Past American pairs- thoughts on some of them

rupertsurvive

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The pairs has been the U.S least successful discipline now with the recent U.S surge in dance. In my time following the sport, they have had some interesting teams, even if none was ever a dominant team. What do you think of some of them.

Meno & Sand- I always enjoyed them, a friend of mine could not stand them. She called them Barbie & Ken on the ice. It is too bad there were reinstated pros for the 94 Olympics as they might have medaled otherwise, they had some of their best skates ever there. They were most known for their Nessum Dorma program which they resurrected numerous times in their career. They were most criticized for not having side by side triple toes at a time nearly all the top pairs were starting to do them, they finally acquired them in 97 but probably a bit too late. They had a pretty good pro career after their successful amateur career of 3 world medals and 3 U.S titles.

Ina & Dungen- They were the main rivals of Meno & Sand. They finally beat them for the U.S title in 97 and repeated in 98. They were the opposite of Meno & Sand, a very athletic team but never had the unision, polish, or consistency needed to break into the medals at the world level. They just missed in 4th at the 97 worlds and 98 Olympics. They probably could have medaled at both the 98 worlds and 99 worlds but they had to withdraw from the 98 worlds with injury and then Ina dumped him soon after. They never seemed to get along very well, she had much better chemistry and style with Zimmerman, even if they were a much less athletic team and nearly as inconsistent and struggling in unision.

Ina & Zimmerman- They were an interesting team. They were never technically the strongest or really a true top team on the world stage, but I enjoyed watching them. They really had only a 4 year career as amateurs, so had a relatively short time to gel as a team. They seemed to be a one step forward two steps back or two steps forward one step back sort of theme for most of those 4 years but they finally got it all together in their final season in 2001-2002. Unfortunately for them they were up against an insanely strong field of Sale & Pelletier, Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze, Shen & Zhao, Totmianina & Marinin, Petrkova & Tikhonov, and numerous other teams who have a world medal so had few real opportunities of medals. They skated brilliantly in Salt Lake City to finish 5th where some felt they should have finished 4th or even 3rd. They finally get a medal at the 2002 worlds with a subpar free skate but that event was a splatfest. They had a pretty good pro career, always innovative and interesting to watch as they were as amateurs.

Carruthers- They were the successors to Babiliona & Gardner who retired very young after the heartbreak of Lake Placid. They are most known as the surprise silver medalists of the 84 Olympics where they had the skate of their lives in the long program. They went into those Games as a long shot medal chance with Valova & Vasiliev, Baess & Theirbach, Underhill & Martini all favored above them, and a couple other strong Soviet teams at the Games. They had a stellar pro career, including winning the prestigious Challenge of Champions 3 times, and being on Champions on Ice for years. I believe they also were on Stars on Ice awhile.
 

miffy

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Ina and Zimmerman were my favourite. I liked them both and I also loved their Moskvina choreography with all the beautiful and innovative lifts and highlight moves. I never felt their styles really matched but I quite liked that for some reason. It worked with the programmes.
Their exhibition programmes were always lovely and they were exciting to watch live when they turned pro with their great lifts and ‘fly high say bye’ move.
 

Frau Muller

Everything is beautiful at the ballet!
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Watson/Oppegard in the mid-80s was another gorgeous team with that “international look” (ie, like Russians or Underhill/Martini). They had that potential and, at least, garnered an Olympic bronze in 1988. To me, the end of an era of solid US Pairs excellence, though I admired a lot of the other mentioned teams.

W/O’s Mirandolina Overture LP is one of those routines that will constantly play on & on in my mind...it’s looping now. :)
 

olympic

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Commenting on more recent US pairs -

I've endured lots of heartbreak over the past many years for my favorite pairs: Going backwards in time -

1. Knierims (still a story in progress) - Still have not yet reached what I believe is their potential. Their opening season in 2012-13 showed a ton of promise, their 2016 4CCs performances, and their comeback for 2017 Worlds are highlights but they really should have reached the next level and gained more consistency on their weak elements (SBS jumps / spins). I hope something happens by Nationals and during the next 2 seasons, which will be their final season(s).

