Sunday, August 23, 2009

Castile, Okolski come out on top at Indy

Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski marked themselves as contenders this Olympic season, surging into the U.S. pair mix with a commanding win in the Indy Challenge free skate.

With past injury troubles seemingly behind them, the Michigan duo topped a strong field by more than four points.

"We're pretty pleased," Okolski said. "Our goal was to get in and out with solid skates and try to make all of our steadier elements -- the death spirals, combination spin and [side-by-side] spins -- really strong."

The 24-year-old skater said being healthy makes all the difference.

"It's been really good," he said. "We're practicing very well, very consistent. We know how to train hard. It's training hard without an injury that has been a challenge the last few seasons. We're taking forward steps, not backward steps."

The 2007 U.S. champions, who placed fifth at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, are known for strong pair elements and fine choreography, but they often have trouble with side-by-side jumps.

In their free program at Indy, choreographed by Marina Zoueva last season to Debussy's "Clair de Lune," they received credit for rotating their opening triple Salchows, although Castile turned out of the landing.

"We got around on the Salchows, but, if you make any mistake, you're easily down one or two points," Okolski said. "Still, we're happy with them. In the short program, they were [under-rotated], and we only got .5."

Other moves -- including a soaring triple twist, three Level 4 lifts and a throw triple flip after the halfway mark -- were exceptional. Although the skaters faltered slightly on a single Axel-double toe sequence, they finished with a strong combination spin and ended with 116.86 points overall.

Castile and Okolski, who train under Johnny Johns in Canton, Mich., appear to have achieved their main goal of the summer: to impress U.S. Figure Skating officials enough grab an international assignment, perhaps a slot at Skate America in Lake Placid this fall.

Full article.

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