Until this July, only three players had ever won back to back Open Pairs titles at the FPA World Championships. Deaton Mitchell and Jim Schmal Benson won four consecutive years (1983-1986), and Joey Hudoklin won in 1987 and 1988 with two different partners. Add Dan Yarnell to that select list, as he won the 2000 title with Randy Silvey to go with his 1999 title with Steve Hanes. After years of trying to get his first major title, Yarnell is looking like the next dominant player.
This year’s Pairs finals, like last year, held lots of surprises. The favorites did not play like favorites, and underdogs came through in the crunch. The play was sloppy, with only three teams at three drops or less. The freestyle was, however, dynamic and entertaining.
The top four seeds seemed to be the favorites on paper: Randy Silvey/Dan Yarnell, Arthur Coddington/Dave Lewis, Joel Rogers/Dave Schiller and Larry Imperiale/Tommy Leitner. Every player on these teams had won the pairs title before. Darkhorses included Paul Kenny/Jeff Kruger, who had a planned routine with a Charlie Brown theme, and Danny Cameranesi/Reto Zimmerman, two exciting and experienced tournament players. Peter Laubert/Toddy Brodeur and Matt Gauthier/Jake Gauthier seemed more like longshots, though the Gauthier brothers had won their prelim pool over Silvey/Yarnell, so anything could happen.
Qualifying for the finals had been turbulent and had offered some previews of finals matchups. Because Silvey/Yarnell had finished second in their prelim pool, the first semi pitted the top two seeds against each other. Coddington/Lewis edged Silvey/Yarnell by a point and a half for the top qualifying spot. The Gauthier brothers were only a point behind Silvey/Yarnell, and Brodeur/Laubert squeezed Steve Hays/Pipo Lopez out of the finals by a point.
In the other semi, Imperiale/Leitner beat Kenny/Kruger by only two tenths of a point to secure the second to last playing position. Cameranesi had teamed up with Swiss player Zimmerman just before the tournament, and their routine was shaping up round by round. Rogers/Schiller had a subpar round, and Cameranesi/Zimmerman beat them by four tenths to take third place.
Since 1995, the Open Pairs finals had been showdowns of squeaky clean play. It had become the norm for several of the top teams to lay down performances of three drops or less, and in 1996 there had been two dropless routines in the same finals. In 1999, execution was not the deciding factor in determining the champion. Both Joey Hudoklin/Tommy Leitner and Joel Rogers/Randy Silvey had played very clean, but they were beaten out by the complexities of Hanes/Yarnell’s performance even though it had more mistakes. It was hard to predict what kind of performance the judges would choose as the champion; the only thing teams could do was play their style.
The first team in the finals, Brodeur/Laubert, laid down the gauntlet for the rest. They played in one corner of the field, but they were ultra solid. Laubert hit a turnover to a half and half roll as well as a double spining behind the back to close two of his combos. Broduer went off, hitting two double spinning catches, a gitis, a handplant catch and a phlaud during the routine. They had only one drop.
Rogers/Schiller played next. It had been hard to imagine Broduer/Laubert being beaten, but 1992 champions Rogers/Schiller showed how it might be done in their very first co-op, which included a doublelegover turnover pass from Dave Schiller to Joel Rogers. It was another level of difficulty. Their routine had more mistakes – five drops and a couple saves – but was more dynamic. At a certain point, the routine was on the verge of losing cohesion, but the team brought it back together with the most intricate and interesting quickcatch sequence of any of the finalists. The team used angles, turnovers, both spins and incorporated a great variety of kicks and brushes into their co-ops. Their ending was a little anticlimactic as Rogers threw some confetti after the end of their routine that seemed like it was meant for a more distinct ending.
The Gauthier brothers were one of the breakthrough stories of the FPA Worlds. Last year they reached the Co-op final with Scott Weaver. This year, it seemed like they had matured as a pairs team. They had taken their technical skills and started to package them into competitive routines. They chose a classical song that brought the focus onto their co-op and their moves rather than their jam, and it paid off immediately as they upset Silvey/Yarnell in the prelims.
In the finals, they continued with more of the same. Their routine opened with a quickcatch sequence, solid but not at the insane level of Rogers/Schiller. Both Matt and Jake played confident. Their games combined technical prowess with athletic spinning catches. Matt especially seeming totally in control.
The brothers played solid with five drops, but the big moments didn’t build throughout the routine. All their co-ops were solid, but they did not have a consistent impact to bring their routine to the next level. Some combination of elements – music, choreography, being surrounded by so many other elite teams – made the routine seem a little flat.
It’s clear that their brotherly communication makes them a good team. At one point, Jake sent a chest roll out for Matt, but it went too far upwind. Matt ran for it, but Jake realized he could get it easier so he called Matt off. A potential drop became an exciting gitis save. Matt ended the routine with what might be his new signature move, which I am christening the Disclocation – it’s a spinning, reverse jumping vacation.
No one could tell what would happen in Cameranesi/Zimmerman’s routine except that Zimmerman would tumble and spin and be very athletic, and Cameranesi would make us feel like we should never have any problems playing the wind. They opened with a quick catch sequence to the music that established that they were playing to the music. Zimmerman, though, caught two The catches. It was unclear whether this was just a momentary glitch or whether the team was off.
It was a momentary glitch. Even though he didn’t get to as many multiple spinning moves as he planned, Zimmerman went off with leaping saves, a single spinning tumble, an upside down gitis, and two separate double disc sequences. Cameranesi pretty much hit all his standard moves – somersault, bodyroll sequence, reverse kick, spinning catches. Both guys used their agility to lunge for catches and turn possible drops into seemless restricted catches.
