After year off, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier win U.S. Figure Skating pairs

Haven Denney (left) and Brandon Frazier won the U.S. Figure Skating pairs competition on Saturday at the Sprint Center.
Haven Denney (left) and Brandon Frazier won the U.S. Figure Skating pairs competition on Saturday at the Sprint Center. jledford@kcstar.com

From inside their dorm rooms at the Olympic training center, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier watched last season’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships on TV — an activity Frazier later called “tough to swallow.”

But it made their return to the national finals all the more satisfying.

After sitting out the 2015-16 season following Denney’s knee surgery, Denney and Frazier overcame a couple of errors to win the U.S. Figure Skating pairs competition on Saturday at the Sprint Center.

Afterward, Frazier summed up their gold medal with two words: “We’re back.”

He added, “This whole season has been a comeback season, and we’re just getting our feet warmed up again.”

Frazier and Denney compiled 188.32 points, more than 23 points fewer than last year’s champions, Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, who withdrew from the long program Saturday after Kayne suffered a concussion in her short-program fall Thursday.

Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran took silver on Saturday, totaling a score of 186.28. Timothy LeDuc and Ashley Cain, who led following the short program, placed third for the bronze after a late fall during their skate on Saturday.

That left open the opportunity for Denney and Frazier, the final pair to take the ice. Their skate to “Somewhere in Time” included a few missteps, but they each stayed on their feet, which proved enough for the narrow win.

“Things felt a little like we had to fight for them,” Denney said. “Sometimes we do elements that are just so easy, so of course you want that perfect performance where it feels like that at nationals. Even though it didn’t feel like that, I’m very happy that we fought through it.”

Ice dance

While the pairs event featured a comeback duo, the ice dance competition saw a repeat.

Siblings Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani won their second straight gold medal in the championship ice dance.

Their score of 200.05 points was nearly 10 points better than their winning total in 2016, and they needed every bit of it. Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the final duo of the event, took second with an overall score of 199.04.

“Because we’ve put so much of ourselves, our thoughts and our creativity into this program, we’ve really done a great job,” Alex said.

The Shibutani siblings put together a record-breaking performance in the short dance Friday and fell only 0.14 points shy of turning that into an overall record score a day later.

In other words: More of the same for a duo that has been gathering momentum over the past 13 months. After winning their first U.S. title last year, they took silver at the World Championships.

And then another national title Saturday.

“We’ve built so much confidence since a year ago when we won our first U.S. title,” Maia said. “So really for us, we feel that improvement and that growth.”