U.S. Crowns New Pairs Champions Inoue and Baldwin

by Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Rena Inoue and John Baldwin
Photo by Michelle Harvath

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John Baldwin Press Conference Video

(1/9/04) — John Baldwin says that he has been skating almost all of his 30 years. He first made the U.S. Championships as a novice in 1986 and won the U.S. title in that event the following year.

However as he also mentions, "I am not a singles skater any more. I am a pairs skater." 

Baldwin and his partner Rena Inoue (All Year FSC) won a flawed pairs final in which none of the top pairs skated exceptionally well - a fact they all admitted, although Baldwin blamed himself. "Rena skated fantastic tonight," Baldwin said. "She deserves to win ... definitely. I am the one who missed the things tonight."

The other medalists had similar sentiments.

"You can't expect to be perfect," said Garrett Lucash (Charter Oak FSC). He and Kathryn Orscher (SC of Hartford) were second.

"I just didn't skate well. It's that simple," said Philip Dulebohn (University of Delaware FSC). He and Tiffany Scott (Colonial FSC) were third.

Baldwin had mixed feelings about the victory. "I felt like quitting after skating tonight," said Baldwin, who had trouble on both his side-by-side jumps. "It's bittersweet that we ended up winning."

Both Inoue and Baldwin were surprised to find out they were winners at the end of the competition. Baldwin downplayed his role in the win.

"It's supposed to be a team effort, but tonight I'm the one who let us down," Baldwin said. "It's all my fault. I was rushing everything right from the start and I let it get to me. It's not her fault at all."

They have risen slowly but steadily in the pairs ranks, coming up from 11th in 2001 to fourth in 2002 before a bronze medal last season.

"We just wanted so badly to skate as well here as we've been skating at home," Inoue said.

Baldwin doubled one triple toe loop, fell on another and mistimed his throw of Inoue on the throw triple Salchow. She barely got off the ice and sprawled on her stomach. Yet they received marks of 5.2 to 5.5 for their routine to music from "Pearl Harbor." More importantly, they received five first-place votes.

Orscher and Lucash had one first-place vote but just enough seconds - four - to gain the majority over Scott and Dulebohn. Although they didn't fall in their program, they had minor errors on the major technical elements. Lucash said it could have been better.

"You have to grow from each one and learn from your mistakes," Lucash said.

Their marks of  5.3 to 5.5 to "Spartacus" were good enough for their second consecutive silver medal at the U.S. Championships.

Defending champions Scott and Dulebohn were the last skaters in the event, but they also struggled. Dulebohn fell on the first jump of what was expected to be a triple-double combination. They had a messy lift in which she fell on his shoulder, followed by a throw single loop.

"It's shocking to me," Dulebohn said. "I am usually a very consistent skater and it is rare that I miss. Both the short and long programs were very inconsistent for me. I am just shocked at myself. We missed more elements today than we did all week. That is most disappointing."

The marks for their program to "Les Miserables" were in the 5.1 to 5.5 range. They received two first-place marks and two seconds.

Jennifer Don (Texas Gulf Coast FSC) and Jonathon Hunt (University of DelawareFSC) were fourth. The audience booed their marks of 5.2 to 5.5, but Don had doubled her two attempts at triple toes, and their planned throw triple flip turned into a double. In the final count they did receive a first-place vote but lost out in a tiebreak for third with Scott and Dulebohn.

Baldwin tried to put a positive focus on the performances of the top three.

"Instead of focusing on one performance, focus on the culmination of all the performances throughout the year," Baldwin said. "Any one us could have won tonight, and when you have that kind of pressure on you going into the national championships like this it is pretty tough."