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Castelli, Shnapir overcome mid-ice mistake to claim pairs crown

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Castelli, Shnapir overcome mid-ice mistake to claim pairs crown

Simon Shnapir lifts his partner, Marissa Castelli, during the pairs free skate of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the CenturyLink Center.

Turns out that nine-point cushion Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir built in Thursday’s pairs short program was nice to have heading into Saturday’s free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

A mid-ice mistake by Shnapir early in the program on a side-by-side spin cut just slightly into their winning total of 180.61 points. Instead of dwelling on the error, all Shnapir needed was a deep breath to bounce back and finish the program with a flourish, much to the delight of the CenturyLink Center crowd.

“I stopped and I just took a second to regroup,” Shnapir said. “Marissa and I have trained so hard this season … but we don’t forget how to regroup after missing a side-by-side spin, for instance. I think we’ve trained enough to push forward and have an even stronger second half than the first half.”

It was the first national championship for the Skating Club of Boston stars who share the same birthday — Aug. 20 (Shnapir is three years older). They now will enter next year’s nationals in Boston as defending champions as they attempt to earn a berth on the U.S. team that will compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim had the best free skate performance — a score of 119.96 — to improve their two-program total to 172.75 and move from third to second. Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay had another strong performance — they finished second in the short program and free skate — to finish third with a 172.02.

Scimeca’s and Knierim’s highest marks in executed elements came in their triple twist lift and group five toe lasso lift, while their top program component score was 7.54 in performance/execution.

Scimeca made no attempt to hide her giddiness with the performance. A long embrace with Knierim and a few claps as she moved around mid-ice before taking bows with Knierim told the crowd they had seen the best the pair had to offer.

“I landed the second element. I was on cloud nine,” Scimeca said. “Everything else fell into place for this program for us.”

Then one group later, it was time for the mostly-harmonious skate that earned Castelli and Shnapir their first gold medals. They stepped up with their group five axel lasso and toe lasso lifts while posting a 7.68 in choreography.

“We’re very excited today that we were able to hold ourselves together after a mistake in the middle of the program and continue on,” Castelli said. “We’re really happy.”

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