It is going to be a tough, uphill fight for Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir if the two Massachusetts skaters are going to bring home an Olympic medal from Sochi.
Castelli, 23, and Shnapir, 26, won the United States Pairs Figure Skating Championship last month in Boston, but their performance was anything but perfect. They had one significant stumble in their long program that was troubling, but they performed well enough to capture the title and earn their spot in Sochi.
However, with two strong teams from Russia—led by Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov—and a powerful pair from Germany, it's not going to be easy for Castelli and Shnapir to make the medal stand.
However, if Castelli and Shnapir can skate error-free programs in both the short program and the free skate, they have a reasonable chance for medal success in Sochi.
In an Olympic village filled with noteworthy athletes, the sight of the 5'0" Castelli walking next to the 6'4" Shnapir is eye-catching.
Their height differential is even more noteworthy on the ice.
When Shnapir picks up his partner and throws her high in the air, it's simply breathtaking because of the height Castelli gets and the distance she travels before he catches her.
It hasn't always worked out for the best; one slight miscalculation and Shnapir can catch an elbow to the nose.
"She broke my nose once on the twist," Shnapir told Jason Schwartz of Boston Magazine. "It hurt like hell and there was blood everywhere, but, you know, I got it fixed an hour later. Well, almost fixed. It’s still a little crooked, but that’s part of the job."
Accidents happen in pairs skating, especially with two skaters who are both single-minded and determined to do it their way. However, while both Castelli and Shnapir can both be bull-headed at times, they have come to a mutual understanding and have learned how to trust each other and work together.
That hasn't been easy because of the high-stress environment both skaters are in, and that's combined the skaters' personalities. Castelli has shown that she can be emotional and demonstrative while Shnapir makes his feelings known as well. But the two have worked together for eight years, and the two skaters have learned to trust each other.
"Just training so hard that year after we had our all-time low, it actually brought us together," Castelli said. "Being there and working hard together has brought us to be better friends."
Castelli and Shnapir want to put on an error-free skating program that captures the eye of the judges and the hearts and the minds of the spectators in Sochi. It will come down to how well they can do during a four-minute skating program, and that's a lot of pressure for any athlete to contend with.
Castelli and Shnapir believe they are prepared.
"It comes down to those four minutes, but it actually comes down to the whole last year," Castelli said. "If we hadn’t done our work, then we’d be nervous. Anything can happen, but I think we’re very confident that it will go in our favor."
It did at the U.S. championships, and if it does in Sochi, Castelli and Shnapir could be coming home with a pairs skating medal.