2005 U.S. Nationals

Senior Dance

by Alexandra Stevenson

 

 

 
Standings
Place Couple C1 OD FD
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto 1 1 1
2 Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov 2 2 2
3 Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara 4 3 3
4 Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy 3 4 6
5

Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

6 6 4
6 Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre 5 5 5
7 Kate Slattery & Chuen-Gun Lee 8 8 7
8 Julia Rey & Phillipp Rey 7 7 8
9 Lindsay Evans & Kevin O'Keefe 9 9 9
10 Stephanie Ellis & Ian Ross-Fry 10 10 11
11 Alisa Allapach & Benjamin Westenberger 12 11 10
12 Elizabeth Palmer & Ryland Stucke 11 12 12
13 Francesca Cheli & Alex Clark 13 13 13

 

Compulsory Dance

Midnight Blues

 
Starting Order - Compulsory Dance
  1. Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy

  2. Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre

  3. Stephanie Ellis & Ian Ross-Fry

  4. Francesca Cheli & Alex Clark

  5. Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

  6. Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara

  7. Alisa Allapach & Benjamin Westenberger

  8. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

  9. Kate Slattery & Chuen-Gun Lee

  10. Julia Rey & Phillipp Rey

  11. Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov

  12. Elizabeth Palmer & Ryland Stucke

  13. Lindsay Evans & Kevin O'Keefe

 

Compulsory Dance Placements
Place Couple C1 C2
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto    
2 Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov    
3 Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy    
4 Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara    
5 Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre    
6

Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

   
7 Julia Rey & Phillipp Rey    
8 Kate Slattery & Chuen-Gun Lee    
9 Lindsay Evans & Kevin O'Keefe    
10 Stephanie Ellis & Ian Ross-Fry    
11 Elizabeth Palmer & Ryland Stucke    
12 Alisa Allapach & Benjamin Westenberger    
13 Francesca Cheli & Alex Clark    


Since this is the first time the Midnight Blues has been seen in Nationals, Ice Skating International Online talked to all 13 couples about their impressions of this novel exercise.

However, first a round-up of those MISSING IN ACTION. Half of last yearís field of 12 couples did not return and it wasnít because they were eliminated. Easterns and Pacific Coast had only four entries each, while Midwests had just Stiegler & Magerovskiy who, therefore, did not have to skate. Gone are:

1. Former five time US champions, Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev, split their partnership shortly after withdrawing from last yearís championship after lying second after the compulsory. Lang and her significant other, Vladimir Besedein, produced a daughter, Lillia Ashley, delivered in August in Brooklyn, NY, while Tchernyshev briefly teamed up with past Canadian and world champion, Shae Lynn Bourne.

Inquiring minds wonder if Lang &Tchernyshev might team up again in order to take part in another Olympic Games but perhaps Langís chronic ankle problem would preclude that.

2. Last yearís bronze medalists, Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell withdrew on December 9. Mitchell had experienced increasing pain in his left shoulder for the past six months. An arthorgram MRI revealed a grade 2 superior and anterior cartilage tear which required surgery.

3. Christie Moxley & Alexander Kirsanov, 5th last year, were assigned to compete in the Nebelhorn Trophy in September but withdrew from the event and have been teaching since them. It is understood Moxley would like to continue competing. Kirsanov, who previously represented Azerbaijan and Russia, wants to explore other possibilities.

4. Hilary Gibbons & Justin Pekarek, 7th last year, are no longer competing.

5. Laura & Luke Munana, 10th last year, are hoping to skate for Mexico which is where their father is from.

6. Alexandra Snyder & Nick Traxler, 11th last year, have split their partnership. Traxler is now coaching but would love to do another nationals.

A 6.0 for a compulsory! What a compliment judge Sam Singer from San Francisco gave the defending champions, Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto. The raspberry attired duo was surprisingly low-key about this accolade. "I think for the beginning of the competition, this performance was good enough," said Belbin, 20.

"It wasnít our best both technically or for presentation. It was a compliment. It makes us think of what we can achieve if we do our best! It was definitely nice. Weíve never had a 6.0 for a compulsory but we definitely could have done better. But, regardless, it will always have the same positive ring. We hope we can receive more in this competition."

Agosto, who will be 23 on January 15, the day after the free dance, said, "I was shocked when I saw the 6.0. We tend to always feel our performance is worse than it is. It was wonderful to see it. It is a definite confidence booster."

So how many 6.0s have they received for any performance? Have they gained so many they can afford to be so cavalier about this situation which is a rarity that skaters often dream about in vain for their whole career?

"Counting this one? Umm Ė 2," Belbin said with wide eyed innocence. Should this mark, once reserved for perfection, have been awarded? Obviously, as we saw in Dortmund, judging panels, anticipating the extinction of 6.0s with the implementation of the new judging system, want to be able to say they gave the mark at least once to their favorite performers.

The only skaters to get a 6.0 internationally in a compulsory were Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean. Russians have received 6.0s internally but not internationally. No US skater has ever gained a 6.0 for a compulsory.

Igor Shpilband, who trains Belbin & Agosto in Canton, Michigan, said he felt the 6.0 was justified. "It was for the second mark, which is for timing and expression, and their expression was very, very good."

Belbin said, "This is probably the biggest crowd that weíve seen for a compulsory dance at nationals, so that was really wonderful."

Unanimously second were last yearís runners-up, Melissa Gregory, 23, & Denis Petukhov, 26, who skated in black. "Like Tanith & Ben, weíve competed with the Midnight Blues before," said Petukhov, "We did the Midnight Blues last year at Worlds and at the Grand Prix in Japan. We like it. Itís something fresh."

