After winning the U.S. pairs title the past two years, they entered the World Figure Skating Championships hoping to make a mark. “This worlds kind of sets up the next season, let’s everyone know who is out there, who has the ability,” Brubaker said heading into the event. McLaughlin had talked about their desire “to be a force to be reckoned with.”
After finishing a disappointing ninth in the pairs short program on Tuesday night at Staples Center, the splash McLaughlin and Brubaker hoped for will likely have to wait until well after Wednesday’s free skate. They finished the short program with a score of 53.62, nearly 19 points behind the leaders, Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the defending world champs.
McLaughlin and Brubaker were undone after several elements were downgraded and McLaughlin fell on triple salchow. “I haven’t missed one all season,” McLaughlin said.
With the increased pressure following their early success and a more challenging program, they looked at this year “as more as a season to grow, to find out what was working and be competitive at same time. We struggled competitively but learned so much,” Brubaker said.
Still, a year from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, McLaughlin, who at 16 skates well beyond her years, and Brubaker, 22, are confident they can still establish themselves as that force. They have only been skating together for three years in a discipline where it usually takes years to develop.
“We know we have the ability to be competitive,” Brubaker said. “It’s just …”
“Time,” McLaughlin said finishing his sentence as the best pairs partners do.
“A year so much can change,” Brubaker continued.
“It’s not like we have just one year,” she said.
“Hopefully another four years after that,” he said.
The U.S.’s Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett were 10th in their world championship debut. They scored 52.74 points in the short program. At 15, Denney is the youngest competitor at the worlds. Barrett is 24.
Their rise is remarkable considering they have only been skating regularly since June. Denney and Barrett, who train in Ellenton, Fla., skated together for four months in 2006 before Denney, a former roller-skating champ, decided to move to Colorado with her mother and sister to concentrate on singles. Their stay, however, was brief because her father was in Florida and the separation was tough on the family.
While Denney was in Colorado, Barrett was searching for what to do with his life. He had worked part time as a personal trainer, managed the concession stand in his home rink and had driven the Zamboni. Then Denney moved back and the pair reunited.
At the nationals in January, they finished second earning a trip to worlds, a remarkably arc considering their short time together.
“I appreciate it every day,” said Denney. “It’s not every day you get to go to the world championships, so I’m very blessed.”