It was noon on Friday at Cabin John Ice Rink and Quinn Carpenter and Lorraine McNamara skated in the Olympic rink, nearly alone aside from their coach, Alexei Kiliakov, and a handful of other skaters.
The pair ran through their short-dance routine, gliding to a bluesy-hip-hop song, sometimes making it through the entire routine, other times stopping midway through to chat with Kiliakov before running through small portions.
They’ve gone through this routine countless times — dancing the steps in competitions as far away as Courchevel, France, and Istanbul, Turkey — but in their last week of training before the most important competition of their young careers, they’ll go through it ad nauseam.
On Feb. 23, Carpenter, 16, and McNamara, 14, will travel to Milan, Italy, to compete for Team USA in the World Junior Figure Skating Championships.
“I cannot tell you how excited I am,” Carpenter said. “It’s amazing. We’re so fortunate to qualify for junior worlds when it’s being held at this amazing location. We’re really pumped for it.”
To qualify for the world championships, Carpenter, of Wheaton, and McNamara, of Germantown, finished in third place at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating championships. They scored a 149.25, combined from their short dance and free dance programs, which placed them .49 behind second place.
Last year, they also finished in third place, but McNamara, who was 12 during the competition, was too young to advance to the World Championships.
“We knew ahead of time that would be the case so it wasn’t a huge disappointment,” Carpenter said. “It was a bummer, but at the same time it gave us more time to train and prepare for this season and gain experience. I think if we had gone, we might have pushed ourselves into the international scheme a little too early.”
This is the seventh season Carpenter and McNamara have been together. They train on the ice six days a week in two two-hour sessions, one before McNamara, an eighth grader, goes to school at St. Martin of Tours, and the second is after school. Carpenter is home-schooled. They also take ballet and ballroom dance lessons, weight train and do cardio workouts.
During their short dance program, which has a zombie theme, Carpenter and McNamara have to take care with every detail of the routine — making sure their blades are angled in the same direction, that they come out of their spins at the same time, and that they stay as close to each other as possible. While the short dance is more carefree and fun, their free skate program, which has a Romeo and Juliet theme, is more passionate.
“It’s good to exercise our expression and to have different places we can explore,” McNamara said. “I love being able to act. It’s a challenge to go from being goofy to being completely caring and full of love.”
During both programs, Carpenter performs a lift with McNamara in which she wraps her left leg around his neck, her other leg stiff and straight, and Carpenter spins rapidly in a circle six times.
They perform another lift in the free dance where McNamara flips upside down, lays on Carpenter’s back — nearly vertical — while Carpenter glides on the ice. Carpenter then flips McNamara to where he is raising her above his left shoulder for a couple seconds before lowering her to the ice.
“You have to trust each other,” McNamara said. “We’ve been doing that since such a young age that people will come in and say, ‘Woah, how can you do that? How can you trust yourself?’ It’s just natural. I like it a lot.”
Carpenter, who turns 17 Saturday when they leave for Milan, and McNamara aren’t concentrated on where they finish at worlds. They are focused on turning in two clean and strong performances. If that happens, they’ll leave happy.
This is an important step in their careers. They’ll be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, pair competing. At the junior level, boys can compete until they are 22 and girls can until they are 20. With so much time left to develop, Kiliakov believes bigger competitions are in their future.
“I think they will [shock] the world,” Kiliakov said. “They will probably be the youngest at junior worlds and I think they will be the best. Maybe not first year, but they will show that they have a lot of potential and that they are very good.
“I believe in them. I think they will have [a] good future. Maybe next Olympics — not 2014, but 2018 — they can try to be there.”