DFW based Pairs team Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc made music in Motown on Thursday as the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships kicked off the senior division at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Skating to The Electric Swing Circus’ jazzy, snazzy “Bella Belle,” Cain & LeDuc brought the swag and the sass and sailed into second place during the Pairs short program… just one point and change out of first place. Sealing the deal with a massive and masterful throw triple Lutz (the most difficult throw element in the competition… and the only one attempted), the team put themselves in gold medal contention going into Saturday’s final.

“We’re so happy with our skate and score today, and this was a great step forward for us as athletes and people,” LeDuc shared in a text message. We are, however, not resting on today, we are very hungry going in to the free skate. We have worked so hard in our training going in to this competition and we’re ready to fight for every point in the free skate on Saturday.”

With intense focus on the intricate choreography and character of the music, Cain and LeDuc had the crowd solidly behind them clapping and crowing as they wound into their final super stretchy signature spin (twirling with one foot above the head). They felt the feels, “The crowd was amazing in Detroit and we’re so grateful to everyone supporting us,” wrote LeDuc.

Though a pair on ice, they’re not a couple off ice. Cain is engaged to a long-time beau and LeDuc, an out gay athlete, spends his limited free time promoting gay activism and volunteering with the Resource Center’s DFW Fuse program. Rarely do you see out athletes competing on the elite level, LeDuc won’t be the lone ranger this time at the rodeo. Karina Manta and Joe Johnson are both out and proud and will be competing for the Ice Dance title. In the surprisingly staid world of figure skating, this is… well, kind of epic.

Cain and LeDuc, are polished, finely honed athletes but aren’t afraid to show their funky, spunky style… on or off the ice. That’s what makes them crowd favorites. As they head into Saturday’s free skate on center ice in the Motor City, their eyes are firmly on the podium and firmly knowing there ain’t no mountain high enough. Let’s show ‘em some R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Watch Cain and LeDuc skate for the crown Saturday at 12:30pm on NBC.

— Coy Covington