Will Ladwig, Evora survive pairs splits?

May 9, 2011 

The U.S. pairs figure skating landscape is crumbling around Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig.

The 2010 Olympians, who work out of Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, watched as former training partners Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett split up three months ago.

Then, on Wednesday, U.S. champions Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin announced their break-up.

The upheaval leaves the skating world wondering what the future holds for Evora and Ladwig coming off a disappointing 11th-place finish at the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow.

According to Ladwig, no decision will be made until the duo recovers from a grueling year that lasted a month longer than expected when Japan’s earthquake forced the relocation of the world championships from Tokyo to Moscow.

They have a meeting scheduled with coach Jim Peterson in less than two weeks to make the call.

“We’re going to take some time off. Amanda and I always take our time after big competitions and reassess. I’ve just been playing Mr. Dad,” Ladwig said this past week after returning to the Parrish home he shares with his wife, Janet, and 2-year-old son Holden.

Peterson, who has coached the pair in some capacity since 2002, said he expects the pair to stay together.

He said the national team needs skaters like Evora and Ladwig, whom he called “incredible ambassadors for their sport,” both here and across the world.

“I believe and hope they will be (back), but they’re in a position where they’re at a crossroads,” Peterson said. “We need veterans to lead the way and represent our country.”

Evora and Ladwig, who placed 10th at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, finished second behind Yankowskas and Coughlin at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.

After a sixth-place finish at the Four Continents event, they struggled at the world championships, suffering three total falls during the short program and free skate competitions. Peterson had hoped for a top-six finish.

“It was not a good competition for them, unfortunately. ... I hate excuses, but it was a longer season, and it threw us for a loop. I believe they can end on a stronger note,” Peterson said.

Ladwig said the delay before the world championships was like a “sock to the gut.”

Still, he said, the performances weren’t all bad. The pair’s signature move, a Miltano lift inspired by roller skating maneuvers, pulled the second-highest score of any single element at the world championships.

“I felt like we were just behind the 8-ball all year,” Ladwig said. “It’s very unusual not to know where a competition is. Usually, you can do all the what ifs, but we had no idea.”

Ladwig turned 31 on Friday. That’s certainly not ancient by pairs skating standards. As Peterson pointed out, China’s Hongbo Zhao won a gold medal with partner Shen Xue in 2010 at age 36.

Evora, 26, may face the strongest temptation to pull back on her training regimen. She is engaged to Barrett, who has said he wants concentrate on coaching after announcing his retirement.

Evora, who lives in East Manatee, was unavailable for comment, but Ladwig said he doesn’t expect Barrett’s decision to affect Evora.

“Usually with Amanda, work is work and home is home,” Ladwig said.

If they do stay together, Ladwig and Evora likely will commit to training for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But there are three years’ worth of national competitions and the months of training that precede them between now and then.

After a year like this past one, no one can blame the local skaters for taking some time off before making such a big decision.

Timothy R. Wolfrum, Herald sports editor, can be reached at 745-7052.

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