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Florida teams gain Olympic pair spots

Denney, Barrett and Evora, Ladwig will represent U.S. in Vancouver

Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett have ended their professional relationship with coaches Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnston and Alison Smith.
Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett have ended their professional relationship with coaches Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnston and Alison Smith. (Paul Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/16/2010) - The U.S. Figure Skating International Selection Committee called it down the line today, nominating the top two finishers in the pairs event at the 2010 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships to the Olympic team.

Newly crowned champions Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, along with silver medalists Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, got Olympic nods. Both teams are coached in Ellenton, Fla., by Jim Peterson, who is also their choreographer, along with Lyndon Johnston and Alison Smith.

"No matter who gets selected, there are two teams on top from Florida," Barrett said moments before the announcement. "I think that's historic in itself, and it would make history if we both went. I hope that comes true."

There had been speculation among some in the press room that Evora and Ladwig, whose best prior finish at the U.S. Championships was fourth, might be passed over in favor of either Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, who were third in Spokane, or Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, who placed a disappointing fifth.

The latter two teams have won this event twice. McLaughlin and Brubaker, in particular, have been high-profile athletes in the Olympic run-up, with a Coca-Cola sponsorship and features in various NBC and United States Olympic Committee promotions.

In the mixed zone after their fifth-place free skate, Brubaker seemed to have mixed feelings about the possibility of being named.

"I think they know that we're one of the most competitive U.S. teams internationally; our record speaks for itself," he said. "Sometimes, though, it's about staying in the moment and doing it when it counts."

Baldwin endorsed U.S. Figure Skating's choices.

"You pick the teams at this event," he said. "First and second, they should go."

"I agree, the selection should be straight from nationals [results]," Inoue added. "That's why we have nationals. For the world championships, I could understand if they also looked at past results, because worlds is how [the ISU determines] how many spots a country gets the following year."

U.S. Figure Skating has yet to name a team for the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships, held in Torino, Italy, in March or the upcoming 2010 ISU Four Continents Championships in Korea.

Inoue and Baldwin made it plain they would not consider Four Continents.

"We're not interested in going to that," he said. "We've done so much for U.S. Figure Skating. We've been the top-ranked team internationally for seven years. We're not looking [for Four Continents] as a consolation prize."