Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett are setting the bar high for this upcoming season. After winning the pairs event at the 2010 US Figure Skating Championships in January, the duo then competed at the Vancouver Winter Olympics (placing 13th) and then at the World Championships in Torino, Italy (placing 7th). Not bad for a relatively "new" team -- Caydee and Jeremy skated together briefly in 2006 in Florida before Caydee wanted to give singles skating a try in Colorado. But she missed her family in Florida too much so moved back, and the two decided to give their partnership another try in 2008. And the rest is history. During the 2008-2009 season, they won the silver at Nationals but it was very close between them and favorites Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker. At last year's Nationals, they won definitively and there was no doubt that their previous success was not a fluke.
I love watching them skate because there's such a juxtaposition of youth and maturity on the ice. Caydee is a mere 17 and Jeremy is 26. She has a brilliant and captivating smile and you just get the sense that Caydee is honestly having fun out there. Jeremy to me exudes calmness and focus, which balances out Caydee's contagious excitement really well. Their first international competitions are the Grand Prix NHK Trophy in Nagoya, Japan (October 22-24) and Skate America in Portland, Oregon (November 11-14). All eyes will be on them because they will the top U.S. team at these events and they are no longer the underdogs at any competition. Recently, Caydee and Jeremy announced a coaching change as well, and via e-mail, we chatted about the upcoming season, starting with their new coaches.On August 23, you announced a coaching change from Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnston and Alison Smith to John Zimmerman (three-time US pair champion with Kyoko Ina) and his wife Silvia Fontana (Italian figure skater who competed at Olympics). Now you are skating at the Saveology Iceplex in Coral Springs, Florida, as members of the Panthers Figure Skating Club. Jeremy - you stated in an interview that "We feel this change is necessary to take our skating to the next level. . . .We feel [John and Silvia] have a lot to offer as coaches." What specifically will John and Silvia enhance about your skating that will take you to the next level?
Jeremy: John and Silvia have been working very hard with us in bringing out our personalities during our programs. They have us training very differently than we are used to. Instead of doing programs where we focus on elements, they will have us do some programs where we do no elements and just work on transitions and expression. Silvia has been working on edges and footwork with us and teaching us how to better use our edges.Caydee: I feel John and Silvia will increase our skating quality and relationship on the ice by helping us connect and interact with each other. We have three and a half years to develop until the next Olympics and will still be considered a young team of only 5 years together. We need to take this time before the next Olympics in Sochi to mature and develop our skating and chemistry together. John and Silvia are patient yet motivated to helping us reach our goals and allowing us to enjoy the process and the journey.
Was it a hard decision to change coaching teams? Were your families involved in the decision-making process?
Caydee: Of course change is always difficult, this was a decision that Jeremy and I agreed on together. I am very fortunate to have parents that are completely supportive of us and are a huge part of our success formula. Skating pairs is different than being a single skater when all you have to do is think of oneself. In pairs there is your partner and then another family and possibly siblings. So it is hard sometimes to make everyone happy, but I think in our situation we are lucky to have a great supportive family that understands what TEAM is all about!
What are your goals for the 2010-2011 season?
Jeremy: We have three main goals this year: Qualify for the Grand Prix Final, retain our national title, and be top five at Worlds.
You have set your sights for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games as well. What do you
think the US needs to do to have strong pairs medal contenders for the
Jeremy: I think the US has lacked somewhat in consistency in the past and I think that is one of Caydee's and my strengths. The big thing is to not only hit the big tricks but to also make them look good.
Jeremy: We had a blast working with David Wilson this summer. We went up to Toronto for 10 days and came home with two programs. David wanted to pick two pieces of music that were different for us that people might not expect. The short music (love theme from movie Cousins) is powerful yet elegant and the long (Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue) is fun and playful. He believed that this will show people a new side to our skating. David actually just came down to Florida to put the finishing touches on them.
Caydee: Working with David Wilson has been one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences that I have ever had in skating. Skating with David is like going to Disney World for your first time and having Mickey Mouse be your tour guide and he gets you a fast pass to the front of the line -- He is wonderful! He makes me believe that I can do anything. David had a crystal clear vision on what to do with the programs and it was 10 days of about two to three hours on the ice of choreography and FUN and a short and long were made up just like that! So Much Fun!
David Wilson has worked with skaters with all different types of styles from Johnny Weir to Yu-Na Kim. What sorts of things did you have to let him know about you so that he "gets" you and gets to know you?
Caydee: We had never even met David before and within a day we felt like we had known him for years. He has this amazing ability to make a skater comfortable in an area in which a lot of skaters are not willing to come out of their creative shell. David has this way of listening and understanding our personalities and capabilities of what and where we can be as skaters.
Which skaters do you admire and why?
Jeremy: One skater that I always enjoyed watching compete and then in shows, I now have as a coach, so I feel very lucky.
Caydee: Tara Lipinski because I admire her work ethic and drive. Also, Olympic champions Shen and Zhao -- I admire their passion and joy for skating that shines through when they skate!
Do you feel you bring different perspectives on skating because there is an almost 10 year age difference?
Caydee: Yes definitely, I bring light, fun and character to the table and Jeremy brings focus and strength. Together though, we have the same drive, dedication and desire to compete!
What was your favorite memory from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics?
Jeremy: My favorite moment was right before we skated our short program they called our names and I heard a lot of people in the crowd chanting "USA!" At that moment, all my nerves went away and I enjoyed the moment.
Caydee: Definitely gliding over the Olympic rings on our first practice and also the Opening Ceremonies and listening to K.D. Lang sing "Hallelujah."
Caydee, your official website states that "After graduating from high school and college, and finishing her skating career, she would like to become a dental hygienist." Is that still your goal?
Caydee: It is still a goal; however, since touring with Stars on Ice and competing at the Olympics and two World championships and doing so many interviews for the media, I have also become interested in broadcasting and would maybe like to pursue a career in the communication field.
At age 9, you were the national juvenile roller singles champion and it seems to me that a lot of roller skaters cross over into figure skating. Why do you think that is? And do you miss roller skating and THAT world which I imagine is a very tight-knit circle, tighter than the figure skating world?
Caydee: Roller skating is not an Olympic sport, although I think it should be. I think that a lot of roller skaters cross over because they see the dream of the Olympics and know that it is unattainable in roller skating. I absolutely miss roller skating! I grew up on roller skates and my "roller family" has been so supportive of my figure skating. I still go to some of the roller competitions to support my friends and they come and support me. I love roller reunion gatherings too -- we have soooo much fun together!
How are roller skating and figure skating similar and how are they different?
Caydee: They are similar in that all the jumps are the same in the air. In roller, there's also single skating, dance skating, pair skating and they still do figures. There is a national championship and then it ends at the world championships. It's different in terms of pair lifts -- Pair lifts on roller skates are more advanced and complicated because they are allowed to do so many more turns and change of positions. It's also different because you are dealing with two completely different surfaces -- frozen water and hard wood.
What advice would you guys give to young girls and boys out there who are aspiring Olympians and National champions just like you?Caydee and Jeremy: Just to work hard and keep your heart in it. Most of all -- enjoy the process of skating whether there are rewards or not because it is the journey that is most important! (photo above right, Caydee and Jeremy grace the cover of SKATING magazine published by U.S. Figure Skating)