The slide down figure skating's rankings for the U.S. pairs team of Natasha Kuchiki and Todd Sand was as fast as the climb. But it came to an abrupt halt Wednesday, when Sand said that he and Kuchiki no longer are partners.
Sand said that the pairs team of Jenni Meno and Scott Wendland, who also train under Coach John Nicks at Costa Mesa's Ice Capades Chalet, has separated as well and that Sand has paired with Meno. He said Nicks will continue to coach them.
"It definitely wasn't an amicable ending for reasons I don't care to discuss," Sand said from Washington, where the U.S. Winter Olympic team was honored Wednesday at the White House.
"But while I've been unhappy most of the last year because of the way the skating has progressed, I was really happy with the partnership most of the time. It enabled me to accomplish more than I ever thought I would through skating."
Nicks paired Kuchiki, of Canoga Park, and Sand, who lived at the time in Thousand Oaks, in the spring of 1989, although there was a vast difference in their ages. She was 12, and he was 25.
Nine months later, they were the surprise of the 1990 U.S. championships with a second-place finish. The next year, they won the national championship and finished third in the world.
But they never performed as well again, finishing third in this year's nationals, sixth in the Olympics and eighth in the World Championships.
Meno, of Westlake, Ohio, and Wendland, of Costa Mesa, were second in this year's nationals behind Calla Urbanski and Rocky Marval and finished 11th in both the Olympics and the World Championships. Their split was unexpected because the consensus among international judges was that they had more potential than any other U.S. pair.
Kuchiki was unavailable for comment, but Sand, who lives in Costa Mesa and attends Cal State Fullerton, said he believes that Kuchiki and Wendland are searching for new partners.