2. Donlan / Speroff - Lovely couple with SS for days, but she had trouble handling a 2A. I held out hope that they would find the ability to make it work and move forward, but sadly that never happened

3. Yankowskas / Coughlin - Really made a statement at 2011 Worlds, then split which was such a letdown. The Denney / Coughlin pairing did not have the same effect.

4. McLaughlin / Brubaker - Made the GPF in 2007 (?). Then, opened the 2008-09 season with some good performances at SA and SC, showing speed and power in their skating, then slid downhill from there to eventually split up. Rockne teamed up and showed promise with Mary Beth Marley, but they also split fairly quickly.

5. Ina / Zimmerman - I remember he was unable to land a SBS triple to save his life, but did do it when it counted at '02 Olympics. I honestly would have placed them 4th at SLC. But, they are noted to be the last US pair on a Worlds podium.

6. Ina / Dungjen - I honestly don't remember much of a difference between either team of Ina + partner. I think both teams ended up achieving the same level of accomplishment. I did think they showed more oomph than Meno / Sand who skated w/ a quiet beauty whereas I/D were about daring and ambition. I tend towards the latter.

7. Meno / Sand - I thought they were very stylish and showed growth after '94 Olympics, but their was a fragility to them on the power elements that did not make me a believer. But, their world medals in the mid-90s are commendable as is their dedication to the sport as coaches.

8. Watson / Oppegard - I actually found their skating and style a bit stiff but congrats to them for being the last US pair on an Olympic podium. During the later 80s, I preferred Wachsman / Waggoner, who to me were more fluid and offered just as much of a challenge internationally as W/O. I also thought that Watson / Lancon who only appeared briefly on the scened in 1984 were better matched. Their 6th place at the '84 Olympics was awesome.

9. Carruthers - I thought they slightly lagged the Russian teams of Valova / Vasiliev, Selezneva / Makarov, the perennial GDR team of Baess / Thierbach, and Underhill / Martini in substance and style, but they put it together when it counted in 1984. I didn't find any particular element had a wow factor and they did not overwhelm with a certain style or choreography, they just got the job done which as I said happened at the right time.

10. Babilonia / Gardner - Last US World Champs in 1979. To this day, I fantasize about their chances at Lake Placid in 1980. I do think in retrospect it would have been impossible to dislodge Rodnina /Zaitzev from #1 even skating in the US. The Soviet stranglehold was too tight on the OGM and you have to consider the speed and power of R/Z
 
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jiejie

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Inoue/Baldwin -- Always seemed to get a lot of grief when they competed (at least, he did), but I liked this pair. A 4CC gold, 9 straight years of being on the US National podium is not too shabby. And there was that beautiful throw 3A....

Evora/Ladwig -- Another team I thought was lovely, especially their difficult lifts. Just not quite enough to make it to the top echelon of intl pairs.
 

olympic

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Inoue/Baldwin -- Always seemed to get a lot of grief when they competed (at least, he did), but I liked this pair. A 4CC gold, 9 straight years of being on the US National podium is not too shabby. And there was that beautiful throw 3A....

Evora/Ladwig -- Another team I thought was lovely, especially their difficult lifts. Just not quite enough to make it to the top echelon of intl pairs.
I forgot about Evora / Ladwig. Another US pair that skated with a certain beauty yet fragility which held them back from greater achievements
 

wickedwitch

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There is a disturbing lack of Yamaguchi/Galindo in this thread, who would have been world champions in the mid 90s if they hadn't split.
 

rupertsurvive

Banned Member
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Commenting on more recent US pairs -

I've endured lots of heartbreak over the past many years for my favorite pairs: Going backwards in time -

1. Knierims (still a story in progress) - Still have not yet reached what I believe is their potential. Their opening season in 2012-13 showed a ton of promise, their 2016 4CCs performances, and their comeback for 2017 Worlds are highlights but they really should have reached the next level and gained more consistency on their weak elements (SBS jumps / spins). I hope something happens by Nationals and during the next 2 seasons, which will be their final season(s).

2. Donlan / Speroff - Lovely couple with SS for days, but she had trouble handling a 2A. I held out hope that they would find the ability to make it work and move forward, but sadly that never happened

3. Yankowskas / Coughlin - Really made a statement at 2011 Worlds, then split which was such a letdown. The Denney / Coughlin pairing did not have the same effect.

