Figure Skating News

Belbin and Agosto snatch lead at Four Continents

USA’s Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto bested Canada’s Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in the original dance competition by over one point in this phase of the competition. However, even with the lead, the 2006 Olympic silver medalists were not at their best.

Dressed in black with red highlights, Belbin and Agosto performed their tango to Piazzolla’s Concierto para Quinteto and Oblivion, but the program seemed to lack the typical punch that this team usually exhibits in the original dance.

“Every program for us is always a work in progress,” explained Agosto. “After each competition, we always come back and analyze what we did well, and what we didn’t do well to make a game plan of what we want to change.”

That would be the dress for starters.

During the side-by-side midline step sequence, Belbin’s left skate snagged the back of her dress, forcing her to skate on one foot until she tore herself free.

“Thankfully it happened in the one-foot section because I couldn’t get my leg out,” said Belbin, adding that she’s never encountered this problem before. “These things happen. I’d rather have it happen here than at the World Championships. We just cut the skirt off and start over.”

Nevertheless, the highlight of their program was the ending rotational lift in which Agosto used no hands to support his partner as she meshed her arms around his shoulder while maintaining a beautiful catch-foot position. In addition, the duo also scored 8.03 points on their level three circular step sequence.

Dubreuil and Lauzon, who are only 0.31 of a point behind the leaders, also struggled with their passionate program to Payadora by Julián Plaza, but managed to place second in this phase of the competition and overall with a total of 97.86 points.

“We had a pretty good day before we skated,” mused Dubreuil, “but it didn’t happen for us today out on the ice. Just a bad day on the job.”

Dubreuil struggled with her twizzles during the side-by-side midline step sequence and later, caught an edge during a transitional move. However, the current World silver medalists quickly recovered to complete the rest of the program with their typical fire and attack.

“I just stumbled and was unfocused,” admitted Dubreuil.”Tomorrow is another day and another program and we just have to move onto something else and put the program behind us.”

The five-time and reigning Canadian Champions are known for their innovative, and often potentially dangerous, rotational lifts. Today’s lift did not stray from that pattern. Dubreuil begins by mounting onto Lauzon’s mid-section in a tango hold. The lift evolves in such a way that Dubreuil almost stands beside her partner supported only by her hand to his neck and his hand to her inner thighs.

Many might remember their Olympic original dance in which Dubreuil was dropped to the ice on the same element (a different variation). The team was forced to withdraw from the competition due to her injury.

“Well, that is what we are known for,” said Dubreuil. “I don’t know why we should stop. We did that lift for Olympics like a thousand times and it never happened. I also have all of the confidence in Patrice.”

The battle for the bronze medal is heating up to be a two-team race between Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Both teams train with the same coaching staff of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva.

Davis and White are known as the first team to receive all level fours in the free dance from a senior international judging panel, a feat that they conquered at this fall’s Skate Canada competition.

Conversely, Virtue and Moir achieved the same standard in the original dance at this event, earning all level fours for their program to Association Tango and winning the technical portion of the original dance.

Virtue and Moir skated not only with explosive power on all of their moves, but also skated noticeably closer than the top teams. Additionally, the current Four Continents bronze medalists showed perhaps the best twizzles of the competition to this point, and performed their passionate tango with verve that belies their age and experience.

“We thought it was the best we had ever skated it,” said Virtue. “We’re thrilled with the level fours, and it is something that we have been working on. We’re really happy with our skate today.”

Virtue and Moir have earned 90.90 points going in to the free dance, while rivals Davis and White are close behind with 88.34 points.

On the other side of the rivalry, USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White, though not able to earn level fours on all of their elements, were able to boast that they earned the highest score of a single element in the original dance competition.

The 2006 World Junior bronze medalists earned an impressive 8.17 points on their level four diagonal step sequence and also displayed similar blade proximity to that of their training mates. The other highlight of their tango to Los Amigos was the team’s blazing twizzles in the midline step sequence in which both bodies almost seemed to move as one.

In fifth place are teammates Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre who are skating in their first ISU Championship event. The team, who has only skated together for only 18 months, produced deep and controlled edges that complimented their tense body lines. The 2006 Karl Schäfer Memorial bronze medalists earned a new personal best of 48.44 for their tango to music from the soundtrack Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Little Drop of Poison by Tom Waits.

“We are treating this [competition] like a bonus,” said Bommentre of being the alternates (for Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov) coming in. “We are not putting any pressure on it.”

Lauren Senft and Leif Gislason of Canada currently stand in sixth place, followed by the brother-and-sister team of Cathy and Chris Reed who now represent Japan.

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