U.S. bronze medalists reveal new SP music; discuss plans for upcoming season
In mid-2014, Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran joined forces to start a new pairs partnership. Both had been very successful with previous partners—Marissa won Olympic team bronze in 2014 and Mervin won World bronze in 2012. However, both felt they still had more to accomplish in the sport. Last year was Castelli/Tran’s first full competitive season together. They had some ups and downs, but won the bronze medal at U.S. Nationals and silver at U.S. International Classic.
Recently, I spoke with Marissa & Mervin on the phone. The U.S. bronze medalists shared their thoughts on last season, their impressions from Boston Worlds, their plans for the upcoming season (including their new short program music!), their perspective on competing in the Olympics, and much more! Not only that, we discussed Marissa’s costumes and Mervin’s quirky sense of humor. 🙂
Marissa & Mervin are charming, friendly, and so fun to chat with. I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I did!
Q: I wanted to ask how you both got started in skating. Marissa, I know you started when you were 3. How old were you when you first thought about trying pairs?
Marissa: When I first tried pairs, I was probably 14. I skated with Brad Vigorito for a little bit. That’s when I got started.
Q: Did you like pairs skating right away?
Marissa: I actually didn’t like it at first. I really was into jumping, into competing, into doing my own thing on the ice. It was sort of weird to always have to skate with someone else at first. Then I got used to it.
Q: And Mervin, how old were you when you first started thinking about pairs?
Mervin: I was 17. I got a phone call to try pairs. I first said no. (Laughs) They kept calling me–I got asked several times. So I decided to just try it, what the heck. And May 1, 2007, was when I decided to do pairs. After the tryout [with Narumi Takahashi, former partner].
Q: Was it a big learning curve when you first got started—learning lifts, throws, everything?
Mervin: Yes. As far as pairs elements, everything was brand-new for me. After a week of skating pairs on the tryout with Narumi, I thought, “Oh, I actually really enjoy this, I’m glad I went through with it.” But every year was new. Because in the short program, you had to do certain elements. And you’d kind of do the same [elements] in the free program. But then the next year, you’d have to do new elements [in the SP] and it was like–”Oh, I have to learn this one.” So it just seemed different every year.
Q: Both of you started pairs around the same time. Did you know each other back then?
Mervin: The first international competition both of us ever did, we competed against each other.
Q: So did it feel strange when you decided to try out together years later?
Mervin: Back when we were competing against each other, the thought never crossed our minds. Then, when we broke up with our partners at the same time, I don’t think we were even each other’s first thought. Then we had a tryout. We knew that sitting out a year and all that–it was going to be complicated. But after we had the tryout, we realized that this was a good fit. We enjoyed skating with each other.
Q: How did you guys know this was the right pair for both of you? Was it skill level, or chemistry?
Mervin: I knew, just holding her hand. (Laughs) I had several tryouts. And with Marissa, it just felt the most natural. Our connection–it just worked out. All the other tryouts I did–we did this, we did that, [but] it wasn’t as easy, we had to work harder at it. [Marissa] took from Bruno [Marcotte, Mervin’s coach] before, so our techniques just lined up better. But also just our skating. All the coaches were like: “Yeah!” So we were all on board.
Marissa: It was funny. Our choreographer [Julie Marcotte] decided to pick our music for our short program while we were having our tryout. She put in the music, and she said, “Oh by the way, I don’t even know if you guys are skating together, but I chose your short program music.”
Q: And did you stick with that short program music?
Marissa: That was the short program we used the last two years, to “Summertime.”
Q: So Julie was there for your initial tryouts?
Marissa: Yes, Julie was there for our second tryout, I think. I came up to Montreal with my mom to skate with Mervin.
Q: So you guys decided to pair up. You had kind of a half-season your first year together, since you couldn’t compete internationally. And then last year, you had your first full season together, where you competed in all the international events. Now that your first full season is behind you, how would you assess it, looking back? Were you guys happy with the season overall? Any high points/low points?
