2004 U.S. Nationals
by Alexandra Stevenson
For the first time only one compulsory was required. Until the start of the 1989 season three compulsories were skated and in the intervening years there were two. This meant the compulsory and original could be scheduled for the same evening.
How did the top level skaters feel about this changes? Tanith Belbin liked the idea. "It’s less draining because you have to come to the rink and get ‘up’ only twice instead of three times. And over a practice session you don’t just do one section."
Adding to her statement, Belbin’s partner, Ben Agosto, joked, "We might as well do the free dance at the same time, too, and get it over with." (In fact, for many years, the British did all the sections of their dance championships in one day, and this was in the days when there were several compulsories.)
Melissa Gregory said, "I think doing one compulsory is fine. They do that internationally. And doing compulsory and original in one day is pretty good for me."
David Mitchell added, "The only challenge is we have to do a little character changing faster than usual."
The compulsory was the Ravensburger Waltz, a lovely, flowing and, for the woman, very difficult dance with a lot of twizzles.
Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev, who won this title for the past five years, had not competed this season, because they wanted to give Lang’s painful foot a rest. They took the ice at the Philips Arena, a 20,000 seat, five year old arena, as the second couple in the second warm-up of six.
Lang was dressed in white lace in a creation that would have done justice to a doll on top of a wedding cake. Tchernyshev was in a Russian looking outfit of light tan and black. They performed the first sequence extremely well. They were polished and looked comfortable and at ease. However Lang’s mistake in the second sequence probably cost them first place. The first set of marks were three 5.5s, three 5.6s and three 5.7s. The second set comprised four 5.6s, four 5.7s and a 5.8.
Their main rivals, Belbin&Agosto, skated next but one. He was in a standard black outfit, she in a dreamy peach dress. They finished with him spinning. She had one foot wrapped around his neck and the other in a graceful split position, swinging athletically up and down.
Eight judges put them ahead of Lang&Tchernyshev, three by only 0.1, three by 0.2 and two by 0.3. However, Judge No. 6, Katherine Williamson of Kansas City, gave the champions two 5.7s and Belbin&Agosto, who have been runners-up for the title for three times, 5.6 and 5.8. A tied score in a compulsory is broken on the first mark and so her first place went to Lang&Tchernyshev.
Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov, who are married and have been third in this championships for the past two years, gained unanimous third place, with last year’s fourth place finishers Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell, fourth.
Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto
Lang&Tchernyshev appeared fine in their warm-up despite his fall but, as their names were being announced, Tchernyshev stayed at the entrance to the ice while Lang progressed slowly along the barrier to the referee, Hal Marron, obviously favoring her left foot. A cyst on the Archilles tendon has caused her great pain the past two seasons. She told Marron she had to withdraw.
An announcement was made and the obviously sympathetic crowd gave her a standing ovation as she left the ice.
"For the past few weeks, it started flaring up again," Lang explained. "I was going to try and stick it for myself and my fans. It was getting pretty bad this weekend and last week. There was no way I could compete successfully."
Recovery from surgery to correct the problem could take months. "The hardest part was the look on Peter’s face, knowing he put his trust in me and I kind of disappointed everybody," said Lang in tears.
All but one couple had already skated. Belbin&Agosto had given an excellent showing of their routine which started with a perky "5 months, 2 weeks, 2 days", which led into a polished Blues to "Do Right" and concluded with an energetic "Hey Pachno" which included a spectacularly difficult straight line twizzle sequence.
"This was definitely the most fun we’ve had with the original. It was our strongest performance," Agosto said. "Everything flowed together very nicely." When he heard about the withdrawal, he added, "We’re very sad. We always enjoyed competing with them. Having them withdraw is a real disappointment. They bring the level of the competition up."
Belbin said, "It’s hard to see them go through that. It won’t be the same without them."
Gregory&Petukhov moved up to second racing through "Rock Around the Clock", slinking through "Harlem Nocturne" in which he, instead of she, did a high kick, and expending great energy head shaking to "Great Balls of Fire" during which they survived a slight miss in a lift in which he nearly lost her.
Galler-Rabinowitz&Mitchell chose to begin with a blues and then moved to an explosive Jive in which they wowed the audience when she appeared to slide down his back and through his legs with her head just inches from the ice.
The new team of Kendra Goodwin and Brent Bommentre, who were sixth in the Ravensburger, climbed to fourth going into the free with a sexy "Stormy Monday Blues" and a quick moving "Whoo-Wee Sweet Daddy"
Christie Moxley and Aleksandre Kirsanov, who were sixth in this event last year, put out a lot of energy in their start to "Bye Bye Johnnie", had a smooth passage through the Platters’ "Only You" and had the audience toe tapping to "Rock This Town", but they stayed fifth.
There were some interesting new couples including the last placed Alexandra Snyder, who is 19, and Nick Traxler, who train in Dallas. Synder, who had pair skated, had never done any dance before January 2003 when she took her preliminary test. She probably has set a record for the shortest time for going through tests Preliminary to Gold to become eligible for Nationals by the cut off date of August..
Traxler, who is 21, has had a couple of previous partners including Katy Hill, who was Agosto’s partner before he switched to Belbin. He agreed to take Synder through her tests but never considered the possibility of competition till friends began to comment on how good they looked together.
It’s certainly shows you never know what you can do until you try it.
Belbin & Agosto won the U.S. title with a crowd-pleasing "West Side Story" in which they begin with the ending tragedy and then live out their memories through the tunes, "Tonight", "I Want To Be in America", "Somewhere A Place For Us", the fight music, and "Maria".
