Ice Skating

After finishing 6th at worlds, US champs split

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Another promising American pairs team is calling it quits.

U.S. champions Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin announced the end of their four-year partnership Wednesday, six days after finishing sixth at the world figure skating championships. It was the best finish by an American pair in a non-Olympic year since 1997, and best at any worlds since 2006.

''Emotionally, this has been a roller-coaster year for us,'' Coughlin said.

Coughlin's mother, Stacy, died of a chronic respiratory illness in February 2010, and her death was the inspiration for Yankowskas and Coughlin's emotional and evocative ''Ave Maria'' free skate. They dedicated this season to Coughlin's mother, finishing third at Cup of China before winning their first U.S. title.

No reason was given for the split, which was announced by U.S. Figure Skating. Yankowskas said she plans to continue skating and will look for a new partner. Coughlin is evaluating his options, but hopes to stay involved in skating.

''I will forever cherish the memories and successes that John and I had together,'' Yankowskas said. ''I respect and support John unconditionally with his future endeavors.''

Still, the news is more trouble for American pairs skating, which has struggled the last 15 years to produce teams that can contend internationally. The only world medal by a U.S. team in the last 12 years was Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman's bronze in 2002 - against a watered-down, post-Olympic field. No Americans have been on the Olympic podium since Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard won bronze in 1988.

Much of the problem has stemmed from stability - or lack of it. It takes years to develop the kind of unison, chemistry and cohesiveness that make pairs so spectacular to watch, and the U.S. teams have had less staying power than a Hollywood marriage. Including Yankowskas and Coughlin, none of the teams that won the last four U.S. titles is still together.

In the last seven years, only one pairs team, Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, who have since split, managed to defend its U.S. title.

Yankowskas and Coughlin's split comes just two months after the breakup of Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, the 2010 U.S. champions.

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