4. McLaughlin / Brubaker - Made the GPF in 2007 (?). Then, opened the 2008-09 season with some good performances at SA and SC, showing speed and power in their skating, then slid downhill from there to eventually split up. Rockne teamed up and showed promise with Mary Beth Marley, but they also split fairly quickly.

5. Ina / Zimmerman - I remember he was unable to land a SBS triple to save his life, but did do it when it counted at '02 Olympics. I honestly would have placed them 4th at SLC. But, they are noted to be the last US pair on a Worlds podium.

6. Ina / Dungjen - I honestly don't remember much of a difference between either team of Ina + partner. I think both teams ended up achieving the same level of accomplishment. I did think they showed more oomph than Meno / Sand who skated w/ a quiet beauty whereas I/D were about daring and ambition. I tend towards the latter.

7. Meno / Sand - I thought they were very stylish and showed growth after '94 Olympics, but their was a fragility to them on the power elements that did not make me a believer. But, their world medals in the mid-90s are commendable as is their dedication to the sport as coaches.

8. Watson / Oppegard - I actually found their skating and style a bit stiff but congrats to them for being the last US pair on an Olympic podium. During the later 80s, I preferred Wachsman / Waggoner, who to me were more fluid and offered just as much of a challenge internationally as W/O. I also thought that Watson / Lancon who only appeared briefly on the scened in 1984 were better matched. Their 6th place at the '84 Olympics was awesome.

9. Carruthers - I thought they slightly lagged the Russian teams of Valova / Vasiliev, Selezneva / Makarov, the perennial GDR team of Baess / Thierbach, and Underhill / Martini in substance and style, but they put it together when it counted in 1984. I didn't find any particular element had a wow factor and they did not overwhelm with a certain style or choreography, they just got the job done which as I said happened at the right time.

10. Babilonia / Gardner - Last US World Champs in 1979. To this day, I fantasize about their chances at Lake Placid in 1980. I do think in retrospect it would have been impossible to dislodge Rodnina /Zaitzev from #1 even skating in the US. The Soviet stranglehold was too tight on the OGM and you have to consider the speed and power of R/Z
Those are great breakdowns. I particularly agree with your assessment on the Carruthers. I am not sure I get some fans who think they should have won in Sarajevo, especialy as the ordinals show they barely won silver, but it was great to see their career climax there, and I agree with your assessment of their skating. They did have a great pro career like I said, they actually had a better one than Valova & Vassiliev for instance. Their programs also became far more interesting in the pro ranks I thought.

I think Babilonia & Gardner could have actually won in Lake Placid. Their artistry was clearly superior to Rodnina & Zaitsev at that point, and R&Z weren't doing a throw jump which looked bad when almost all the teams were starting to do them. It didn't matter in the field present but with an American team with home ice, it is something they could have justify to push for them to go ahead. Then again the politics Russia had in pairs and dance was so strong then, I am still not sure. B&G also had only a double twist and a weak one at that, which might have cost them the gold. I wonder if they would have continued on if they had skated in Lake Placid, especialy if they didn't win gold.

Denney & Coughlin were an unappealing pair for me. I preferred both the Denney & Barrett and Yankowskas & Coughlin pairings.

McLaughlin & Brubaker were the most promising team by far in recent times, even more than the Knierims. It is so sad they did not fulfill their immense potential and missed the Olympic team in 2010.

Evora & Ladwig were an inspiring and unlikely great late career success story. They were pleasing to watch, although they were never going to be a top team on the world stage.

I agree with you on Meno & Sand, what they really lacked was more dynamics and strength on the power elements to take them to that #1 spot on the world stage, which is why they were limited to the 3-5 rank on the world stage pretty consistently. They always had beautiful programs and style though, and their chemistry really shone through when they skated. Still the most successful U.S pair in the last several decades though, and had a very fine pro career despite pro skating dying. Were two of the most popular people on the tour by their peers since both were such nice people, the Carruthers were also super popular in that way.
 

rupertsurvive

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There is a disturbing lack of Yamaguchi/Galindo in this thread, who would have been world champions in the mid 90s if they hadn't split.
Thanks for pointing them out. I forget them, they definitely should be on this thread. I am not sure they would ever be World Champions though. They were never beating a perfect Brasseur & Eisler at the 93 worlds, or Shishkova & Naumov in their best year of skating at the 94 worlds. Maybe they would have had a shot at the 96 or 97 worlds had they stuck around that long, and continued to develop, but that is a lot of guesswork. In 1990 they already looked a bit weaker than 89, which was a factor in Kristi's decision to go to only singles.
 