Mervin: We felt like we could do more. But, as we look back on the season … Every competition that we finished, that we look back on … Overall, it felt better than the last competition. And it just kept on getting better and better. Not necessarily that our performances were better, but we felt happy with where we were on our path, in training. It felt like we were reaching new milestones every time we went out and competed. Of course, we probably could have done more. But overall, we’re pretty happy with the direction that we’re headed.
Marissa: Yes. It was an obviously up-and-down season. It was longer than we expected, because because we ended up with 5 international competitions in the fall. We did a lot of competitions, which I think kind of made up for the year before. What was really exciting about our season was that we kept on showing the potential of being the best we can. We just haven’t harnessed it yet. And that’s something we’re going to work on this year, is really harnessing [that], and having those great performances and those clean skates to bring people on their feet.
Q: Were there any standout performances from the year?
Marissa: For me, by far the one performance that stood out for me and gave me hope was our long program at Four Continents. That was the first time we actually did everything. Obviously it was not perfect—we had a silly fall on the twist—but that was the first program [where] I felt like I was back and ready to fight for what I want.
Q: After the season ended, you went to Boston Worlds. I know you had hoped to compete there, and it didn’t quite work out. What was it like being there as spectators?
Marissa: You know, it was a little awkward at times. Because people would be like, “Oh, good luck!” And I’d say “Thanks…” Sitting in the stands was very difficult sometimes. But it did put it all in perspective.
We trained [up until Worlds]. We trained with the intention of being among the world’s best, of going to Worlds [if needed, as alternates]. We were training all of our elements every day. Normally in the offseason, if we don’t get to an element during a day, it’s not a big deal. Leading up to Worlds, even though we weren’t going, we did every single element every day, kept the volume up. We kept the training—not intense–but we did everything we could in that day: jumps, throws, twist, lifts. We worked on new [lifts], we tried to be innovative. We really kept up the intensity in our training. And that made me feel good during Worlds. I knew that if I had had to get on that ice in that moment, I could easily skate a long program, no problem.
Q: I missed seeing you guys there. Hopefully next year.
Marissa: Yes, that’s what we’re planning on.
Q: What was it like seeing your training-mates, Duhamel/Radford, have such a fantastic win there? Did you expect them to have that kind of performance, especially in the long program?
Mervin: We always knew they had the potential to do it. Because we see them in practice, and they train like that almost every single day. But unfortunately last year, the season just wasn’t panning out the way they wanted it to. And they made some changes and adjustments, they were always trying to find something. It was great to see it all finally line up and work out for them in Boston at Worlds when they needed it the most, to win that title. Watching them do all of those elements and see them achieve what they were working so hard on, all season long, was amazingly touching. …. We were there every single day when they were training, seeing them get stronger, through ups and downs. To see them [do that] that brings lots of hope. You feel like you’re a part of that team.
Q: And then Sui/Han won silver with some really great performances, especially in the short program. What were your impressions of their performances?
Marissa: Their short program was amazing, hands-down. We love Meagan and Eric, but that short [program] was just phenomenal. They’re two really hard-working [people] …. It’s upsetting to see them not do what we knew they could do [in the LP]. Because they nailed it at Four Continents as well. But I thought it was a very strong pairs competition this year, and it was very exciting to watch. Everyone really did bring their A game.
Q: Savchenko/Massot won bronze in their first competitive season. Was it inspiring to see another new pair make it onto the podium?
Marissa: Yes, seeing Aliona get third was pretty exciting. They have some great elements. She’s one tough cookie—you can never put her down. She’ll do whatever she wants, to win—and she will. She’s a very determined person, and it’s amazing to see her change partners and still keep that same determination. They obviously had citizenship problems as well, and they kept on pushing through, so it’s a great hope for us.
Q: After Worlds, you guys had a new short program choreographed, right? Can you share anything about it? Any tidbits?
