Lang and Tchernyshev Withdraw Due to Injury

by Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev just before they withdrew from the U.S. Championships
Photo by Michelle Harvath

Results/Photos/Starting Orders
Tanith Belbin/Ben Agosto Press Conference Video

(1/6/04) — There was a hesitation just before five-time U.S. dance champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev (American Academy FSC) were about to take the ice for the original dance.

However, Tchernyshev was not moving away from the boards. Then Lang hesitantly made her way to the referee and told him they were withdrawing from the event. She was favoring her left foot as she went over. The injury of last season, a cyst on the Achilles tendon, put them out of action again, this time at the 2004 State Farm U.S. Championships.

"For the past few weeks it started flaring up again," Lang said, her voice breaking. 'I was going to try and stick  it for myself  and my fans."

But she knew it was a losing battle, and their quest for a sixth straight U.S. dance title was over. After the same injury cut their season short last year,  Lang said she didn't want to skate anymore. Tchernyshev understood, but he let her think it over. Although she decided to give it a try, the old injury came back to haunt her.

"It was getting pretty bad this weekand and last week," she said. "There was no way I could compete successfully."

She said she was feeling pain the compulsory dance as well, which took place just two hours before the original dance.

"I just had to grit my teeth and get through it," Lang said.

She knows that it has to be taken care of immediately, but that it would take a couple of months to recover from surgery.

"As of right now I want to have surgery so I can have that stupid cyst taken out so I never have to deal with it again," Lang said. "As of right now I am not thinking about Worlds."

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto
Photo by Michelle Harvath
The United States can send two dance couples to the 2004 World Championships. It is conceivable that U.S. Figure Skating could choose to send Lang and Tchernyshev if they were healthy.

But the most difficult thing happened on the ice when they both realized they wouldn't earn a spot at Worlds through the competition.

"That was the hardest part, the look on Peter's face," Lang said. "Knowing he put his trust in me also and I kind of disappointed everybody. Upsetting my partner is probably the hardest part." After that statement, the frustration left Lang in tears and she left the press area.

Tanith Belbin  and Ben Agosto (Detroit SC), the ISU Grand Prix Final bronze medalists, were already in the lead after winning the compulsory dance with eight of nine first-place votes. Then they dominated the original dance with their combination of jitterbug, blues and swing that earned them marks of mostly 5.8 and  5.9.

"This was our strongest performance," Agosto said. "Everything flowed together very nicely."

However, the most pertinent questions were not on their dance but of the others who didn't dance.

"It's disappointing to have our friends and competitors injured," Belbin said. "We do wish them a speedy recovery."

"We've always enjoyed competing with them," Agosto added. "Having them withdraw is a real disappointment. They really bring the level of the event up."

Melissa Gregory (Broadmoor SC) and  Denis Petukhov (Skokie Valley SC) are in second place. They used standards including "Rock Around the Clock" and "Great Balls of Fire" separated by "Harlem Nocturne" and gathered marks between 5.2 and 5.5. But more importantly, suddenly they have a chance to be on the World Team. Loren Galler-Rabinowitz and David Mitchell (SC of Boston) the 2002 U.S. junior champions, are third. They put in a good performance in both phases of the event.

The free dance is Friday Jan. 9 at 8:30 p.m.