Calm Outlook Will Lead Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir to Pairs Gold in Sochi

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2014

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir of the United States compete in the team pairs short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

Two years ago, the U.S. pairs figure skating team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir appeared to be on the rocks.

The pair had finished fifth in the U.S. championships, and both members of the team were vastly disappointed in their performance. Like any relationship that hits a bad patch, both members considered their options.

They were encouraged by coach Bobby Martin to keep practicing while he went on vacation and to let him know if they wanted to stay together by the time he got back, according to

It was not an easy decision, but both Castelli and Shnapir decided that they were better off staying together. They had put so much time in and had grown together, so they decided to recommit, rather than look for new partners, per the report.

"We weren't really seeing other skaters, we were just taking some time to figure ourselves out," Castelli said, according to the report. "We were still committed to each other, but we had to reevaluate ourselves and our skating."

As soon as that decision was made, Castelli and Shnapir started to find themselves. After back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the U.S. Championships in 2011 and 2012, they won the pairs championship in 2013. They repeated again this year.

That gives them a shot at glory in Sochi, although they will be facing very stiff competition. The Russian pair of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are the favorites going into the competition, while Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany are also likely to reach the medal stand.

So Castelli and Shnapir clearly have their work cut out for them, but they are not a team that should be taken lightly. They have been through too much together and have traveled to a dark place and returned. They are skating better now than they ever have, and they are not going to be intimidated by other skating pairs who may have more glorified reputations. 

One of the moves that make Castelli and Shnapir stand out is their quad Salchow. They did not complete it successfully at the national finals in Boston, but they came close enough that it remains in their repertoire. By successfully completing this maneuver, they will go from long shots to serious gold medal contenders.

No other pair has completed this throw in any Olympic Games.

Castelli and Shnapir are perhaps the most easily distinguished skating pair in Sochi. Castelli is tiny at 5'0", while Shnapir towers over her at 6'4". The height difference has both a positive and negative impact. Shnapir's height and length allow him to make some spectacular throws, but it also demands near-perfect timing and basically eliminates any margin of error.

Castelli and Shnapir have found a way to put their differences behind them and stay on the same page. If that continues through the Olympics, they will have a chance to bring home a medal, and its color could be gold.