North Texas pairs skaters Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc are on the cusp of achieving their dream – representing Team USA at the Winter Olympics.
They sit in first place at the U.S. National Championships underway in Nashville.
“We want this so badly. This is something we've wanted our whole lives, and we're so close,” said LeDuc.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc are the 2019 U.S. National Champions, and they are among the favorites to make the Olympic team. They believe their six-year partnership is peaking at just the right time.
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“When we take each other's hand we really know how the other one is feeling,” said Cain-Gribble. “I'd say it's like a really good soup after it has time to goober,” LeDuc said with a smile.
The team’s journey to the top has been filled with challenges, from injuries to illness.
“The moving through the highs and lows of everything has taught me so much more about myself and life and the sport,” LeDuc said. “You have to keep turning around, collecting yourself and moving forward,” said Cain-Gribble, who battled COVID-19 while preparing for the Olympics.
Along the way, Cain-Gribble and LeDuc have broken barriers in the sometimes rigid and traditional world of elite figure skating. Cain-Gribble is taller than most women who skate pairs.
“She's been a beacon for people of different body types to show them like hey, you can still be successful at something even if you don't fit the archetype of success you typically see,” LeDuc explained.
LeDuc is non-binary. “For me as a Queer athlete, we don't often see Queer visibility in sports,” they said.
If Cain-Gribble and LeDuc make Team USA for Beijing, LeDuc would become the first publicly out non-binary athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc are one performance away from knowing if they will make the trip to China. They skate their free program on Saturday in Nashville.
The U.S. will send two pairs teams to compete at the Winter Olympics. A selection committee from U.S. Figure Skating is expected to name the members of the Olympic team on Sunday.