Chelsea and Ian were a couple off ice, so I wonder if something changed there that caused the split on ice.
^^ Possibly, but we can't know unless it's confirmed. It is true that it's mostly advisable for young pairs partners to not become emotionally involved off-the-ice. James/Cipres have mentioned in old interviews how they decided to stop dating each other off-ice in order to be able to focus without distraction on their on-ice partnership. Making that sacrifice was worth it for them.
Other teams, such as the Knierims can sometimes make an off-ice relationship work, but I don't think it's easy. Kayne/ O'Shea used to be a couple off-ice. They have reportedly moved on in that respect, but are still on-ice partners and friends. Smith/ Reiss dated and became a close-knit couple while they skated with other partners. Then they decided to team up and they are quite good together, but they experienced a lot of injuries and setbacks, which made it difficult for them to break through competitively. I hope they have a blast performing with Cirque on Ice.
I would say we are in the process of developing top level teams.
This is true, but it comes with the fact that as someone already mentioned, the U.S. pairs program does not have the same rep as some other countries. Hopefully, that will begin to change, and a sustained effort will be made to consistently produce highly competitive pairs teams from the U.S. At the moment, the talent and potential of U.S. pairs teams outweigh the opportunities to compete at major championships. The sport needs to address this conundrum, but no one really seems focused on doing so.
Therefore, having an offer made to work with and represent one of the top pairs programs in the world is not something to lightly turn down. Few skaters would even have the opportunity to be made such an offer. The same thing has been happening for some talented U.S. singles ladies of Chinese descent.
Fingers crossed that someone can at least help with Chelsea's throws!
I don't see why Chelsea can't be helped with throws. Superb throw jumps with jaw-dropping height, distance and stellar flow-out on landings appear to be completed like clockwork by most Chinese diva pair partners!
I'm still very excited for the U.S. pairs program. If strides can be made during the next transitional few years, I don't see why the U.S. can't eventually look to being consistently high enough in the world standings to gain a third spot, which is going to be needed in order to give talented teams viable opportunities to compete at Worlds and Olympics. It's a bummer for good skaters having to stay home, while in some cases skaters from other countries with similar or lesser talent, consistently have the opportunity to compete at major championships.