Marissa: We have to say that Julie Marcotte is absolutely amazing. She’s been [working] on this for a year now. She told us last year what we were skating to. And I was like, “So, can we start it this year?” And she said, “No, you’re not ready.” So, finally we’re ready. And every time I tell someone what we’re skating to … I had Eric [Radford] listen to the music after I told him, and he’s like, “That’s amazing. I never thought that [could] come from that song.” So I think everybody’s going to be excited by the creativity and the innovation [of] our new short program.
Mervin: We’re skating to “Fallin’”, by Alicia Keys. But it’s really not the version that most people will expect. And so we’re looking forward to performing it for the first time.
Marissa: When you hear it, you’ll understand why we said it’s so innovative.
Q: Is it a live version of the song?
Marissa: It is. But Julie tracked down other pieces of music to go with it. It’s a different style than just the sexy, bluesy part of Alicia Keys. It’s going to be great.
Q: How long have you had the program?
Marissa: We’ve been training it for about 2 weeks now. We’ve just been piecing it together slowly but surely, making sure everything connects well and becomes functional. It’s still in development, but it feels really good.
Q: Rumor has it that you’re keeping last year’s Journey LP.
Marissa: We are. We’re keeping our long program. Mervin and I, and Julie, all felt that our Journey program can be such a crowd-pleaser and a crowd favorite. And we just felt like we never actually performed it the way it should be. We didn’t do justice to the piece yet. And that’s what we want to do this year. We really want to put some time and some more effort in, and we want to make it that great program that everyone will remember.
Q: Are you changing anything within the program, like footwork?
Marissa: We rearranged some of the jumps and the throws. But besides that, it’s pretty much going to stay the same. I can’t guarantee that nothing’s going to happen with Julie down the line. But as of now, it’s going to pretty much stay as it was before.
Q: I’m a fan of your Journey LP. I definitely think it has so much potential to be really crowd-pleasing, like you said.
Marissa: We’re excited to try to hit that this year, to really get people singing along with us. Because at Nationals, it was such an amazing experience. We didn’t skate the best we could, but everyone was singing along, and that was the first time I felt like, “This is amazing!” It was the first time I felt that. And I’d like to feel that again.
Q: Keeping the same long program, are there ever any concerns that you’ll get tired of the music? Just get tired of skating to it?
Mervin: I still hear the songs on the radio, and I love it.
Marissa: I don’t think I could ever actually hate Journey, or “Don’t Stop Believin’”.
It’s just a very motivational piece. We’re dying at the end of our long program, but we’re skating to “Don’t Stop Believin’, so we have to keep on pushing. It’s more of a motivation to help make it through our program. I don’t think we’ve had a [single] bad feeling toward the song yet.
Mervin: We’ll see at the end of next season.
Q: So I wanted to ask you a couple questions about technical stuff. Let’s start off with lifts. Last season, I was impressed by your lifts. Your lift entrances are super-easy and smooth, and you have great speed. What’s been the key for you in being able to develop such good lifts, being still a relatively new pair?
Mervin: We have a great coach, I guess. (Laughs.) Bruno’s like a mad scientist when it comes to these lifts. He sometimes has these crazy ideas. Like, we do a carry lift in our free program. And honestly, at first, when he was explaining it, and we were going for it, I was thinking: “Oh, this is going to be one of those elements that we do and halfway through the season, we’re going to give up and just do something else because it’s easier, and this is too complicated for a level 4.” And then we just kept at it, and kept working on it, and I feel that it’s a very unique lift. Bruno gave us a sense of how it works. And Marissa’s just super well-balanced and acrobatic. So it’s super easy to do these interesting lifts with her. We have the same type of lifts [this season]—the same category–but we’ve amped up the exits and the difficulty.
Marissa: We’ve worked really hard this off-season to polish our lifts and to also add the extra flair on the exits, like Mervin was saying. We have more dance lifts coming out, flips. We have one out of our carry lift. We changed it up–he’s in a spread eagle now, and then I drop down and flip out. We have a bunch of new exits that make the end of the lifts really exciting.
Q: Next season, there’s going to be a group 5 lift in the short program. Are you re-using one of your group 5 lifts from the long program, or are you creating a new one?