AngieNikodinovLove

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1. Brooke castile & Ben Okolski - classy team that I couldnt take my eyes off of. BTW is he gay or unknown because Id LOVE to double dip with him. What can I say?

2. The Hartsells - Finally a USA team with some power.

3. Tiffany & John Steigler - SO MUCH potential there was.....

4. Waitress & Truck Driver - so much intrigue, so much of a storyline... was like a mini "Dallas."

5. The Knierims circa 2015/2016

AND A MEGA SHOUTOUT to Caitlin Yankowskas... a treasure of a skater!
 

AxelAnnie

Graceful men lift lovely girls in white!
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I forgot about the Steiglers. She was fearless. They were such a treat to watch.
 

alchemy void

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I always had a soft spot for the Hartsells. Their 1999 Worlds LP is so dynamic, tons of energy, good choreography, and some exceptional elements. Even with some shaky elements (underrotated twist, tiny throw loop) I found them significantly more enjoyable to watch then other more highly-ranked pairs from this era, like Sargeant/Wirtz or Totmianina/Marinin. There was so much potential here, too bad this was their competitive peak.
 
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Erin

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I always had a soft spot for the Hartsells.
I can’t think of the Hartsells without mentioning my favourite story about [email protected] M was at a competition in front of people wondering “Are they brother and sister? Or husband and wife?” With the eventual conclusion being husband and wife. Guess they really sold that Romeo and Juliet!
 
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AngieNikodinovLove

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I always had a soft spot for the Hartsells. Their 1999 Worlds LP is so dynamic, tons of energy, good choreography, and some exceptional elements. Even with some shaky elements (underrotated twist, tiny throw loop) I found them significantly more enjoyable to watch then other more highly-ranked pairs from this era, like Sargeant/Wirtz or Totmianina/Marinin. There was so much potential here, too bad this was their competitive peak.

LOOOOOVEEEEE..Lord its been 20 years since The Hartsells??? Wow....

at the 1:30 minute mark they do the element named after them, "The Heart Attack." LOVE it...

I like delicate and fragile skating as well, but I really love dynamo, powerful skating like theirs.....

4.8? Really France? Dont make me b*tch-slap you with plastic stars.
 
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miffy

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At 2004 Skate America I got the pleasure to see Tiffany skate ice dance with a Russian partner... I forgot his name... but she was SOOOO stunning on the ice....

How long did they last for? 2 seasons?
Sergei Magerovski? I probably spelt that all wrong... and yes I think 2 seasons. One of Igor’s many teams at the time!
 

miffy

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There is a disturbing lack of Yamaguchi/Galindo in this thread, who would have been world champions in the mid 90s if they hadn't split.
Oh I love them so much. I wish they had stayed together :( I am more a fan of her as a pair skater than ladiezzzz.
 

olympic

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Going back to the 70s, does anyone remember the Militanos? Any thing special about their skating? Didn’t she Militano pair up with Johnny Johns and experience some good international finishes??
 

SmallFairy

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I always had a soft spot for the Hartsells. Their 1999 Worlds LP is so dynamic, tons of energy, good choreography, and some exceptional elements. Even with some shaky elements (underrotated twist, tiny throw loop) I found them significantly more enjoyable to watch then other more highly-ranked pairs from this era, like Sargeant/Wirtz or Totmianina/Marinin. There was so much potential here, too bad this was their competitive peak.
I was there!
They were really good, lots of spark and speed. Great presentation. They didn’t have a lot of height difference between them, and she was a power skater, stunningly muscular😍, so he didn’t get anything for free, but they pulled it off great. Still I wonder if that was one of the reasons they struggled later? I didn’t follow they’re career, so I don’t know what happened.
 

