The U. S. pairs team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir are just starting to make their mark in skating. This season, they were the top-ranked U. S. junior pair during the Junior Grand Prix Season.
Castelli, who was born on the same day as Shnapir, is now 18. She began skating at the age of three. "My Mom coaches ladies," she said. "She would take me to the rink to skate around and I thought it was fun."
She reached the Eastern Sectionals in novice ladies in 2007, but gave up singles skating after she started pairs. Castelli had just landed her first double Axel and triple Salchow that year. "I may try singles again next year," she said, "but if there's too much pressure, I'll just do pairs."
Shnapir began skating when he was six, so even though he is three years older, they both have the same years of experience. He was born in Russia, but his family emigrated to the United States when he was only 16 months old. Although his parents enjoyed watching skating, they were not competitive skaters themselves. But his mother skated recreationally.
"They said I picked skating, but I think they pushed me into it," he said, "but I'm glad." He landed his first double Axel at 17 and his first triple Salchow at 18, but never reached past the Regional level in novice. He quit in 2003.
Shnapir is the more experienced in pairs, having started seven years ago. "A lot of it had to to do with my coach, who was a pairs skater," Shnapir said. "I also have the height for it. I tried it and like it, then did both for a while and transitioned over into only pairs."
He previously partnered Tanya Aziz, placing tenth in juvenile pairs in 2003 and ninth in intermediate pairs in 2004 at Junior Nationals. He next competed with Courtney Gill, finishing fifth in intermediate pairs at Junior Nationals in 2005 and tenth in novice pairs at Easterns in 2006. "We only made it to Sectionals in novice and then broke up," he added.
"I fooled around for a few months and then had my coach contact Marissa's coach," Shnapir stated. "We had competed against each other at Junior Nationals and I knew of her skating."
"I was trying to focus on my singles career and didn't want to do pairs," she said. "It was scary, but I thought I'd give it a try because there's no Regionals and you can go straight to Easterns."