Belbin and Agosto Take Commanding Lead in Ice Dancing Competition

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

Senior Original Dance Results
Senior Original Dance Photos
All Event Results, Photos, Video and News

(1/12/05) — The senior ice dancing competition continued Wednesday afternoon at the 2005 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships with the original dance. Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto (Arctic FSC) danced their way through an exceptional program, tripling their lifetime 6.0 haul by receiving four perfect marks for presentation. The rest of their marks were all 5.8s and 5.9s and they were in first place by a mile.

“We had a really great time out there today,” Belbin said. “There's something about the original dance at nationals that we always really enjoy. Our goal today was just to perform this program as far as it could go, and I think that we achieved that. Obviously the 6.0s were so incredible to receive. We feel great about our skating.”

The recent Grand Prix Final silver medalists looked every bit the best in the world as they flew through the required elements, doing each bigger, better, and faster than the other teams. Over the season they have polished their “Cabaret” program so that it flows from one highlight element to the next with playful, rhythm-appropriate embellishments. The diagonal sequence featured turns in both directions among the changes in hand holds, and their side-by-side footwork sequence has become a signature for them, with the audience breaking into appreciative applause before Belbin and Agosto hit the two-third mark.

“The crowd tonight was wonderful,” Agosto said. “They were really behind us and so warm, and that really helps drive us. I really felt like we had a good connection with them tonight.”

Melissa Gregory (SC of New York) and Denis Petukhov (Skokie Valley SC) placed second again, taking eight of the nine judges to their program from “Chicago.” The rhythm does not seem a comfortable match, especially for Petukhov, but they had good unison on the elements and a unique final slide utilizing their Diamond blades.

“We've been trying a lot to work on the second mark, on our presentation, the way we emote to the audience,” Gregory said.

“We really enjoyed performing in the United States,” Petukhov said. “We already feel like our name is known.”

Lydia Manon (Detroit SC) and Ryan O'Meara (Coyotes SC of Arizona) placed third in the original dance and moved into third place overall, even stealing a second-place ordinal from Gregory and Petukhov.

“I had a great time with these rhythms, especially the fox trot and the quickstep,” Manon said. “It's just so dancy, and you can feel the audience along with you. It was a great audience, like everyone's said, and that really helped to see the faces of the audience as we skate by and see them smiling.”

“It's just one of my favorite programs I've ever done,” O'Meara said. “It makes me smile.”

The enjoyment the team spoke of was obvious in the presentation of their fox trot-quickstep combination skated to the music “You Can't Take That Away From Me” and “42nd Street.” They moved as if on a dance floor, not on slippery ice, showing off moves like a side-by-side sequence that traveled half the rink on one foot, with twizzles in both directions in and out of edge pulls.

“I think we came in with the hope of medaling,” O'Meara said, “so that was one of our goals. Just skate our best and see where that takes us.”

Manon and O'Meara, as well as Tiffany Stiegler (Los Angeles FSC) and Sergei Magerovskiy (Arctic FSC), are training partners of Belbin and Agosto.

“They are an inspiration,” O'Meara said. “It's nice to train with a top team.”

“It does push us to see the best in the country,” Manon said. “It pushes us.”

Stiegler and Magerovskiy dropped to fourth with a polished-looking program that lacked somewhat in speed. A stag lift with a change of direction into a split rotational lift was the highlight of the first half of the program, as was an extremely well-centered spin that closed the routine.

““I think Sergei and I felt really comfortable,” Stiegler said. “We've been training really hard. We were a little more secure with compulsory because we've been working on that for so long. This is the third month we've had the OD.”

“Some days we feel more comfortable with free program, sometimes with OD,” Magerovskiy said.

The skaters will all have the chance to compete their free dances on Friday.