ELLENTON — Tarah Kayne made several trips around the ice before landing her perfect match.
Every time she skated with someone new, Kayne had the same gut reaction, the chemistry wasn’t there. Something was missing.
One partner was too short. Another was too tall. A third lacked style.
She was running out of options in 2011 and even she toyed with the idea of turning to icepartnersearch.com. Then Kayne took the ice with fellow Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex skater Danny O’Shea.
The two hadn’t skated together, but it didn’t take Kayne long to realize they were meant to be together.
In the chilly confines of the ice rink, Kayne’s search had come to an end. She had found her perfect partner on the ice. They began competing together in 2012.
“When you’re looking for a partner, it’s really similar to dating,” Kayne said. “It’s like when you go on a first date with someone and it doesn’t work out for different reasons.
"You have to be matched together on so many different levels and get along. With Danny, it just felt so natural that we ended up skating together.”
“It’s definitely a different process,” O’Shea said. “If it’s not the right match, then it just ends up looking awkward.”
After both spent more than a decade skating individually, Kayne and O’Shea decided that pairs skating offered them an opportunity to explore new elements and soar to new heights. They began training together and haven’t looked back.
“It’s by far the most dangerous, the most acrobatic and the most exciting (form of skating),” Kayne said. “It’s somewhat similar to Cirque du Soleil. There are so many different elements that you don’t ever get bored.”
“There’s more of a theatrical element to pairs skating,” he said. “You always have someone to play off. You’re never alone. It’s nice to always have someone there and to be able to travel the world with your best friend.”
Now in their fourth season skating together, Kayne and O’Shea are preparing to take the ice in their first Grand Prix event. They will represent the United States at the 2015 Hilton HHonors Skate America Oct. 23 through Oct. 25, in Milwaukee, Wisc.
Kayne and O’Shea were selected for the competition based on their national and international rankings. The pair will compete in a second Grand Prix event, the Rostelecom Cup Nov. 20 through Nov. 22, in Moscow, Russia.
Skate America will mark their second competition of the season. The two Southwest Florida Figure Skating Club skaters opened the 2015 competitive season with a gold medal at the 2015 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic Sept. 16 through Sept. 20, in Salt Lake City, marking the first time they won an international competition.
“It was definitely great to be atop the podium and to hear the National Anthem playing,” O’Shea said. “We’re completely happy with the outcome, but we want to have more performances like that one. It was a good beginning for us.
“With the new judging system, there’s no such thing as perfect,” O’Shea said. “You can always improve and get a higher score.”
With a combined 36 years of skating experience, Kayne, 22, and O’Shea, 24, know what it takes to compete at a high level. The pair won a bronze medal at the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships last January, six months after Kayne underwent right hip surgery.
It was a fitting moment for the pair, who had only skated in one international event after having to withdraw from both of their Grand Prix events due to Kayne’s rehabilitation.
“We put so much time and effort into the final product, so I think if you didn’t get nervous then you must not care about what you’re doing,” Kayne said.
Kayne and O’Shea are fortunate to live in an area with tremendous coaching and skating talent. Ellenton has become one of the largest training centers for pairs figure skating in the country.
“They get the hard work and dedication that goes into being a skater,” O’Shea said. “It’s not just something you do. It’s your lifestyle. So it’s nice to have people around you that really understand.”
Following their two Grand Prix events, Kayne and O’Shea will compete in their second Challenger Series event in December in Croatia, before preparing for the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January. A solid performance there and they could be on their way to making the U.S. Olympic team.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].