- Figure Skating
Denney/Coughlin overcome an injury together
Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were at the top of the American pairs scene in figure skating nearly two years ago, winning the 2012 U.S. Championships. But a hip injury derailed them later that year, Coughlin having surgery and the two sitting out Nationals and Worlds in 2013. Can they reclaim their national crown and earn a trip to Sochi? Here they talk about that and more in an exclusive interview.
NBC Olympics: John, you were injured in 2012 and decided to have surgery, foregoing Nationals and Worlds. What was that whole process like?
John Coughlin: We were tearing through our season with medals at both of the Grand Prix events – alternates for the Grand Prix Final and really had all the momentum in the world. As we were training full run-throughs I noticed a little bit of discomfort, so over the weekend we went the Olympic training center and they thankfully it diagnosed correctly [a torn labrum] and quickly. I had surgery at the Steadman Clinic in Vail that same day, so it was kind of a whirlwind process. It took us from having designs of going back and and keeping our national title and going and doing even better at Worlds, to asking ourselves, ‘Why are we really skating?’ We realized that we want to go to the Oympics together, so took care of the injury then so we could go full steam ahead for the Olympic year.
NBC Olympics: That must have been such a hard decision for you to make as a team – skipping Nationals and Worlds after having done so well.
Caydee Denney: It was the best thing was for [John’s] health and in the long run, us making the Olympic team is our ultimate goal. And for us to be able to do that we thought that it was the best decision to take care of it then.
NBC Olympics: Caydee, you were an Olympian in 2010 with a different partner. How did you and John end up skating together?
Denney: Yeah, my partner [Jeremy Barrett] retired. My little sister, Haven was already skating out in Colorado [with partner Brandon Frazier], and I was there just training singles and everything and just trying to keep myself going for one day eventually finding a partner.
Coughlin: At that point I was still training and competing the rest of the season with Caitlin [Yankowska], but in the back of my mind wasn't sure that I wanted to skate at all. That was weighing on my mind heavily and as soon as the season was over I was ready to step away. I was asking my coach if I could potentially be on her coaching staff. At that point, Caydee and I were kind of both of milling around the rink skating as single skaters. And it just kind of went from, ‘Hey, let's just skate around together for fun’ to growing into this blessing of a partnership that we have.
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NBC Olympics: Caydee you were in Vancouver in 2010, but John you weren’t. What would making the U.S. team as a pair mean to you?
Denney: It would mean the world to both of us. Being able to go and represent Team USA together and then with your entire team is incredible. It's so inspiring and you know it's such a special moment. It's the Olympics. It's what we've been looking forward to our whole lives. And to be able to do that together and to be able to experience that again with John is very motivating.
NBC Olympics: What’s that moment at center ice like when your name has been called and you’re about to perform for an arena?
Denney: It’s hard to explain in words. It's a very deep feeling that we have, but we're just really so excited to start and get to that moment of skating. It's a very exciting feeling.
Coughlin: I feel like right before the music starts, you kind of slip back into your everyday training. And at that point you're hearing your coaches’ voices, all of the little technical cues that you've heard along the way. Even though they're not actually there, you hear them in your head because it's just part of your muscle memory. You almost don't see the crowd.
NBC Olympics: And then there’s the Kiss and Cry area where you receive your scores. You can’t help but notice the crowd there, right?
Coughlin: I think it's one of the many things that makes skating unique. You're sitting there facing the proverbial firing squad, waiting for your marks. And…
Denney: Waiting! [Laughs]
Coughlin: It's like a mini Academy Awards acceptance speech. You sit there and in five seconds you want to think of every person that's ever helped you along the way. So it's kind of fun. It's a chance when we all just get to relax because the work is done and you get to sit back and enjoy it.
NBC Olympics: What do you do with all those stuffed animals and items that get thrown on the ice after you skate? It can be overwhelming at times, it seems.
Denney: It depends on the stuffed animal. [Laughs] Sometimes…
Coughlin: We pick our favorites and take 'em home. And if there are some that you can't take home, one of the best things you can do is donate them to a local children's hospital. So we'll send a lot of our stuffed animals that way.
NBC Olympics: But do you keep any of them in particular?
Denney: Well, I'm a kid at heart. I love animated movies. I love all kinds of Disney characters, and so for me my favorite animated movies are “The Lion King” and “Finding Nemo.” So now people know that about me, and they always throw me out those characters. So…
Coughlin: She has like the whole cast.
Denney: Now I have a collection and maybe one day it'll be worth a lot. [Laughs]
Coughlin: Collectors' edition!
Denney: I have six Simbas! [Laughs]
NBC Olympics: Lastly, there’s a team event at the Olympics for figure skating for the first time. What are your thoughts on pontentially being a part of that?
Coughlin: We're well aware of the team event. It's something that's been circled on all of our schedules since they unveiled it. It's something that we've always envied in gymnastics. You know they have the Olympics individual champion, but then you see the team gold medal. From an athlete perspective, it's another chance to win a medal and be part of a team, which is why Caydee and I enjoy being pair skaters. So to think that, you know, on top of the feeling of having the United States behind you at the Olympic Games, but actually having all of your teammates, even some that you might think of as competitors at the Olympics, all rooting for the same goal is just something that we can't even imagine. We're excited to hopefully be part of it.
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