O’Brien through to Sochi ice dancing final

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Former SUSF Elite Athlete Program (EAP) scholarship holder Danielle O’Brien and figure skating partner Greg Merriman have booked a spot in the second phase of the ice dancing competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

O’Brien and Merriman delivered the performance of their careers, scoring a season’s best 52.68 in the short dance program at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Speaking after the event, O’Brien was overjoyed with their performance, saying “It was a season’s best score, and a season’s best performance.”

“It felt great out there. Every time we did an element, it stuck and it hit perfectly,” she added.

“I knew when we were doing it that it was one of our strongest performances. To have that confirmed by the mark and then to qualify … wow.

“It’s just the icing on the cake of 15 years of dreaming, hoping, waiting and wondering what it would be like. It’s all of those things put together. It’s the best experience ever.”

Requiring a top-20 performance to qualify for the free dance program, Australia’s first ice dancing pair to compete at an Olympics since 1988 snuck into the next round, finishing 20th – just 0.39 of a point ahead of Japan’s Chris and Cathy Reed.

The free skate will take place on Monday 17 February, Day 10 at 7.00pm local time (2.00am AEDT Tuesday).

O’Brien and Merriman will be focused on achieving another season’s best score when they perform their circus inspired free program.

O’Brien is the second former SUSF EAP scholarship holder to compete in the 2014 Sochi Games. On Thursday cross country skier Aimee Watson finished 63rd in the Ladies’ 10km Classic.

Fellow former SUSF EAP scholarship holder Astrid Radjenovic (nee Loch-Wilkinson) and bobsleigh partner Jana Pittman will compete on Wednesday morning (4.15am AEDT), while current SUSF EAP scholarship holder and alpine skier Lavinia Chrystal will hit the slopes on Tuesday evening (6pm AEST) in the first run of the women’s giant slalom event.