Danny O’Shea tossed Tarah Kayne like he did countless times as they forged themselves as the best pair in skating.
This toss ended with Kayne face first on the ice instead of helping them get atop the leaderboard.
Kayne did not complete her throw triple lutz rotation and the right side of her face slammed the ice when O’Shea tossed her during the short program. Kayne and O’Shea’s defense of their pairs title got off to a crushing start Thursday in the U.S. figure skating championships when the fall derailed their routine.
“This season has been really difficult for us,” Kayne said. “I don’t think we were coming out here to match what we did. “It’s been a huge struggle all season to just maintain.”
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Kayne was diagnosed with a tendon issue in one her knees that had an impact on training and competition for much of the past year.
Kayne and O’Shea, back to defend the title they won in St. Paul, Minn., sit in fifth place and will need plenty of help and a flawless performance in the free program on Saturday.
“It’s not how you want to finish a program,” O’Shea said. “We’ll pick ourselves up.”
Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc topped the board with 69.33 points in the first day of competition at the Sprint Center. Cain and LeDuc nailed their split triple twist, solo triple loops and throw triple flip to take the top spot.
Cain has not competed in pairs in nearly 4 1/2 years before she teamed with LeDuc in a May 2016 tryout. Not even a year later, the pair were in the thick of contention for their first U.S. national championship.
“The moment I took his hand, I didn’t realize how much I missed pairs skating,” Cain said. “I had the biggest smile on my face and I could feel how happy I was; just skating with him, lifting me in the air.”
LeDuc took his own hiatus, nearly 2 1/2 years since he last competed in a major pairs event at the nationals in Boston.
“We’re not afraid to sort of laugh and giggle especially through the difficult days or through mistakes,” LeDuc said.
Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were second with 65.39 points and Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Nathan Bartholomay were third with 65.39 points.
Denney has made a solid comeback since she tore her ACL, LCL and meniscus while practicing a throw in April 2015. They are still finding their groove after sitting out the 2015-16 season. Denney and Frazier won a silver medal at Skate America in October and hope for another podium finish this weekend.
“We try to keep everything together no matter if the score is amazing or just bad,” Frazier said. “But it was a respectable score. First time back, U.S. championships. We’re just going to do what we can moving on.”
As for the other three senior pairs training in Ellenton, Jessica Pfund and Danny O’Shea were seventh; Cali Fujimoto and Nicholas Barsi-Rhyne were 10th; and Joy Weinberg and Max Fernandez were 11th.
Kansas City was the site of the U.S. figure skating championships for the first time since 1985.
In the junior pairs earlier Thursday, Elli Kopmar and Jonah Barrett finished second. Kopmar and Barrett earned a score of 93.89 in their free skate, giving them a total of 147.90 and leaving them 5 1/2 points behind Nica Digerness and Danny Neudecker.
Kopmar and Barrett entered the free skate in second, six-tenths of a point behind Digerness and Neudecker.