When Rena Inoue and John Baldwin of Santa Monica finished their free skate Friday, Baldwin was sure they had squandered their chance to win the U.S. pairs title or a berth at the World Championships in March.
Baldwin, who has competed at every U.S. championship since 1986, doubled a triple jump, fell on another jump and watched in horror as Inoue fell on the landing of a throw triple salchow. “I felt like quitting after I skated tonight,” he said, “so it was bittersweet after we ended up winning.”
Inoue and Baldwin prevailed only because their performance was far from the worst. Defending champions Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn of Newark, Del., leaders after the short program, had a meltdown that included two falls by him and a botched lift in which she plopped on his shoulder.
Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash of Granby, Conn., remained upright but could only move to second after Inoue and Baldwin won the long program, worth two-thirds of the total. Scott and Dulebohn finished third.
“Rena skated fantastic and she deserved to win,” Baldwin said. “I don’t want to take anything away from her.”
Jill Watson, who coaches Inoue and Baldwin, attributed their woes to nerves. “They can do what any team in the world can do,” said Watson, inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame afterward with Peter Oppegard, with whom she won a pairs bronze medal at the Calgary Olympics. “We’re going to go back and work hard for worlds and get them to the mental state where they can do in competition what they do in practice.”