A Three-peat for Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto

by Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto skating their flamenco free dance
Photo by Michelle Harvath

2006 Smart Ones Skate America Results, Photos and News

(10/22/05) - The ice dancing competition at Smart Ones Skate America concluded Saturday afternoon at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto captured their third consecutive Skate America title with their flamenco free dance. The couple scored 95.35 in this portion and 190.45 overall. In second were Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France with 92.27 in the free (184.47). Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin were third with 85.32 for their waltz (169.23). The other American teams, Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara were fifth (78.79/155.51) and Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy were seventh (75.71/142.94).

“It feels good to have a three-peat,” Agosto said. “I know this has been a hard week for Tanith and I'm really proud of her. She's a real fighter.”

“I'm feeling better every day this week,” said Belbin, who has bronchitis and a sinus infection. “The original dance took a lot out of me, but today with the crowd, it really helped me a lot through it. I expect this program will show a huge amount of improvement from now until nationals and worlds, now that we know what to expect.”

Agosto declared today's free dance “Much better than in Oberstdorf (where a cut to Belbin resulted in a medical break and re-start). We feel much more confident. I have to say there were nerves going into it. Maybe a little post-traumatic stress syndrome. It felt fine, and I'm happy we skated well.”

“I think that for the first Grand Prix and all the circumstances surrounding this week, we feel really, really proud of ourselves,” Belbin added. “We were happy to see that we had level fours on a lot of our elements. We know what we need to work on, but we're just so glad that we were able to perform it as well as we did today, and we'll go home and work on speed and performance for the next six weeks before NHK. We're really happy.”

Belbin and Agosto's free dance received no negative grades of execution. They did receive a 1.0 deduction for an extended lift and only a level 2 on their circular step sequence, but the rest of the levels were all threes and fours. Delobel and Schoenfelder also received the 1.0 extended lift deduction and a lone negative GOE on their backward twizzle sequence.

Delobel and Schoenfelder's free dance is the story of two people hiding behind their masks at a carnival in Venice. Elaborate velvet costumes adorned with heavy beading and elaborate hand-painting play a major role in the dance. Their hands are covered, with eyes and lips draw on both the palm and the back, allowing them to create various looks. The music is original, composed specifically to highlight their dance elements.

“We are very happy the way we skate tonight,” Schoenfelder said. “We know we are not ready. The program is a little short in preparation, but for the first competition we did this season, we are very happy.”

“As Olivier said, we need more preparation,” Delobel added. “We have a good idea, a good conception about it. We're going to fix what we have to do and it's going to be better. We are really happy what we did this week.”

Domnina and Shabalin skated to Karl Jenkins' “Waltz.” They received only one negative GOE on their curve lift-straight lift.

“We are very pleased to have won the bronze medal in this event,” Domnina said. “It's our first senior Grand Prix medal. We are pleased with how we performed in all three parts of the competition.”

“Our free dance went well, and now we will continue to work on the technique and up the level of difficulty,” Shabalin said.

Jamie Silverstein and Ryan O'Meara's modern tango was more dramatic than it was when it debuted in Lake Placid in August. They, too, received only one negative GOE, on their serpentine sequence, as they lost unison.

Silverstein was happy with how her week ended.

“I just had a fantastic time skating,” she said. “Better than I can remember. I felt so proud to have Ryan out there with me. It felt good to come and show we've been working really hard. Personally, I'm proud of myself. I'm glad I'm doing it, I'm glad I took a chance and Igor and Marina were there to give me a chance.”

“It tells me we're definitely on the right track, just to keep doing what we've been doing the past six months,” O'Meara said. “Obviously that kind of training works for us. We know more about each other now and how each other works. I know we're on a great road to somewhere. I just don't know where that's going to be.”

Stiegler and Magerovskiy's program to “Notre Dame de Paris” was packed with difficulty. Stiegler's move from pairs to dance is paying off.

“I feel like I'm like a racehorse,” she said. “I can't wait to get out there on the ice. Every opportunity that I have to get on the ice and do a dance program, I get so excited. It's just so much fun. I miss skating with my brother, but Sergey is amazing to skate with. I've wanted to dance since I was six years old.”