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Duarte, Grafton announce end of partnership

Longest-tenured U.S. pair calls it quits after a decade together

Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton have a great admiration for each other's skating.
Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton have a great admiration for each other's skating. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(10/17/2012) - Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton, who have skated together longer than any other current U.S. pairs team, have announced that they have ended their partnership. Duarte will retire from skating and pursue her education, while Grafton plans to look for a new partner and continue skating.

Both skaters stated emphatically that the split is amicable and is all about growing up and moving on with life; they spoke to icenetwork.com together, in a very friendly -- although sometimes emotional -- interview.

Duarte has gone back to high school full time for her senior year, and she plans to go to college next year.

"It's a time in my life right now where I'm thinking about my future, doing what I need to do to set my life up," she said. "I kind of lost the motivation I used to have for skating in general. The passion, the enjoyment, the love for the sport died down. Part of it was that I have had many minor injuries that kept recurring and have been difficult to deal with. I'm really excited and getting ready to move forward in my next stage of life."

"My heart is still in skating, so for me, I want to continue," Grafton said. "The plan is to look for a partner."

Duarte and Grafton began skating together 10 years ago, when Duarte was 9 years old and Grafton was 11. They had been skating at the same rink, training with Cindy Desmarais in Smithfield, R.I., when Desmarais teamed them up.

"When we started [pairs], we had one lesson a week on Tuesday night," Duarte said. "We could not stop smiling. I couldn't wait until Tuesdays."

"I wouldn't hold her hand at first," Grafton said, laughing. "We just rolled with it, and it went on for 10 years."

The pair trained in Massachusetts at the Colonial Figure Skating Club and the Skating Club of Boston and, for the last two years, in Colorado Springs.

"We want to thank our first pair coaches, Bobby Martin, Carrie Wall and Sheryl Franks," Grafton said.

"And Debra Leeming, who was a major factor," Duarte added.

"She taught me all my triple jumps," Grafton said. "She was more than a coach -- she was our mentor. She was a role model for us and laid down the foundation of how to be great athletes and people."

"We owe a lot of our success to Larry [Ibarra] and Dalilah [Sappenfield]," Duarte continued. "When we first moved here, we were still a beginning junior team. We learned how to be elite athletes, skating with all these great teams. We saw what it took to be the best."

Duarte and Grafton spoke with gratitude of everyone who has supported them over the years.

"We want to say 'thank you' to all our friends, family and fans, for all their support and inspiration they've given us," Duarte said.

"And, of course, the support of U.S. Figure Skating throughout our entire career," Grafton added. "We could never have accomplished everything we have without their support."

The team won the intermediate title at the 2008 U.S. Junior Championships, the novice pewter medal at the 2010 U.S. Championships and the U.S. junior bronze medal in 2012. They competed in the Junior Grand Prix Series five times and finished eighth at the 2012 World Junior Championships.

Both skaters spoke of what they admired in each other, and shared their thoughts about how to keep a partnership going for such a long time. They had some of the hardest content at the junior level in the U.S., with two side-by-side triple jumps in their program last season.

"One of the best things about Kylie is that in competition she would always turn it on. No matter how the practices were going, I knew when we got to competition, she would always be there; I would never have to worry," Grafton said. "And [I admire] her long lines, and her jumps."

"I admire his presentation and his love for the sport," Duarte said. "I never had to worry about him not getting into the program. He always presented; he always had pizzazz. It stepped up my game, because I had to up my presentation to meet his."

Although the audience didn't know it, the team's last performance together was at "An Evening with Champions" last month in Massachusetts. At the end of their program, they skated off the ice with their arms around each other.

"One of the reasons we could stay together for so long is we could always work through our problems," Grafton said. "It's very much like a marriage. There are going to be hurdles you have to overcome, and you have to communicate and work through things."

"When there are problems, you have to work through it," Duarte agreed. "It's like a family. Colin and my relationship is like brother and sister."

As she said this, Duarte teared up for a moment but kept smiling.

"This was a mutual decision," Grafton said. "We want people to look back and smile at what we've done."