Blood, Guts and Glory in the Pairs Free Skate

by Michelle Wojdyla
Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn won their first U.S. title.

The championship pairs free skate at the 2003 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships had its fair share of ups, downs, crashes, bangs and blood. The final results saw flipping ordinals and rearranging results as the final group played out.

When the final results were in, Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn had won their first U.S. title. Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash were second, and Rene Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. were third.

"Not quite the program we had hope to put out," Scott said. "Our long was a little below par. It wasn't all bad. We did a nice set of double Axels, a throw triple Sal (Salchow), a good triple twist."

"It was not as good as two nights ago," Dulebohn said. "It was a little shaky for us compared to our short program."

The scoring became scrambled after a strong skate by Jennifer Don and Jonathon Hunt. When Inoue and Baldwin followed, the teams split the ordinals after an uneven skate. Inoue crashed into the boards in front of the judges and came up with a gashed knee that required five stitches. She didn't remember how it happened saying, "I either hit my knee on the wall ... [or] I slashed my blade on my knee."

Inoue and Baldwin had innovative lifts and hit a nice double Axel-double flip sequence.

"Going into this event, Rena and I were confident in our abilities because of the way we skated on the Grand Prix series," said Baldwin, 29, who has competed at nearly every U.S. Championships (mostly as a singles skater) since 1986."We've had some good competitions. We're surprised the way things have turned out, but we feel like we deserve to be here. We'll take it."

A disastrous program by Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler included a tumble that left them in a heap on the ice after they fell over each other. Johnnie's finger was sliced in the incident and required medical attention. They were able to finish their program, although it was nowhere near their best.

"It can only get better," Tiffany Stiegler said. "It can't get worse."

The final group of skaters added to the wild night. Stephanie Kalesavich and Aaron Parchem started off with a string of errors, including a step-out by Kalesavich on the throw triple Salchow, a fall on the side-by-side triple Salchows, a fall out on the side-by-side triple toe and another miscue on the throw triple loop. When the marks came up, Kalesavich and Parchem stood in second.

"We didn't give it our best shot tonight," Parchem said, "but we've come a long way from where we were a couple of months ago."

By then only Scott and Dulebohn had straight ordinals, with the three teams below them sharing second through fourth place. The stage was set for flip-flops, but it would take help from the final two pairs.

Larisa Spielberg and Craig Joeright skated a program with mixed results, with errors on the side-by-side jumps and another throw jump into the boards. Joeright reopened a wound on his finger that was originally sliced open during a practice accident on Thursday. Their marks, however, resulted in the ordinal swap that pushed Kalesavich and Parchem down to fourth and brought Inoue and Baldwin into medal range.

The final team to skate, Orscher and Lucash, had one of the best performances of the night, with only minor errors on the jumps and a wonky combination spin. Their scores were strong enough to vault them into second place.

"After we skated I was pretty emotional," Orscher said. "I thought I was going to cry. Everything went so fast."

"Pairs is a really tough event," Lucash said, "and there's almost always mistakes because of the difficulty. It's kind of expected to have mistakes here and there."

The USFSA International Committee announced the top three teams would be sent to represent the U.S. at the World Championships and the Four Continents Championships.

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