Cain and LeDuc find perfect timing on and off the ice

If you’ve followed pairs skating over the last few years, you’re familiar with the names Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc.  Both have been missing from the pairs circuit for a while, but a chance phone call have brought these two to their first nationals together as a team.

Cain is an experienced singles skater, competing on the Grand Prix in senior ladies and winning a silver medal in the junior level at Nationals.  She is also a former US Junior Pairs Champion, finishing as high as 4th at Junior Worlds and competed on the Grand Prix.  LeDuc is a bronze medal winner in the junior level at Nationals in pairs and competed in the senior level until 2014.

They have some ambitious content for a first year team, including a triple twist in both programs and they have the most difficult side by side jump combination in the pairs event with a double axel + single loop + triple salchow.

They competed three times on the Challenger Series circuit and even took home the bronze medal from Golden Spin.  They’ve beaten out some tough competition, including 2015 US Silver Medalists Denney and Frazier at Golden Spin and 2016 US Champions Kayne and O’Shea at Finlandia Trophy.  They are in the conversation for the podium at Kansas City and could even be considered a dark horse to win it all.

How did you two pair up this season?

LeDuc (TL): I spent the last two years performing in ice shows aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships, and after my contract finished in March I decided to return to competitive skating.  I contacted Mitch Moyer (USFSA High Performance Director) and he suggested that I tryout with Ashley.

Cain (AC): I received a call from Mitch Moyer while I was on the ice training one day.  He said that Timothy was coming back to competitive skating and he felt that we would be a good match.  After that everything happened so quickly and by the next week Timothy had moved to Dallas and we got to work.

Ashley—in 2013 you were focusing on your singles career but said that you hadn’t ruled out competing in pairs in the future.  What made you decide that now was the time to return to pairs?

AC: Many people thought that when Josh [Reagan] and I split up, it was because I was going to focus on my singles career. This was not the case, and when we split I felt a little lost.  I relied on myself and focused on my singles career.  I missed pairs but I was becoming a successful singles skater nationally and internationally. When I got the call from Mitch it was completely unexpected and I knew it would be a big commitment and decision in my career.  I was also unsure if my body could do it but the thought of doing pairs again sparked a huge excitement in me.  I feel like Timothy came into my life at the perfect time.  We both have the same goals and we enjoy what we are doing.

Timothy—you haven’t competed at nationals since 2014 and have been involved in show skating.  What made you decide you wanted to compete again?

TL: Good question.  After the 2014 season, I was pretty burned out and lacking the necessary funds to continue training.  I still loved skating though and found a way to save up money for training while still doing what I loved.  Show skating is so much fun and I think every skater should pursue it at some point in their career.  I had a blast on ships and now I’m very happy to be competing again with Ashley.

How would you describe yourselves as a team?

Though it’s our first year, we are trying to make our mark in American pairs by using our height and long lines to set us apart. We are also pushing ourselves technically by trying harder side-by-side jumps. 

Tell me about yourselves outside of skating.

TL: I’m still adjusting to my new life on land and in Texas, so I mostly just skate and coach right now. 

AC: Because we are gearing up for Nationals, all of my time has been dedicated to the ice, off ice training, and my off ice recovery.  After skating I coach for about 2 hours every other day.  When I have more free time I like to go out to my boyfriend’s ranch and ride dirt bikes, horses, four wheelers, and just relax. I like to go hiking, watch Netflix, cook, and play with my puppy.

Tell me about your programs this season.

Both of our programs were choreographed by Serge Onik, from Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  Our short program was designed to showcase our sassy and fierce side while our free skate is a display of our lyrical and effervescent style.

What is the most difficult element for you in your programs? What is your favorite element to complete?

Our most challenging element comes at the beginning of our programs: the triple twist.  It is a new element for us and we have been working hard on it.  It’s an element that we feel will improve a lot in the off season but right now we our increasing the consistency of it in the program and working on a cleaner catch.  Our favorite element is the footwork in our short program because we can let loose and be as fierce as we want.

You both have competed at nationals as singles skaters and medaled in pairs with previous partners.  Do you think that experience helps you headed in to nationals even though you’re a new team?

This is only our sixth competition and our sixth month together so we are keeping in mind that we are a very new team.  Synergy is such an important part of pair skating and we’ve been fortunate to develop a great deal of it in a short amount of time, and I think our prior experiences have assisted with that greatly.

You had the chance to compete at three Challenger Series events this year, and won the bronze medal at Golden Spin.  How did your partnership and programs grow through those three events?

Each competition bears a chance to gain experience as a team, and we took our experiences each time we competed to help us do better the next time.  We learned how to compete together quickly because we had so many competitions so early in our partnership.  We also put new elements out every competition so we constantly had a new trick to focus on.  A new partnership has so many challenges to work out that you have to triage the workload, but at each competition our speed, consistency, relation to each other and endurance improved.

Were you surprised at how successful you’ve been as a team given that your partnership is still so new?

We have many years of prior pair experience between us so we haven’t been surprised that our skating has come along as quickly as it has.  We have been very pleased and grateful with the number of international competitions that USFS has given us this season.

Have you made any changes to your programs for nationals?

We plan to attempt the same technical elements as we did in The Golden Spin of Zagreb, however we’ve made tweaks to our choreography to better display our strengths and our relation to each other.

What are your goals for nationals? For next season?

We’ve made great strides forward at each competition this season so we would like to continue that trend. We are keeping our focus on ourselves and our own personal goals as a team without too much focus on results.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

We have a really great team of skaters to train with in Texas.  We train with Alex Krasnozhon (junior men’s), Amber Glenn (senior ladies) and Brooklee Han (senior ladies, Australia).  We have a great vibe in our rink, everyone is really positive and makes a great effort to support and push each other.  It has really helped all of us progress quickly because we are all so supportive.  We also have a great team of coaches: Peter and Darlene Cain, Pierre Panayi (stroking), Serge Onik (choreographer), Michael Leeke (video analysis), Denyse Frey (costume designer), and Carly and Eric Pierce (our PTs).