Figure skater Haven Denney has already been to an Olympic Games – she watched as her older sister, Caydee, competed in the pairs event with partner Jeremy Barrett at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Denney said watching her sister march in the Opening Ceremony, seeing her in the Athletes’ Village, and compete in Vancouver was one of the coolest experiences she ever had.
“I was with my sister every day when she was training for Vancouver,” she said in a media teleconference. “Watching her train every day was such a learning tool for me. I know what it takes to make that Olympic team. Her work, dedication, and everything she did that year to make the team is something that I’ll always hold in my heart and remember.”
Eight years later, Denney has that chance for herself, alongside pairs skating partner Brandon Frazier. There’s only one U.S. spot available for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. While a selection committee will ultimately decide who makes the team, there is tiered selection criteria that they will use to choose. The pairs team that is selected to compete in PyeongChang will have to be up to the task: with only one team, the pair will have to perform in the team event as well as the pairs event in the span of one week.
Denney and Frazier, the 2013 world junior champions, looked to be on the rise when they ascended to the senior ranks. However, Denney needed major surgery on her injured knee which kept them out of the 2015-16 season. Once they returned to the ice, the team won a national title. Later that season, mistakes in the short program left them 20th overall – without qualifying for the free skate – at the World Championships. So far this season, they finished fourth at the U.S. International Classic in September. Then, they placed seventh at both their Grand Prix assignments (Skate Canada, Skate America).
They enter this week’s U.S. Figure Skating National Championships as the defending gold medalists. They’ll be taking on 2015 champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim as well as 2016 champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea for the top spot on this year’s podium.
Frazier knows that while this is an important year, he doesn’t feel any added pressure.
“If there were one, two, or three spots [available on the Olympic team], I know Haven and I would take the same approach, same mindset, same preparation, and same attack into the competition,” he said. “Result is a result. We literally cannot control the numbers, the judges, the decisions. It’s taken a long time in our career to learn that whole process.”
Nationals are January 3-7 in San Jose, California. The pairs short program is Thursday, January 4 and the free skate is Saturday, January 6.