Marissa: As of right now, we’re going to use our reverse lasso [lift] from our long program. It’s one of our best lifts. We have really good control and extension on it. And every time we competed it in our LP last year, we always got +2s/+3s. That’s the most you can get, so why not capitalize on it?
Mervin: The reverse lasso lift used to be worth more than the Axel lasso lift. So as we were making up the program, we just decided to put that lift in it, just to give us a little more base value. Then the [new] scale of values came out, and now they just gave more value to the Axel lasso. But for us, we can do [reverse lasso] anyway, it doesn’t take more energy to do it this way, so we’re just going to keep it, because we can. It’s almost easier [for us]. [Whereas] most people consider the Axel an easier lift than the reverse lasso.
Q: Last season, you guys took out the throw triple flip from your long program and put in throw double Axel. What went into that decision?
Marissa: We put the throw triple flip really late in the program last year. And in our mind, in our thought process, [we thought] the throw flip would be more consistent, more second-nature, like my throw triple Salchow. I think we had good intentions, we just put it in the wrong place in the program. So we decided to switch throws. The throw flip just wasn’t consistent. It was late in the program, and I don’t think we did the best job thinking about how tired we would be. Because the throw flip still is pretty new to me, and putting it in the second half of the program wasn’t the best thing for us. So we changed to throw double Axel. Then we decided throw double Axel should go earlier and throw triple Salchow should go later. So that’s why we switched around our throws last season.
Q: Next season, are you going to continue with throw double Axel as your second throw in the program?
Marissa: No. As of right now, we’re planning for throw triple flip again and throw triple Salchow. We reworked our [long] program so [that] throw triple flip is earlier. It’s been very consistent so far. We’re not too worried about it. I think when we do it when we’re not as tired, it will have a better success rate.
Q: Makes sense. When working on throws in training, have you ever done throw triple toe loop?
Marissa: We have not. Throw triple toe loop is kind of a weird throw, because you have to go into it in a certain way. We talked about it. For us, the [best] options were throw triple flip, throw triple Axel, or throw quad Salchow. We’ve done a bunch of throw triple Axels and throw quad Salchows in the harness with Bobby [Martin, former coach]. We’ve done a bunch of throw quad Salchows outside of the harness. They’re just not ready yet. [For a jump] that we can present every time, it’s still throw triple flip right now. So we’re going to go [with it] and hopefully add some more difficulty by the end of the season.
Q: So you guys are working on throw triple Axel and throw quad Salchow, but it’s still in the process.
Marissa: Yes. Those jumps are very high-risk and high-energy elements. At the end of the day, when you finish all your training, you say: Am I okay to do them, or should I not do it, to not injure myself? So I want to be proactive and healthy and get everything we need to get done, before we try the extra tricks we need.
Q: When you look at pairs who have been able to put in those harder elements, usually they’re pairs who have a lot of experience, like Meagan/Eric, and have been together for a while.
Q: What do you guys think about the whole throw quad controversy? Obviously Meagan/Eric have been leading the charge with increasing difficulty in throws. But then you have other people, like Maxim Trankov, who question whether pairs should do quad throws. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Mervin: Limiting the technical difficulty of things is … I don’t think you should try to limit the sport. People are faithfully striving to make the sport better and more difficult. Within reason, of course. But if you can do something consistently, why not go for it? I think when you limit something, you just push the sport back. You can say it’s for safety purposes, but it’s really not. It’s just holding people back at this point, I feel.
Marissa: At this point in the day, in our sport—for example, especially the men—if you don’t have a quad, you’re kind of not in the talking game any more. It’s getting very competitive. We have a lot of new technologies that help people. The number of rotations we do now in a program or in a jump compared to say 10, 15 years ago …. There are jump harnesses off the ice now, so that you can rotate off the ice and learn rotational positions. They didn’t have those back in the day, so of course the sport has gotten more difficult. I do believe that putting a cap on a certain thing—like, say, you can only do 2 quads in the long—I think that’s a decent thing.
