Sitting out most of last season reminded 2012 U.S. national pairs champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin how much they loved figure skating.
"We still feel very grateful to be on the circuit after what we went through in the winter of 2012," Coughlin said, referring to the torn labrum surgery in his left hip and the nine-week layoff that kept the duo from defending their title.
They hope to make up for that lost time next week in Boston at the 2014 U.S. championships, which begin Sunday with the younger skaters, and serves as the Olympic qualifier for the senior level, which begins competition Thursday.
"We are excited to get it rolling," said Denney, a Broadmoor Skating Club member.
They enjoyed a strong return in 2013 with a second-place finish at the U.S. Classic and a third at the Trophee Eric Bompard in France, where they recorded their best score of 63.52 points in the short program.
"We were rewarded well for a technically proficient skate," Coughlin said. "We came into the season very focused on showing everyone we were capable of being an elite team. Proving that will let us skate more freely and let the artistic component shine through."
Max Aaron, the 2013 national men's champ and a BSC skater, is dropping from three to two quadruple jumps after a recent seventh-place finish at the NHK Trophy competition. He may add a third quad if he qualifies for Sochi.
''I knew that was going to take some time,'' he said. ''Time is not what I had this season.''
Agnes Zawadzki is hoping to put together two strong programs, knowing there are three women's and dance pair Olympic berths available while two men and pairs can advance. The U.S. Olympians will be announced Jan. 12.
Caydee is hopeful she won't be the only Denney competing in Sochi. Her younger sister Haven, 18, is the 2013 world juniors champion with pairs partner Brandon Frazier.
"We wondered if the stars were aligned, would we both make it?" she said. "Two sisters making the team would be a whirlwind of opportunities. It would be quite the dream come true."
But first, Denney and Coughlin must focus on Boston.
"No one wants to put the cart before the horse and focus on the Olympics when nationals are coming up," Coughlin said. "It is going to be an electric atmosphere in Boston being an Olympic year. We draw energy from that."