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Sochi remains destination for Denney, Coughlin

Pair opts to sit out worlds, eyes Olympic dream

Caydee Denney and John Coughlin have their sights set on the big picture, and that means being in top form for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Caydee Denney and John Coughlin have their sights set on the big picture, and that means being in top form for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(02/18/2013) - Even though John Coughlin said he has "come back as well as anyone could have hoped for" following hip surgery in December, he and pairs partner Caydee Denney decided not to compete at the World Figure Skating Championships next month in London, Ontario.

And although he said he has been back on the ice since Jan. 28 and that they have gotten most of their major elements back, he and Denney decided to look at the bigger picture, making sure they return to full strength as they approach the Olympic season. With the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games less than a year away (the Opening Ceremony is Feb. 7), Denney and Coughlin are considered the frontrunners for a spot on the U.S. team.

"It was a question of what is more important," Coughlin said. "I am so excited about the Olympic season and the elements and the music."

They won the 2012 national title and were the silver medalists at the 2012 Four Continents Championships. This season, they earned bronze medals at both Grand Prix events they entered, Skate America and the Rostelecom Cup.

They had been named to the world team at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, held last month in Omaha, Neb. The team submitted a petition to U.S. Figure Skating to be considered for the world team despite not having competed at the U.S. championships.

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, who finished fifth at the 2012 U.S. Championships, won the 2013 U.S. title and earned the bronze medal at the Four Continents Championships. They will represent the United States at the world championships along with Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim.

Denney and Coughlin no doubt wanted to improve on their eighth-place showing at the world championships a year ago, but he said they wanted to "stay true to their goal" of competing in the Olympic Games.

"I don't think there's an Olympic-eligible athlete in the world who didn't think about anything but that the Games are a year away," Coughlin said. "Every step you take from now on is so important. You can't overlook any details. There's no cutting corners."

While Coughlin was recovering from surgery, Denney continued to train and even worked on lifts and death spirals with Larry Ibarra, son of Dalilah Sappenfield, their coach. Coughlin said he has experienced some discomfort since his return, mostly because of the volume of training he is undergoing, but overall, he feels better and is relieved he did not have to rush back.

There's little escape from the Olympic movement for this couple. After all, they train in Colorado Springs, the home of the U.S. Olympic Committee's headquarters and one of its training centers.

That's why every day of practice now is of utmost importance. Coughlin said they have a "couple of ideas kicking" for music for next season and are eagerly awaiting choreography sessions for new programs.

For Coughlin, Sochi would mark his first trip to the Olympic Games. Denney, meanwhile, made her Olympic debut in Vancouver with then partner Jeremy Barrett.

"Caydee is a real asset as a partner, and no small part of that is that she's been down this road before," Coughlin said. "So, when we made this decision -- and I can't stress this enough -- we made this together. We had won a national championship together and we had been to the world championships. The last thing we really want to do in our careers is go to the Olympics."

And even though they won't be at the world championships, they will be keeping tabs on the results.

But now Denney and Coughlin are focusing on their own comeback. And they want to be in the Olympic Games a year from now.

"It's my body that was going through the surgery," Coughlin said. "But, it's our dream."