The were awarded unanimous first places with the first set of scores comprising four 5.7’s, three 5.8’s and one 5.9 and the second set two 5.8s and the rest 5.9, the best marks they had ever had. They said going back to the 6.0 system helped them do a more powerful free.
Up to this event, all their competition this season -- three Grand Prix events and the Final -- used the experimental Code of Points.
Belbin explained, "In CoP you’re experiencing a new mindset, thinking about improving the level of difficulty for each element. We’re constantly altering little things. For here we made just a few changes.
"We took out some brackets and choctaws on the circular step sequence. It made it work so much better. You can’t get power out of these steps.
"Here, we concentrated on just delivering the strongest, most powerful, emotional performance we could. And we changed a lift at the beginning. In CoP it didn’t have enough difficulty but we brought it back because it pleases the audience."
"We are savoring this moment. The compulsory and the original were the best we’ve done and we’re happy with the free dance."
They had seen Lang & Tchernyshev at a reception hosted by Champions on Ice director Tom Collins but did not know their plans. "I did see Peter with his suitcase in an elevator and he said, ‘You’ll be seeing me.’ And I (jokingly) asked him, ‘Is that a threat?’"
(It is understood that Lang will have surgery and return to competition. At this point Belbin, who was brought up in Canada but is now a U.S. resident, may not get her citizenship in time to compete in the 2006 Olympics.)
Gregory & Petukhov, gracing the ice with a flowing classical number to Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D Minor in suitably flowing chiffon-y outfits, were unanimously second. Gregory said, "We now train with Nicolai Morozov and Shae Lynn Bourne. She’s the world champion. You can’t help but improve."
Her partner (and husband) added, "Hopefully U.S. ice dancing is soon going to be the best in the world."
Galler-Rabinowitz & Mitchell, skated to a tango routine to "Obsession" from Bajofondo Tangoclub in silver, gained six third place votes for their free and so claimed the bronze medals. "It’s not sunk in yet," said Miller. "For six years we’ve looked up at these positions, asking, ‘What do we have to do to get there?’"
Newcomers, Goodwin & Bommentre, were fourth and while Moxley & Kirsanov’s Charlie Chaplin routine brought them fifth place.
|Compulsory Dance 1|
|1||Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto||1||1||1||1||1||2||1||1||1||8/1|
|2||Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev||2||2||2||2||2||1||2||2||2||9/2|
|3||Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov||3||3||3||3||3||3||3||3||3||9/3|
|4||Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell||4||4||6||8||4||4||4||4||5||6/4|
|5||Christie Moxley & Aleksandre Kirsanov||5||6||5||5||5||6||6||5||4||6/5|
|6||Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre||6||5||8||4||6||8||7||6||6||6/6|
|7||Hilary Gibbons & Justin Pekarek||7||7||4||6||8||7||5||8||7||7/7|
|8||Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara||8||8||7||7||7||5||8||7||8||5/7|
|9||Julia Rey & Philipp Rey||9||9||10||11||9||10||9||10||9||5/9|
|10||Rebecca Magerovskiy & Sergey Magerovskiy||10||10||9||9||10||9||11||9||10||8/10|
|11||Laura Munana & Luke Munana||12||12||11||12||11||11||10||11||11||6/11|
|12||Alexandra Snyder & Nick Traxler||11||11||12||10||12||12||12||12||12||9/12|
|1||Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||9/1|
|2||Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov||2||2||2||2||2||2||2||3||2||8/2|
|3||Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell||3||3||4||3||3||3||3||2||3||8/3|
|4||Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre||5||4||3||5||7||7||5||4||7||6/5|
|5||Christie Moxley & Aleksandre Kirsanov||4||6||5||4||6||6||4||6||4||5/5|
|6||Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara||6||7||6||6||4||5||6||5||5||8/6|
|7||Hilary Gibbons & Justin Pekarek||7||5||7||7||5||4||7||7||6||9/7|
|8||Julia Rey & Philipp Rey||9||8||9||8||9||8||8||8||9||5/8|
|9||Rebecca Magerovskiy & Sergey Magerovskiy||8||9||8||9||8||9||9||9||8||9/9|
|10||Laura Munana & Luke Munana||10||11||10||10||10||10||10||10||11||7/10|
|11||Alexandra Snyder & Nick Traxler||11||10||11||11||11||11||11||11||10||9/11|
|1||Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||9/1|
|2||Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov||2||2||2||2||2||2||2||2||2||9/2|
|3||Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell||3||5||3||3||4||3||3||3||4||6/3|
|4||Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre||4||4||5||4||3||4||4||4||6||7/4|
|5||Christie Moxley & Aleksandre Kirsanov||5||3||4||6||6||6||5||5||3||6/5|
|6||Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara||6||6||6||7||7||5||6||6||5||7/6|
|7||Hilary Gibbons & Justin Pekarek||7||7||7||5||5||7||7||7||7||9/7|
|8||Julia Rey & Philipp Rey||8||8||8||8||8||8||8||8||8||9/8|
|9||Rebecca Magerovskiy & Sergey Magerovskiy||9||9||10||10||9||9||9||9||9||7/9|
|10||Laura Munana & Luke Munana||10||10||9||11||10||11||10||11||11||5/10|
|11||Alexandra Snyder & Nick Traxler||11||11||11||9||11||10||11||10||10||9/11|
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