But I think, for us, it doesn’t really affect us, because we’re not at that spot where we’re talking about quads yet. We’ve still got to work on other stuff. And we’re going to focus on our own skating for now. We’re going to work on doing some clean skates and getting all our stuff out there. If people want to go try their throw quads, go for it. We’ll skate fast and with clean programs.
Q: You mention consistent programs. Last season, you did have some issues with side-by-side jumps. Have you made any changes this summer in how you’re training your side-by-sides?
Marissa: When we came back after Four Continents, we decided that yes, side-by-side jumps is one of our–I don’t want to say weak points, because we do have 2 side-by-side triples—but one of our less- stressed elements every day. We didn’t do it as often as we should. So, when we came home, we really focused every single day. We spent almost a full session, of good jumping by ourselves, then jumping next to each other. We feel that there [has been] really good consistency so far in our side-by-side triple jumps. And this is the best I have felt, jumping, in a really long time. So, I’m really excited to put out our jumps again. We’re not going to change what we have. We’re just going to work on improving the consistency of our jumps this year, and I hope it really shows in our technique and our ability to jump next to each other.
Q: It seems like these days, for pairs, having a great triple twist is just so important. What do you focus on in training your triple twist?
Mervin: If anything feels awkward, we just go back and make sure the double’s really good. Marissa did triple twist before, and I did it with my other partners. So we know how to do it.
Q: Having talked about some technical stuff, I wanted to ask a couple questions about your performance style. Marissa, looking back through your programs over the years, I noticed that you haven’t skated to classical music that often. Not too many warhorses. You’ve often gone with movie themes, or rock music, or tangos. Does that reflect your personal taste?
Marissa: Well, I think back in the day, it reflected me and Simon [Shnapir, former partner]. Not our personal tastes, but just our skating style. Simon and I were not classical skaters at all. And one year, we tried to do Rachmaninov, and it was not good. We tried it—and we did Phantom of the Opera and Rachmaninov in the same year, and it was like a double whammy of classical. I’ve done ballet; I’ve worked on my lines that way, off ice. But I consider myself more of a powerful skater. I like to do the tricks, I like to feel the skating, I like to get things done, and have an impact in my performance. Classical is just not the way for me to do it.
With Mervin, it took us a while to fully blend together on the ice, because Mervin has had a lot different partners than me. When I get tired, I don’t slow down. I push harder. That’s the one thing he wasn’t expecting at first, for a while.
Q: Yes. I noticed, looking back at your programs… Marissa, you’re a totally intense performer, and Mervin is very smooth. It makes for a really interesting, dynamic chemistry between you.
Marissa: Yeah. I can take a little bit more of his relaxed side, and he can take a little more of my intensity.
Q: Mervin, I noticed in your programs with Narumi that you had a lot of versatility in your performance style. You two did everything from jazz to Madame Butterfly to some lesser-known classical pieces. So do you like skating to anything, or do you have preferences?
Mervin:Back in our junior years, [when] I just started doing pairs … One thing I kept on saying to Julie was, “I want to use something different.” I didn’t want to be one of those teams where you’relike, “Oh, they’re skating to this [kind of music] again.” Why limit yourself, when you can just explore? And at that time, we really explored. We used one program that had hip-hop in it. It wasn’t that great of a program, if you messed up. But it was interesting to move in a certain way. I’m a fan of watching dance. I think forward movement [and different music choices] is just interesting.
Q: Among current pairs and ice dance teams who are competing now, are there any teams whose styles or programs you particularly admire?
Marissa: Obviously, we were definitely in awe of Papadakis/Cizeron at Worlds.
Mervin: Oh, my God. My heart!
Marissa: They really brought a new meaning to ice dancing—the feeling—they made you feel something. And they were absolutely amazing. Their free program was just really amazing. I don’t think there was one person sitting down in the stands when they finished.
Q: Are there any former pairs that you particularly look up to as inspiration, or role models, or guidelights?
Mervin: I actually really enjoy Meryl and Charlie. Back when we were competing [in the same events], I would always try to make my way to watch them.
