Skaters Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, once the future, are now history
Barely two years after being hailed as the next great U.S. pairs skating team, Keauna McLaughlin of Tarzana and Rockne Brubaker of Algonquin, Ill., are done skating together.
McLaughlin, 17, has decided to leave the sport for at least a year and concentrate on high school. Brubaker, who turned 24 on Monday, will search for another partner.After winning the 2008 and 2009 U.S. titles, they dropped to fifth last season, failing to win a 2010 Olympics spot. At the time, Brubaker vowed they would press on.
"Sometimes things don't always work out the way you would like them to," Brubaker said in January. "It's about staying the course. We're young."
Pairs is a discipline that often demands years for the chemistry of excellence to catalyze. The 2010 Olympic champions, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China, skated together 18 years; silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China for 17 years; and bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany for seven.
McLaughlin and Brubaker stayed together just four seasons. They had immediate success on the junior level, winning the U.S. and world junior titles in 2007, then took the national senior title in 2008 with a performance so compelling NBC commentator Sandra Bezic said it gave her shivers when she thought of how promising their future looked.
Despite winning a second straight U.S. title in 2009, McLaughlin and Brubaker consistently struggled over the last two seasons, finishing 11th at the 2009 worlds.
They switched coaches after that, moving to John A.W. Nicks in California, but that did not stop their slide from a team that won everything in their first season together to one that had become distant also-rans in 2010.
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker after finishing fifth at the 2010 U.S. Championships. Credit: Rick Bowmer / Associated Press