Lang and Tchernyshev Take First Step Toward Fifth U.S. Title

Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev competed for the first time this season Tuesday night.

The championship dance competition at the 2003 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships got underway in Dallas Tuesday night with the compulsory dances.

Four-time U.S. dance champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev made their season debut with a bouncy Quickstep and a snappy Tango Romantica. Seven of the nine judges scored Lang and Tchernyshev first in the competition over Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto in the first dance, the Quickstep. Then eight of the nine judges scored Lang and Tchernyshev first in the Tango Romantica.

Lang was all smiles after the event.

"It feels great," she said. "I thought I would be in a cast five weeks ago."

Lang, who had been diagnosed with tendinitis, recently found out that she has a cyst in her foot.

"I'll have it [taken] out after Worlds or [the Champions on Ice] tour," she said.

Wearing extra padding in her skate, Lang said she had not experienced pain during the last month of training. However, tonight she admitted to feeling pain during both dances. Tchernyshev said he felt he and Lang are 70 percent of where they want to be for the World Championships in March. If Lang and Tchernyshev win the U.S. title, they will be the first U.S. team to win five straight U.S. dance titles since
Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert won five straight from 1981-1985.

In second place after the compulsory dances, Belbin and Agosto are satisfied with their position going into the original dance. Both said they are glad to be competing against Lang and Tchernyshev at the U.S. Championships.

"When we found out they may not be competing here we were disappointed," Belbin said. "We wanted them to be here."

Agosto said he and Belbin are trying to achieve the level of success in their skating that Lang and Tchernyshev have achieved.

"We've looked up to them in the past and they're great skaters," Agosto said.

Last year's bronze medalists Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov were third after the compulsory dances, and last year's U.S. junior champions Loren Galler-Rabinowitz and David Mitchell, are fourth going into the original dance.

The original dance portion of the competition for the championship dance teams will be held at 3:10 p.m. Wednesday at the main arena in Dallas.

by Michelle Wojdyla