Marissa: I think the best thing that any competitor [can do] is to take away a little bit of what you see in other people and, not try to put it in yourself, but use what they’re great at. For me, my role models in pairs would be Brooke Castile and Jaime Sale. Those two girls really have inspired me. Brooke was always perfect. 2007 Nationals, I remember walking into the arena. It was my first year in Novice, and all of a sudden I turn around, and this enormous triple flip is happening. That’s the year Brooke [and partner Ben Okolski] won Nationals. And moments like that really make or break skating for you.
Q: I wanted to ask you a question about your training right now. When you first got together, you were training part-time in Boston with Marissa’s former coach Bobby Martin, but mostly in Montreal with current coach Bruno Marcotte. Do you still have that same setup, or are you more in Montreal now?
Marissa: Mostly, we’re in Montreal now. Since we’ve been traveling so much [this past season], it’s been very hard to get back and forth to Boston. We’re trying to not drive as much. We went down to Boston for Worlds, because we wanted to go watch Worlds, and we also wanted to work with Bobby [Martin]. Bobby comes up in the summer, bringing his kids up here to train for a week, so we’ll probably end up working with Bobby that week. And if we have something to do down in the States, then we’ll definitely go down and work with him.
Mervin: If we can make a trip out of it, we go do that. The first year we were together, we [spent more time in Boston]. Last season, we did a bunch of international competitions. Every 2 or 3 weeks we were gone. So [there was less time] to travel to work with Bobby. We really do enjoy it down there. It’s great. It’s different from Montreal, but it’s still a wonderful place to go.
Q: When you go down, are you skating in the Boxborough rink or down in Boston?
Marissa: We’re in Boxborough now. Bobby just relocated. He has a pairs program going there, pairs ice. It’s similar to what we have here [in Montreal]. [In Boston], there are singles skaters and little kids. Sometimes it gets a little tricky to skate around them while doing lifts or throws. Now, it’s just pairs, so it’s easier to maneuver.
Q: That Boxborough rink is a nice facility. I was out there a couple weeks ago for their club show.
Marissa: Yes, they’ve got 3 ice surfaces, which makes it even easier.
Q: And they’ve got some natural light in the rinks, which must feel good when you’re training. Not all rinks have that.
Mervin: I lived in a cold, awkward space in another life. (Laughs)
Q: Another question related to training. Recently, you set up a GoFundMe account, where fans can contribute to your skating expenses. How are things going right now in terms of your funding and the amount of training that you’re able to do?
Marissa: We are very thankful to everyone that has supported us so far on our journey. We’ve had a lot of people donate money, and it really helped us. We really want to start incorporating more aspects of training in our skating—just more coaching, those nit-picking details—and the GoFundMe really helps us get those extra lessons, that extra training, physio, to put out the best performances we can for you guys.
Q: Marissa, are you able to work at all in Canada? Do you have a work visa, or is that still pending?
Marissa: That’s still pending. It’s a very different atmosphere up here, coaching, in Canada. I enjoy just focusing on my own skating for now. And any time I do get to go home, I coach with my mom. I’ll spend a whole weekend on the ice, just coaching. But here, I’m just really focusing on my training for now.
Q: It must be pretty hard to do both.
Marissa: Yes, it is hard. I know Mervin does it—I don’t know how he does it. From skating, to the gym, to coaching. And I used to do that back in Boston, and it’s difficult. Now that I’m in a different country, it’s [hard] to get a visa. And I’d have to know more French to teach the children, because they all speak French.
Q: Have you made any progress with your French?
Marissa: Yes, I go to French class. I’m slowly learning. But I am much better than where I was in January!
Q: And Mervin, are you completely bilingual?
Mervin: Yes, actually. We take French in school in Canada. And after a while, I’ve gotten used to it.
Q: Have you guys been able to take any vacations or time off since last season?
Mervin: Going to Boston [for Worlds] was like a vacation for us. Partly a work vacation, [but also] fun time.
Marissa: I took a couple days off with Ashley. We went to Miami, then drove down to the Keys. Besides that, we haven’t done a really big vacation. A lot of people take 2 weeks off. We would rather take a day or two off here and there, versus a giant vacation, so that’s more what we’re doing.
