HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier pulled off the goal of every figure skater. They went to a competition and competed the way they skate in training. Denney and Frazier put out the best performance of their free skate they could have hoped for at 2014 Hilton HHonors Skate America Sunday afternoon.
And they were rewarded with a silver medal — their first senior grand prix medal and the top performance by any U.S. pairs team on the grand prix circuit since 2008 NHK Trophy.
“You do your job and the result will come,” Frazier said. “Don’t focus on the result.”
“But once you get a result like today,” he continued, “it’s a great feeling. It gives us motivation to keep pushing.”
Initially, Frazier wasn’t sure that result would come. He was nervous and shaky during the warmup, he said. Once his and Denney’s names were called for their performance, though, everything clicked.
“I told myself, ‘Don’t think too much, just give everything you have and let your training take over,’” Frazier said.
“When we were done, there was a feeling of, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that just happened,’” he said. “To perform that well at a competition I’ve always wanted to compete at was just an astounding feeling.”
Denney and Frazier earned a total score of 183.84. Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov won with 209.16. Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang of China were third with 182.43.
Denney and Frazier, the 2013 junior world champions, were third after the short program Saturday, but their solid free skate helped propel them to second. They are hoping to improve both programs by their next grand prix assignment — Rostelecom Cup in Russia — in less than three weeks. With another podium performance there, the pair has a shot to make the Grand Prix Final, something no U.S. pair has done since 2007.
With their silver medal, Haven Denney was able to successfully surpass her older sister, Caydee Denney, who is an accomplished pairs skater herself with three grand prix medals, two national titles and one Olympic appearance under her belt. All of Caydee Denney’s grand prix medals are bronze.
“It feels good,” Haven Denney said of outdoing her sister. “I wasn’t really thinking about that, actually, but I’m really proud of how Brandon and I skated today.”
Caydee Denney and partner John Coughlin are taking the season off while Caydee Denney rehabs an ankle injury, but Caydee Denney still had a hand in her sister’s success Sunday.
Haven Denney and Frazier are skating to selections from the “Lion King” soundtrack for their free skate this season. The program builds up to a powerful ending — which they nailed Sunday — and the choreography is designed to energize the pair more and more in the second half of the program. The idea for the music came from Caydee Denney, who, according to Haven Denney, has wanted to skate to that music “since she was a little girl” but suggested it for her sister this season.
“It’s funny because we spent a month trying to figure out what we’re going to skate to for the long and Haven came to me with one final idea,” Frazier said. “She plugged in her iPod, played it and I just loved it. Caydee really helped us with that.”
Everything went according to plan for Haven Denney and Frazier, but that wasn’t the case for every U.S. pair at Skate America. Reigning U.S. pewter medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim suffered from a couple of falls in their free skate and finished the event in fourth, almost 14 points behind the bronze medalists.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been more prepared for a competition and to skate with that many errors was very discouraging,” Scimeca said. “It kind of leaves us with what we’re supposed to do because we were very prepared and we were in the right mindset going into it. It’s just frustrating.”
Making their senior grand prix debut, Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage finished fifth with 160.04 points. Madeline Aaron is the sister of 2013 U.S. men’s champion Max Aaron.
“I think we’ve learned we’re ready to be in seniors, ready to take on the challenge,” Madeline Aaron said. “Every time we go out is another experience that’s gained and we’re trying to be consistent with skating well so that U.S. can rely on us more and we’d like to take that on.”