O’Brien, 23 and Merriman, 24 booked their tickets to their first Winter Olympics after finishing sixth in their free dance at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Needing to finish in the top five of non-qualified nations, the pair delivered a personal best score of 76.68 for their playful free program to finish on 127.20 overall – and third out of the non-qualified nations.
O’Brien was shaky at the start of the routine, stumbling on her twizzles and losing some of her synchronisation but she quickly recovered her composure and didn’t miss a beat for the remainder of the segment.
“I felt very nervous today," O'Brien said. "It’s been a long two days since the short dance. I was just so ready to compete that the adrenalin had sort of worn off until I got on the ice. It was one of the hardest free dances we’ve done. It was solid. I knew we’d given it everything and whatever was going to come of that would come of it.”
"Skating last we knew we only had to be ahead of three,” Merriman added. “We felt ready to do our job. It was a tight pack. Our performance was far from our best, but we got the job done.”
In recent months, the pair have worked hard on improving their presentation whilst maintaining the integrity of their technical difficulty – and it has paid off. Their fun and playful nature showed through during the entire routine whilst they executed difficult lifts that paid dividends in their technical scoring.
For O’Brien and Merriman, qualifying for their first Olympic Games, puts to rest the demons from their Vancouver 2010 campaign. The day before the Olympic Qualification competition in 2009, Merriman was hospitalised with Pericarditis - an infection in the sac surrounding the heart – and the pair were forced to withdraw from the event.
“I said to Greg before we started the Short Dance - we’ve waited four years to skate this program,” O’Brien recounted after the event. “Four years ago was the worst and scariest day of my life and today was everything I thought four years ago would have been only more surreal. It will sink in when we are back in Detroit.”
In the four years that have passed, they have made history as the most decorated ice dance pair in Australian history and become the first Australian team to make the finals and finish top 20 at a World Championships.
When they compete in Sochi, O’Brien and Merriman will become only the second Australian pair to compete in ice dancing at the Olympics – after Monica MacDonald and Rodney Clarke at Calgary 1988. With Brooklee Han and Brendan Kerry also securing qualification, Australia will send it's equal largest figure skating contingent to a Winter Games when the athletes compete in Sochi in February 2014.
Article courtesy AOC/Alice Wheeler | http://www.sochi2014.olympics.com.au