By Sarah S. Brannen


The pair team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, while not quite Boston born-and-bred, are about as local as they could be. Shnapir was born in Moscow, Russia, but he moved to Massachusetts with his parents when he was only a year-and-a-half old, and he spent most of his life in the Boston suburb of Sudbury. Castelli was born and raised in Rhode Island; she now lives in an apartment near The Skating Club of Boston.

They have a striking look on the ice, partly due to the difference in their heights. Castelli is a petite five feet, while the six feet-four inch Shnapir is one of the tallest men in skating. Their height difference allows the team to do spectacular lifts as well as huge throw jumps. In addition, the two are hard-working and diligent about their training. They have been moving steadily towards their goal of winning the U.S. title and competing at the world championships.

“This season we’ve taken all the right steps to getting back together as strong as we can be, stronger than ever,” Shnapir said on a recent morning at The Skating Club of Boston.

“Overall we’re very happy how our hard work this season has paid off for us,” said Castelli. “That’s one thing we can truly say, that we’ve worked the most that we’ve ever worked before.”

“Our preparation and our training has been so much more intense, and it’s really paying off,” added Shnapir.

The two skaters teamed up in the spring of 2006; as a pair, they have always been coached by Bobby Martin and Carrie Wall. They were the U.S. novice and junior bronze medalists, and the 2009 world junior pair bronze medalists. They have competed on the Grand Prix series for three seasons, and they won their first Grand Prix medal, bronze at the NHK Trophy, last fall. They won the gold medal at Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria in November.

Castelli and Shnapir do some of the most difficult elements in pair skating. They have often included a throw triple Axel in their programs, and last spring they started landing a throw quadruple Salchow in practice. Although they don’t plan either element in Omaha this month, they say they hope to add at least one of the highly difficult throws in the near future.

While their technical accomplishments have always been their strength, Castelli and Shnapir have been looking to improve their component scores. This season, they have started working with Julie Marcotte in Montreal, making several trips north for choreography and touch-ups. Marcotte chose their music and choreographed their short, long and show programs. They are skating to ‘Stray Cat Strut’ and ‘The Pink Panther’ for their short program, and ‘Payadora’ for their long. Their new exhibition program is to ‘It’s a Man’s World.’

“The music was very, very different from anything we had done,” Shnapir said. “I can’t really speak for both of us but I think we both feel like this is pretty great.”

Along with the thriving pair program at The Skating Club of Boston, which includes 2012 U.S. fourth-place finishers Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff, and 2012 U.S. novice bronze medalists Alexandria Shaughnessy and Jimmy Morgan, Castelli and Shnapir say they enjoy skating on the same ice with the strong singles skaters at The Skating Club of Boston.

Ice Chips“We have Ross Miner, Harrison Choate, Stephen Carriere and Christina Gao to push us,” Castelli said. “We definitely are a good team here, we work hard together. We all truly wish each other the best, and we all truly encourage each other. Without that daily support I don’t think we all could do it.”

Although they are in the new position, for them, of being the favorites to win the title this month in Omaha, Castelli and Shnapir say they are approaching the U.S. Championships as just another competition.

“We’re just going to do what we’ve been doing,” said Castelli.

“One thing that we’ve really committed to this season is approaching every competition like it’s just another competition,” added Shnapir. “We have to continue to look at it that way. We just do what we do every day in practice, train hard, and then we go out and showcase what we have.”

Looking ahead to the 2014 U.S. Championships, the pair is thrilled that they will have the chance to perform in front of a home crowd.

“I don’t think we ever had a home competition that large,” said Castelli. “It’s going to be very energetic, and helpful for us to have a bunch of our close family and friends in the stands, and the students, and people from the Club just coming to watch us skate. I think we can definitely feed off of that energy.”

“I agree,” Shnapir said. “I don’t want to use the term ‘home ice advantage,’ but that definitely can help with the energy and the emotion. It’s exciting to think about, but we still have to go to Omaha, and right now that’s our focus.”

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” said Castelli.

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