Q: And what are you into off the ice right now? What do Mervin and Marissa do on a typical day off? Any favorite hobbies?
Mervin: We’ve been rollerblading a lot lately. We’ll rollerblade at the park.
Marissa: Yes, I have some pretty cool rollerblades. They have huge wheels! The other day we went on the racetrack where there was a Formula 1 race. We were rollerblading around the track. That was very cool.
Marissa: Yeah, we go on picnics—we’ll just go way out in the park.
Mervin: Play the guitar.
Marissa: We saw Alice in Wonderland last night. There are a lot of group activities right now, because we’re all not stressed. We’ll hang out with Kirsten [Moore-Towers] and Michael [Marinaro], and Cammie [Ruest] and Drew [Wolfe], who train with us, and we’ll all go do things together. We’re a pretty good group of kids, [we] all like each other.
Q: In regard to next season, you’ll hear soon about your Grand Prix assignments. Are you hoping for any particular GPs?
Marissa: Right now, we put in our request for NHK and [TEB] in Paris. But whatever happens, happens. We’ll just be thankful to get two. We would like to do Autumn Classic [Challenger Series event] in Montreal, because that way we don’t have to travel. Besides that, we’ll see what happens. We’re not at the top of the chain, so we can’t really choose what we’re doing, like Meagan and Eric can. But hopefully we’ll be tagging along with them [to some events] and that way, we can be travel buddies.
Mervin: That would be lots of fun.
Q: Are you hoping to do a second Challenger Series event, too, or just Autumn Classic?
Marissa: We’re hoping for a second one. We have to wait and see what [Grand Prix] internationals we’re going to get—to figure out if we should do a Challenger in between our Grand Prixs, or do one after, or do two before. We’re going to see once the schedule comes out–what is available for us and what’s possible.
Q: So you let the federation know your preferences, but then they make the final call?
Marissa: Yes. We have this thing we have to fill out, and we just put down our preferences of where we’d prefer to be sent. But we don’t really have much say in where we’re going. So we’ll see.
Q: I hope you get some of the competitions you want. What are your goals for next season? Have you set specific goals, or are you just wanting good performances?
Marissa: We’re in it for the long haul. We really want to show our skating skills, and our skills in general. We think we have what it takes to be top-notch competitors, and we really want to prove that by being consistent and putting out good performances every time we skate.
Q: You mention being in it for the long term. Usually skaters think of their careers as lasting until the next Olympics, or the Olympics after that. Since you don’t have that end point in sight, necessarily, until Mervin gets citizenship, what is your goal in terms of how long you would like to compete? Are you thinking 3 years? 5 years?
Mervin: 3 years. (Laughs)
Marissa: Right now we’re going to take it one year at a time, and we’re going to see what our bodies tell us. It’s very inspirational to skate with Meagan and Eric every day, and they’re learning new things every day, and they’re pretty up there [in terms of age for competitors]. It’s very inspirational seeing them still doing this every day, and it gives us hope. We’re going to take it one year at a time. Our main goal on the ice is to create performances. We love to skate, we love to skate with each other. And just because something’s not going to pay off to go to one competition, that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy career, and it’s not worth fighting for. We’re going to keep on pushing, and see how far we get.
Q: In an earlier interview, you said you wanted to be among “the world’s best,” that you believe you have the talent to get there, and that although the Olympics “is the biggest competition, there’s more — being a world champion, being consistently on top over time.” Are those still your long-term goals?
Marissa: Oh, definitely. I think World medals are definitely something that could be an option for us, and that’s something we both want to strive to get to. Mervin already got there, and I’d like to get there with him. Look at Michelle Kwan—she never won Olympic gold, but everyone remembers her. She’s the champion of champions. She doesn’t have the Olympic gold medal, but you know her.
Q: Speaking of the Olympics–Mervin, have you started the process to acquire U.S. citizenship?
Mervin: Yes. I’m working with a lawyer to get a green card and work through the process.
