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Belbin and Agosto Score a Perfect 6.0 and Lead Senior Ice Dancing Eventby Michelle Wojdyla, special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
|Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto,|
photo by Michelle Harvath
(1/11/05) — The senior events at the 2005 State Farm U.S. Championships kicked off this afternoon with senior compulsory dance. Unlike the novice and junior dancers, only one compulsory is skated and is worth 20 percent of the final score. This year's rhythm is the Midnight Blues, the newest compulsory dance. Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto (Arctic FSC) were the clear winners with straight first place ordinals punctuated by a 6.0 for timing and expression.
From their opening pose, the couple set the tone for a rather sexy program that demonstrated that they are no longer the kids on the scene. Dressed in rich raspberry tones, their dance met one of the tests of a good compulsory: if there had been no music playing, spectators would still know this was the blues. Their speed remained fast throughout the turns and swoops, with fluid, deep edges. They were very into their knees, exploring the shapes their bodies could create.
“We felt very confident coming into this competition,” Agosto said. “We've been competing a lot so far this season. We feel very comfortable with our programs.”
“This is probably the biggest crowd that we've seen for compulsory dance at nationals in a really long time, if ever,” Belbin said. “So that was really wonderful.”
Both Belbin and Agosto were honored to have received a 6.0.
“It was definitely nice,” Belbin said. “We've never had a 6.0 in the compulsory dance before, so that was a big surprise. It's such a gift to receive a 6.0. I hope we can receive a few more before the end of the week—before we have to say goodbye to them forever.”
Melissa Gregory (Broadmoor SC) and Denis Petukhov (Skokie Valley SC) placed second, and once again the judges were unanimous. The influence of coach Shae-Lynn Bourne was obvious, with Gregory and Petukhov skating with soft knees, confident posture, effortless turns.
“We skated the Midnight Blues in Japan,” Petukhov said. “I feel really glad to skate it again at nationals.”
“We felt pretty good today,” Gregory said. “It felt nice to skate in front of a home crowd. It's the first time this year since we didn't get to Skate America. It's really nice to be on home turf and have a home audience.”
Standing in third is the new team of Tiffany Stiegler (Los Angeles FSC) and Sergei Magerovskiy (Arctic FSC), training partners of Belbin and Agosto. This was only the second time Stiegler and Magerovskiy have competed together; last August they performed the Midnight Blues at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, taking first there in a small field. Stiegler has been a national junior medalist in pairs with her brother, Johnny, but this is her first trip to the U.S. Championships as an ice dancer.
“It was amazing!” Stiegler said. “I've never had so much fun in my entire life. And this was in a compulsory!”
Skating first, Stiegler and Magerovskiy set the bar high. Immediately they showed a sultry attitude, Stiegler's uplifted chin showing attack. It was a mostly smooth dance, with minimal scratchiness in the corner. They gave no indication they were a new team.
Stiegler had no qualms about skating first.
“It's actually my favorite number to skate because you don't have time to think about what's going on. You just go out there and have adrenaline going,” she said. Lydia Manon (Arctic FSC) and Ryan O'Meara (Coyotes SC of Arizona) were fourth, taking a few third-place scores.
The original dance takes place Wednesday at 2:20 p.m. local time.