Twice in the routine, Zimmerman set a half-turnover to a Cameranesi invert roll. It didn’t work the first time, when the feed was a neuron set, but it worked the second time with an under the leg whipover to end the routine. The team played squeaky clean with only three drops. Zimmerman was ecstatic and did a backflip in joy.
Paul Kenny and Jeff Kruger had been a threat all season. They had played their Charlie Brown at the Summerfest Open. They got third, but it seemed like no one remembered how close in points that third was from first. The routine opened with a long double disc section that included simultaneous combos, staggered combos, and some of Kenny’s disc-assisted turnovers. They hit some big moves. Kruger caught a double spinning gitis, and Kenny hit a tasty behind the neurons to cuff to fluff to crow combo. They had their problems, though, with six drops, including a throw away of an upside down bad attitude throw. They ended strong with a crow/bad attitude double catch, and the mistakes were offset by the structure of their routine.
Randy Silvey and Dan Yarnell were next. It’s a given that a Silvey/Yarnell routine will be interesting, with Silvey’s choreography craziness and Yarnell’s technical weirdness. Their Bohemian Rhapsody routine started out quiet and slow, but a double spinning osis by Silvey amplified the entire section. It’s here that the silliness began. Their double disc work combined whimsical prancing around with intricate exchanges. Twice, Yarnell through a shortrange quick catch throw to Silvey as another disc was headed toward him. The routine got huge at the end of this section, with both players hitting double spinning chairs staggered to the music.
Each player had trouble as they exchanged individual combos. Yarnell’s disc got away from him and he had to dive for a save. Silvey had more trouble with the wind than usual and ended a brush sequence with a glaring The.
Quickcatch sequences seemed to be in fashion this year, and Silvey/Yarnell exchanged a few running catches too. The routine almost came apart at the end. Silvey popped up his own reverse roller to a Yarnell invert roll, but then Yarnell lost control of an under the leg and had to dive for the save, and Yarnell’s ending chest roll fell off his hand to end the routine.
They only had two drops and a few saves, so they would be front-runners. The routine had a solid and intricate structure and was fun to watch, but its difficulty lay mostly in its choreography rather than its moves. When compared to many other routines, especially Rogers/Schiller, their content would come up short, but competition is about combining execution and presentation with difficulty, and Silvey/Yarnell covered two out of the three very well and was solid on the third. They had left the door open, but it would take a big performance to beat them.
The wind was solid for the entire finals, but it seemed like the wind came up and became shifty after Silvey/Yarnell. Perhaps it was during their routine, and that’s what explains Silvey’s problems with his roll sequence. The last two teams had to deal with conditions more unpredictable than the first six.
Tommy Leitner and Larry Imperiale had trouble throughout their routine. Their quickcatch sequence went very well, but after a solid if conservative opening, they had four drops in a row. Larry hit a combo that included a tipping sequence, a laerbs kick and a roll to a gitis. The team hit a nice crow brush to a tipback to a crow co-op, and Tommy hit a big tipping combo to a huge double spinning arvon on a music cue. They were scrambling throughout the entire routine, and couldn’t pull it together to make a run for the title. They ended with seven drops.
Arthur Coddington and Dave Lewis had been only a half point behind Silvey/Yarnell at the Summerfest Open, so it seemed like they might have the goods to challenge them here. Their Mission Impossible routine was very ambitious, though. In some ways, it was hit or miss, and today was a miss.
From the first move, the team was in trouble. The routine starts with Coddington’s roller throw to a kickup by Lewis. The disc hit Lewis’s foot and settled comfortably into the turf. The team seemed to alternate catching and dropping as they powered through their co-ops. Coddington caught a spinning chair. Lewis dropped the phlaud ending to a co-op. Coddington dropped a quick catch. Lewis caught a huge gitis through a Coddington legover. The wind knocked the disc below Coddington’s hand on a gitis attempt. Coddington dropped an upside down behind the back pull.
Coddington/Lewis has been one of the most consistent teams in recent years, but when they are off they got down on themselves and it showed. In 2000, they realized early that they wouldn’t win and went for the routine. They seemed intent on going big because they knew they were capable of it.
They pulled together for most of the rest of the routine, and though they had even more drops the play was extremely aggressive. Lewis sealed a tipping combo with a double spinning barrel. Coddington skidded to a juice, then turned the disc over to a spinning crow. Lewis’ spinning indigenous pull bounced off his hand. Coddington nailed the 1080 dive roll in the finals for the second year in a row, but couldn’t close it. Lewis hit a 1080 legover pull to a double legover to another double spinning barrel.
Coddington/Lewis actually had three speedflow sections, and the third one did them in. It was the beginning of their ending, and it included four catches to the music. Unfortunately, Coddington threw the third throw too fast, and it literally knocked Lewis to the ground. Lewis tossed an angle throw back to Coddington, but he could not chest roll it. Two more drops. Their last three co-ops worked, but it couldn’t make up for nine drops.
Silvey/Yarnell brought the complete package – a complex routine with pro difficulty which they pulled off when it counted – and the judges awarded them the win to Silvey/Yarnell by 1.3 points over Rogers/Schiller. It was an amazing performance for Rogers/Schiller playing from such an early position. Three points back in third was Kenny/Kruger, and only four tenths back was Cameranesi/Zimmerman in fourth. It was the best pairs finish for Kenny, Kruger, Cameranesi and Zimmerman. Coddington/Lewis survived their drops to take fifth, two points back from Cameranesi/Zimmerman. Leitner/Imperiale were 1.6 points behind them in sixth. The Gauthiers took seventh, 0.9 behind Leitner/Imperiale, and Brodeur/Laubert were relegated to eighth, 0.4 behind the Gauthiers. It might be the lowest placing one drop routine in FPA Pairs finals history, and one wonders where they would have finished if they had earned a later playing position in the finals.