Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir compete during the figure skating pairs short program on day four of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir entered their “main event” at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games free of the pressure felt by most first-time Olympians.
The two-time reigning U.S. pairs figure skating champions had been there, done that. Castelli and Shnapir already competed both their short and long programs at the inaugural figure skating team event at Iceberg Skating Palace, and helped Team USA earn the bronze medal Sunday. On Tuesday, they put themselves in position to succeed once more.
Castelli and Shnapir executed a clean and short program on day one of the pairs competition at the Sochi Games, earning 67.44 points to better their personal best set in the team event just a few days prior. The pair entered the Games ranked 15th in the ISU world standings.
They sit in ninth place after day one. They are 16.73 points behind event leaders and world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia. Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy sit in second with a score of 79.64. Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov rounded out the top three with 75.21.
"We were actually able to go out there and relax and have fun," Castelli said. "It did help that we also have a bronze medal with the team so – less pressure."
Dancing to a composition of “Black Magic Woman” and “Smooth” by Carlos Santana, Castelli and Shnapir hit all their elements cleanly and put big air on an opening triple twist lift and subsequent triple Salchow. The duo holds a throw quad Salchow in its arsenal for Wednesday's free skate.
"Honestly, I think we could do better but this definitely gives us enormous confidence moving forward," Shnapir said. "We can reach even higher."
The Boston-based pair aims to secure a top-10 finish.
Castelli and Shnapir's team medal already has made them the first U.S. pair to capture an Olympic medal since Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard won the bronze medal in 1988.
Also representing the U.S. Tuesday were reigning U.S. silver medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay. Zhang and Bartholomay outskated 2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and partner John Coughlin at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships to help secure their spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.
Zhang and Bartholomay put out a commendable short program, taking to the competition ice for the first time at an Olympic Winter Games. The pair – which teamed up in 2011 – sits in 14th place with a score of 56.90 heading into the final.
"It was a great start to an Olympic career," Bartholomay said. "A little scratchy on a couple things … we got a little tight but, really, so happy with being able to handle the pressure and go out and skate a clean run-through on Olympic ice."
Skating to “Carousel Waltz” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Zhang and Bartholomay put out clean components, having taken a hit solely on the execution of their triple toe loop and throw triple Lutz.
Asked for their thoughts on the team event, Bartholomay said, "We're so excited for them. I feel like in some ways it maybe makes you tired and in some ways it kind of evens out, but just from watching it, we felt like we fed off of that."
As for their plan for Wednesday’s finale, Zhang said: "copy and paste."