the way they have been in training. I think since the new year, our throws have really come into their own and I think Chelsea and I are a little bit frustrated that we weren’t able to put out what we have been doing at home right now out on the ice, but I’m happy with the skating. I’m happy with the twists. I’m happy with most of it (the program).”

Liu and Nagy will also be heading to Four Continents next week.

In third after the short program was the new team of Katie McBeath and Danill Parkman. Prior to the free skate, McBeath’s right blade broke toward the middle of her practice session. She had to receive two new blades. Skating on new blades in their “Wicked Games” free skate, McBeath fell on both of the team’s side-by-side jumps and also stepped out of the throw triple loop. They earned a free skate score of 108.60, which was fifth in the free skate. They dropped to fifth overall with a score of 172.81.

Rounding out the top six was Liu and Nagy and McBeath and Parkman’s training mates, Isabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard, who reunited this season after splitting up at the end of 2021-2022 season. Martins and Bedard earned a free skate score of 107.75 and a total score of 172.81.

“We’re really happy with what we put out there,” Martins said. “We made a few small errors that were upset about, but you know they happen and so we’re just happy that we were on our feet and we made it through the whole program.”

Again, the U.S. has three spots for pairs at the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, and the team will be announced after the conclusion of the senior events in Columbus at the U.S. Championships. As mentioned, it has not been said if Chan and Howe have petitioned for a World spot. Both Efimova and Mitrofanov and McBeath and Parkman are both ineligible for the World team as they can’t compete internationally this season. Parkman competed for Georgia last season.

Stay tuned for more updates from Columbus in our 2024 U.S. Championships Hub!