All Three U.S. Dance Teams in Top 10 After Original Dance

by Laura Fawcett
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto
Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP

2007 World Championships News, Results and Photos

(3/22/07) - All three American ice dancing teams are in the top 10 after Thursday's original dance at the 2007 World Championships. Using the international judging system to their advantages, Team USA racked up level fours on every element to stake its claim as one of the strongest overall teams in the worlds.

Reigning World bronze medalist Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, fifth after the compulsory dance, gained ground on the leaders by collecting the highest technical elements score of the competition. They trail leaders Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria by half a point (99.52-99.02).

Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon of Canada, leaders after the compulsory dance, were third in the original and are now second overall (99.50).

Belbin laughed that the key to their success today might have been running into the boards – which she did just a few seconds into the program. She had to put her hands on the board to keep from hitting it with her feet, but the incident was not part of any of the required elements.

“We didn't actually have [an original dance] practice in this arena before and it doesn't have hockey lines like the other arena,” Belbin said. “I think we just started our beginning too close to the boards. I'm staring at Ben the entire opening, and I don't look away from him. So by the time I stepped forward to see where I was, it was too late. But I recovered all right. The rest of the program could have gone better had I not been disappointed and distracted by that little bobble.”

Belbin and Agosto completed the trifecta started by Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov by earning all level fours.

“We were really excited to see that we finally got all level fours, which we haven't been able to capture the footwork,” Agosto said. “Running into the boards, maybe that adds a level .. a new element.”

Belbin also revealed that she's had a rough couple of weeks. During a rhumba practice she fell over Agosto and landed on her elbow, which subsequently cracked her rib. Then, she developed food poisoning right before their pre-Worlds monitoring session.

Meryl Davis & Charlie White moved up two places to eighth overall with another one of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva's technically packed programs. Their youth was reflected in the lower program component scores, and both Davis and White know that working more on passion is in their future.

“We just need to mature a little bit,” Davis said.

Her partner agreed.

Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski
Photo by Toru Yamanaka/AFP

“Now that we have the technical, we really want to focus just on speed and a lot of relating to each other,” White said.

While Belbin and Agosto had the highest technical score, Davis and White weren't far behind, with the fourth-best technical score. Not surprisingly, the third Shpilband-Zoueva team, Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, had the third-highest technical score. Davis and White's original dance score was a personal best (55.82).

Skating earlier in the day, Gregory and Petukhov's score of 53.15 held up well for the rest of the event, and they also moved up a spot to 10th overall. They are about 2 and a half points out of of ninth place.

This is their first competition since the U.S. Championships, as an injury to Petukhov forced them to withdraw from Four Continents.

“I don't think it (the injury) affected the training, but it was definitely more challenging,” Petukhov said. “You never like when something hurts.”

“Always when you have an injury it's always mentally challenging, it kind of breaks your schedule,” Gregory added. “You get so set in your mind for what you need to do, and when it's altered because of a thing like an injury.”

Defending World champions Denkova and Staviski are in first after a powerful and passionate program. The team, which has already announced plans to retire, changed their music after the European Championships.

“It is still the same piece, but it is played by a violin player, Vasilev,” Denkova said. He played it especially for us during a show, and we felt really wonderful with this music [so] we decided to take it for the World Championships. Obviously, it brought us luck!”

Compulsory dance leaders Dubreuil and Lauzon were third in the original dance after having a tiny bit of trouble on their twizzle sequence. The glitch resulted in a zero grade of execution, which was enough to put them third in the close competition.

The dance competition concludes Friday afternoon.