Winter Games Athletes
Shnapir and partner Marissa Castelli are the two-time defending U.S. champions in the pairs competition and should give the country its best chance at winning an Olympic gold in that event since Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard took one home from the 1988 Calgary Games. Born on the same day three years apart, Shnapir and Castelli teamed up in April 2006 and enjoyed some limited success over the next six years, the highlight being a bronze-medal finish at the 2009 junior world championships. The duo broke up for a month in 2012 but quickly reunited, and they’ve taken off ever since despite their startling 16-inch height difference. Shnapir and Castelli won gold at the 2012 Ice Challenge, then bronze at the NHK Trophy Grand Prix event later that year. That was followed by a bronze at the 2013 Four Continents championships and their first U.S. championships gold, a title they repeated in 2014 with a record-breaking score of 205.71 keyed by a dominant short program. They weren’t perfect, as Castelli fell in the pair’s attempt to pull off a rare throw quadruple salchow, but that’s a move that could inch them toward the podium in Sochi should they pull it off. Medaling won’t be easy, however. Shnapir and Castelli finished a disappointing 13th in their lone trip to the world championships last year. For Shnapir, though, the trip to the Olympics will be a bit of a homecoming. He was born in Moscow and speaks fluent Russian, emigrating with his family to the U.S. when he was just 16 months old.