'Tonight, Tonight' Belbin and Agosto Win

by Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto
Photo by Paul Harvath

All Event Results/Photos/Starting Orders

Senior Free Dance Results

Senior Free Dance Photos

Tanith Belbin Press Conference Video

Ben Agosto Press Conference Video

(1/9/04) - Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto (Detroit SC) won their first U.S. senior dance title and were delighted to go back to the old 6.0 system.

They have been successful under the ISU's new judging system, winning the gold at Smart Ones Skate America and finishing third at the ISU Grand Prix Final.

Now it was back to the past, and Belbin and Agosto adjusted their free dance to fit the 6.0 system.

"We made a few changes," said Belbin. "We changed one lift at the beginning of our program that wasn't graded high enough on the new system scale. We worked on our footwork a little bit and took out those brackets and choctaws and counters and rockers and put in some more difficult hand holds. We put back a little more creativity. Overall we just wanted to increase the level of the performance."

After Skate America they received a gift from their coach, Igor Shpilband.

"Our gifts were DVD copies of "West Side Story" which we continue to watch repeatedly," Belbin said. "We certainly take to heart the story and the emotions, and that is what we are trying to put into our own free dance."

"We felt like we put out a strong performance, and to get such high marks is very satisfying and felt very good," Agosto said.

Their marks were a string of 5,7s, 5.8s and 5.9s.

"They are certainly the best marks we've ever had and certainly the best performance that we have done," Agosto said. "Not only of "West Side Story" but also of our skating so far."

After three consecutive silver medals, they won their first title. Their top competitors, five-time defending champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev (American Academy FSC) withdrew just before the original dance after the cyst on Lang's Achilles tendon began bothering her again.

Belbin said they saw Lang and Tchernyshev at a reception Thursday night.

"They wished us good luck," Belbin said.

Melissa Gregory (Broadmoor SC) and Denis Petukhov (Skokie Valley SC) finished second skating to a Bach piece. They earned their first spot on the U.S. World Team after receiving marks of 5.4 through 5.8.

"We've made the World Team," said the Russian-born Petukhov. "We're happy with our performance."

"Let's go U.S.!" said the Illinois-born Gregory.

Loren Galler-Rabinowitz and David Mitchell (SC of Boston), the 2002 U.S. junior champions and 2000 novice champions, were third continuing their rise up through the rankings. They were thrilled.

"It hasn't sunken in quite yet," Mitchell said. "We have spent the last six years looking up to these people."

"I am still in a bit of a shock, but I feel that we have definitely put in a good six years of hard work," Galler-Rabinowitz said.

They used some Southern music to win bronze with "Floodin' down in Texas" and 'If the House is Rockin.'