Marissa: We’re on our way.
Mervin: We definitely want to be there [at the Olympics].
Q: So you want to be there, but if it didn’t happen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Mervin: But we’d definitely really, really, really prefer to be there. (Laughs)
Marissa: The Olympics doesn’t make a great athlete. A great athlete is made by their dedication to the sport and to their performances.
Mervin: It won’t be the make-it-or-break-it to our career.
Marissa: It won’t define us as a pairs team. The Olympics are not [that way] for a lot of pairs teams that go to the Olympics–like me. And look at Sui/Han—they’ve never been to the Olympics. But they’re two-time World silver medalists now and they’re known as one of the best pairs teams. And that’s what we want to be—one of the best pairs teams. There’s a lot of great skaters that never made it to the Olympics.
Q: Marissa, you’ve become known for your costumes. This year, you famously loaned one of your old costumes to Ashley, and it brought her great luck at Skate Canada and Worlds. What designers do you work with on your costumes, and how much input you have into the designs?
Marissa: I work with Yumi Couture for my costumes. I actually do have a lot of input in the designs. Yumi [Nakamura-Barnett, costume designer] is amazing. She takes my design and then she draws it out, and re-does it how she thinks it should be, and we always get to a finished product that’s amazing. Phenomenal beadwork. I never could imagine half the stones she puts on my dresses and where to put them, but she does it. I have a lot of pressure on me this year to create a good short program [costume], but I think we’ve got the money-winning costume already down. It’s a pretty good idea.
Mervin: It’s good.
Marissa: We’ll see what we’re going to do with the long program. Right now, we’re [planning to] keep the costume [from last year]. Maybe we’ll tweak it by Nationals; we’re not sure yet. But the short program costume is looking really good.
Q: I can’t wait to see it.
Marissa: I have a lot of expectations to live up to now! But Yumi is great. She started doing costumes for her daughter, and she’s just gotten better and better every year. And the best thing about Yumi is that her costumes are beautiful and they feel good on.
Q: That’s a plus!
Marissa: Yes. You don’t want those wedgies when you’re flying through the air!
Q: Does she do Mervin’s costumes as well?
Mervin: This season, yes.
Marissa: This season, he’s been working with Yumi as well. But the previous season, he hadn’t. We’re just very lucky that our costumes matched up so well.
Q: Well, I really like your long-program dress for the Journey [LP]. It’s kind of hard to imagine topping that for the program.
Marissa: Yes. Every time I try to think about a new dress for Journey, I can’t really think of another one. Yumi did such a great job with it. We’ll see where the season takes us. If we need a new, fresh dress, I’m sure she will do one, with no problem.
Q: Mervin, you’re known for your funny, sarcastic, quirky, amusing tweets. So I want to know: Do you just crack jokes all the time during practice? And does Marissa “get” your sense of humor?
Mervin: For the most part. (Laughs) Sometimes, I have to verify that I don’t go over the line. I don’t take myself too seriously. I like to think your actions portray how serious you are about something. Actions speak louder than words, really. But I like humor and satire.
Q: Marissa, is this fun during practice? Or are there times when you’re like, “Okay, let’s start work now.”
Marissa: Mervin gets my hints about when we need to get going. (Laughs)
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add, or let people know about next season?
Marissa: Just that we’re really excited to put out our new short program. It’s a new style of skating for us. It’s a little bit of old, a little bit of new [this season]. And one other thing we’re excited about is our new show program.
Q: So you’re doing a new show program, too?
Marissa: Yes, we have a show program. We did it at two shows—an Ohio show and a Rangers game. And then we’ve never used it again. So we’re excited to hopefully do some competition galas and show our program. It’s a fun one.
Q: What’s your music for the show program?
Marissa: We’re skating to “Groove Is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite. It’s very fun, lively. So hopefully we’ll be picked for some galas, and we can put that out there for people. It was fun putting [the program] together.
Q: Well, thank you both for chatting with me! And good luck with your season!
Marissa/Mervin: You’re welcome. Bye!
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