Castile & Okolski surprise winners of U.S. Pairs title - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

Castile & Okolski surprise winners of U.S. Pairs title

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SPOKANE, Wash. - Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski upset reigning U.S. champions Rena Inoue  & John Baldwin to win the U.S. pairs title at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Brooke Castile (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.) & Ben Okolski (Ann Arbor, Mich.) arrived in Spokane, Wash., earlier this week without much notoriety. The Michigan-based pairs team finished eighth last year at the U.S. Championships in St. Louis and placed second in their qualifying sectional for this year's event.

Defending champions Rena Inoue (Santa Monica, Calif.) & John Baldwin (Santa Monica, Calif.) had understandably grabbed all the pre-event press. But when it was over, it was Castile, 20, and Okolski, 22, standing on top of the podium. Their flawless free skate to the "Requeim for a Dream" soundtrack vaulted them from third after the short program to first place.

The champions set the tone early in their free skate by nailing their throw triple twist. They received bonus points for their throw triple loops and double Axels. The only negative grade of execution came on their level four combination spin.

"It was everything we wanted to do today, and we skated nice and strong," Castile said. "It felt great to skate like that at nationals. It's like my dream; it felt really good."

Inoue, 30, and Baldwin, 33, each had a fall in their free skate - Inoue on the throw triple Axel and Baldwin on the side-by-side triple toe loops. Leaders after the short program, they finished second. Their silver medal marks their fifth at the U.S. Championships (2003: third, 2004: first, 2005: second, 2006: first, 2007: second).

After Inoue and Baldwin skated, the door was left open for Naomi Nari Nam (Irvine, Calif.) & Themi Leftheris (Long Beach, Calif.), and their free skate to the music "Caravan." They busted out by landing their triple toe-triple toe sequence and triple twist. But moments later Nam fell on their throw triple Salchow and throw triple loop. They earned the bronze medal in their second year as a team.

Castile & Okolski and Inoue & Baldwin will represent the United States at the World Figure Skating Championships in March in Tokyo, Japan.



Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski



Rena Inoue & John Baldwin



Naomi Nari Nam & Themi Leftheris