Frau Muller

Everything is beautiful at the ballet!
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Thanks for pointing them out. I forget them, they definitely should be on this thread. I am not sure they would ever be World Champions though. They were never beating a perfect Brasseur & Eisler at the 93 worlds, or Shishkova & Naumov in their best year of skating at the 94 worlds. Maybe they would have had a shot at the 96 or 97 worlds had they stuck around that long, and continued to develop, but that is a lot of guesswork. In 1990 they already looked a bit weaker than 89, which was a factor in Kristi's decision to go to only singles.
Right. There was always a loosey-goosey quality to Yama/Galindo...even if elements performed cleanly. Cute, adorable, charismatic. But...Watson/Oppegard was the last of the “gravitas” US Pairs with Euro quality (which is meaningless today).

Re Babilonia/Gardner in 1980 Oly: No way they would’ve won because of their (lack of) size difference, unless Rodnina/Z would’ve bombed. B/G miraculously exquisite because they gingerly got through lifts...but always with a cautiousness.
 

Spiralgraph

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Going back to the 70s, does anyone remember the Militanos? Any thing special about their skating? Didn’t she Militano pair up with Johnny Johns and experience some good international finishes??

I remember the Militanos. Melissa was a very good singles skater and she and her brother Mark always had good programs with difficult content for that era. I liked them better than later on when Melissa skated with Johnny Johns (her then fiancee)

I'll go back even further with a team that hasn't been mentioned yet. Jo Jo Starbuck and Ken Shelley. John Nick's first team IIRC. Dynamic showy skaters who were of similar height like Tai and Randy. Great chemistry and Ken never seemed to have a problem lifting Jo Jo, though of course the lifts were simpler in those days.
 

olympic

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I remember the Militanos. Melissa was a very good singles skater and she and her brother Mark always had good programs with difficult content for that era. I liked them better than later on when Melissa skated with Johnny Johns (her then fiancee)

I'll go back even further with a team that hasn't been mentioned yet. Jo Jo Starbuck and Ken Shelley. John Nick's first team IIRC. Dynamic showy skaters who were of similar height like Tai and Randy. Great chemistry and Ken never seemed to have a problem lifting Jo Jo, though of course the lifts were simpler in those days.
Weren't Starbuck and Shelley close to a medal in Sapporo '72?
 

Spiralgraph

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Yes they were. Starbuck and Shelley finished fourth. And if my memory hasn't failed me Shelley also finished fourth in the men's singles competition at Sapporo too. (I'm going to check that now.)
 

dramagrrl

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Kristi and Rudy did technical elements in the early 90s that pairs did not catch up with for at least a decade - sbs triple flips stand out in my mind, but they also had difficult lifts and transitions. I agree with @wickedwitch that they may well have become world champions if they hadn't split.
 

Jessica

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I thought J. Steigler lost interest.... Loved Tiffany, though. And their sister was none too shabby of an ice dancer.
You're thinking of their sister Stephanie. She was a pair skater (last with John Zimmerman). It's Tiffany who tried ice dancing. I don't think Stephanie ever did. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

I agree that Kristi and Rudy could have been world champions in pairs if they hadn't split. However, Rudi and especially Kristi had enormous success as singles. I still watch Rudy's win at Nationals and still get tears.
 

olympic

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^Re Y/G, when you consider Kuchiki / Sand were WBMs at 1991 Worlds, then Y/G would have definitely been on the podium by 1991. No slam on K/S. It's just that Y/G had a much bigger rep and more experience. The bigger question is could they have beaten Brasseur / Eisler and Mishkutenok / Dmitriev at those worlds or in Albertville 1992. I know B/E rose to the top 2 executing big, powerful elements and M/D were the best Soviet pair with the Moskvina touch. I don't doubt that Y/G w/ more experience together could have beaten the no. 2 Soviet / Unified pair, Bechke / Petrov. So, they may have been OSMs at Albertville 1992. I don't know w/ Soviet hegemony if they would have won an Olympic title considering clean skates in Albertville by M/D.

Then, they could've won at 1993 Worlds with the top Russian pairs G/G and M/D out that year, but again, could they have beaten B/E. They wouldn't have won in Lillehamer 1994 with the aforementioned top 2 Russian teams back and bigger than ever.
 

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