CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- They were hunched around a small tablet screen, watching a video of two teenagers ice dancing in competition.
On the video the skaters — Caroline Leadmon, 14, and Jacob Schedl, 17 — look bright-eyed and excited. But on the other side of the screen they're less enthusiastic with that performance.
"It's pretty painful," Schedl said. "If you watch it on TV right after you do it, it's OK, but after weeks and weeks of improving, it's hard to see the way it was back then."
It was hardly a disappointing performance — good enough to help them qualify for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this week in Omaha. That's a top-notch competition in figure skating, the field's top competition aside from the Olympics. Only 12 groups qualify to participate in each of the competition's events.
But part of competing on such a level is constant constructive criticism of your own work. Leadmon and Schedl were unforgiving as they watched themselves work through the routine — some things should be faster, they said, others more synchronized.
Plenty of flaws already had been painstakingly improved, they were happy to point out, through hours of practice together at the South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena.
"You can't go against anyone else; you have to go against yourself," said Victoria Fauver Robb, their coach at the arena.
The pair has been skating together for three years and has been to plenty of top competitions, but this is their first time at the national championship.
They're competing in the junior division of the ice-dancing segment. Ice dancing is a discipline of its own within the field of figure skating. It draws on the world of ballroom dancing for inspiration — that means plenty of complicated footwork and strict demand for synchronicity between partners.
When it's done well, it can be a beautiful, fun form of the sport.
"It's really just like ballroom dancing on ice," Leadmon said.