Gregory said, "At the dance meeting following worlds, we asked for clarification about the Midnight Blues and the ISU sent out directives about some edges and about free leg positions. It used to be a little vague. Now itís more clear."

They hope the draw will be for the Midnight Blues rather than the Rhumba for this yearís worlds. "The Rhumba is very difficult to do," said Petukov, "because itís all side by side. It shows up every little weakness of the skaters like a magnifying glass."

Probably the most interesting placement of the event was the third place of new comer, Tiffany Stiegler, 20, & her partner, Sergei Magerovskiy, 23, who last year was 9th with his wife, Rebecca.

Stiegler, a pair skater, moved from California to Canton, Michigan, to train with coach Igor Shpilband last year and subsequently passed all her dance tests in í04 in an amazingly short time.

With her brother, Johnnie, Stiegler won the US Novice and Junior titles and competed in seniors six times, twice finishing 4th. After the partnership split, Stiegler competed with Bert Cording iní03 taking 9th place in a field of 15 pairs.

This is Steigler & Magerovskiyís first full competition. They executed two compulsories in the Lake Placid championships in July, but did not take part in regionals or sections due to lack of entries.

"There were a couple of things that were shaky," said the very bubbly Steigler, "But I love the Blues. I love every compulsory Iíve done. I havenít done all of them. Iíve only done two of the senior ones." They skated first. "Itís actually my favorite position to skate because you donít have time to think about whatís going on. You just go out there and have the adrenaline Iíve never had so much fun in my entire life and this was a compulsory."

Shpilband said, "Tiffany is very talented and Sergei is incredibly strong and very good for her. Heís very supportive of her and he put in a lot of work."

They took third place in a five judges to four decision over Lydia Manon, 22, & Ryan OíMeara, 21, who train alongside Belbin & Agosto and Steigler & Magerovskiy. Manon & OíMeara finished 6th in their first entry last year.

They were dressed in blue which, said OíMeara, "puts us in the mood so we feel the character." Though they like this new compulsory, he said at the beginning, there are problems with the position. "The Reverse Foxtrot hold is not used in other compulsories and it is difficult."

His partner added, "Itís a sort of a slowed down tango. Iím sure when weíve had more time, weíll get more comfortable with it. Iím glad to see something new. I like the Blues feeling. Overall we skated very well but we had a bobble where we have to step wide and we stepped on each other."

Lying fifth are Kendra Goodwin, 22, & Brent Bommentre, 20, who were 4th last year after pulling up from 6th after the compulsory. "Thereís pressure to perform better than last year, but we feel we skated really well," said Bommentre.

The couple, who teamed up in the spring of í03 and are trained by Robbie Kane, had the experience of performing this compulsory in the Cup of Russia. However, in the past, the compulsories have been their weaker section.

In the Midnight Blues, "the restart (that begins the second sequence) is the most difficult part," said Goodwin. "Itís as awkward position. I thought we skated really well but thereís a bunch of things we plan to work on. We want to go more with the expression.

The last three junior champions trained by Shpilband who medaled at World Juniors have made impressive senior debuts. Jessica Joseph & Charles Butler in 1998, Jamie Silverstein & Justin Pekarek in 2000, and Belbin & Agosto were all second when they advanced to seniors.

Perhaps this history gave the fans unrealistic expectations for Morgan Matthews, 17, & Maxim Zavozin, 19, the twice US junior champions, who are trained by his mother and stepfather. Sixth in your senior debut may not rival those previous performances but only one of those couples is still in competition. Sixth is not to be sneezed at.

Dressed in black and silver, Matthews said, "I enjoy the Midnight Blues a lot. It has good flow and deep edges. Itís fun to skate. Itís more like an original. You can be very expressive with it. Itís very interesting."

Julia Rey, who will be 21 on January 16, & Philipp Rey, 23, lie seventh. The brother and sister, who were born in Munich, Germany, were 8th in their debut last year. They came to the United States in 1990. By 1993 they had obtained their "green cards", US residency permits, but the US Figure Skating requires one member of an ice dance couple, or pair, to be a US citizen and so, until í01, they trained in Oberstdorf and represented the country where they were born.

When he decided he needed an American college education, they moved back to the United States. They became US citizens in í03. He has a degree in economics. She is working towards her degree in accounting. Their goal is to represent this country.

Last season the music for the old Blues was used. Philipp Rey revealed a problem developed with two of the six new pieces of music selected for the Midnight Blues. "There was supposed to be eight beats for the introductory steps, but in two pieces there was less. It made it really difficult so those pieces have been dropped."

In September, it was officially decided to use only the four pieces would which, of course, are played on an alternating basis. The Reys said they thought they skated "pretty good" but said they had difficulty with the edges because the rink was "narrow. Itís an NHL size."

Kate Slattery, will be 21 on February 2, & Chuen-Gun Lee, 24, lie eighth in this their debut. They train in Wilmington, Delaware. Lee skated internationally for Korea with Tae-Hwa Lee, no relative. They finished 24th in the Salt Lake Olympics. She left the sport after the Games and he was unable to find a suitable partner in Korea so he looked for one in the United States where he had been training and found Slattery.

The idea was that they should compete for Korea but the paperwork proved even more insurmountable than for the reverse to happen. They have already represented the US. After fine performances in Skate Wilmington and in Lake Placid over the summer, they were sent to the Bofrost Cup in Germany where they finished 9th.

Slattery said, "We like the Midnight Blues a lot. Itís very challenging and has some difficult moves like the Ina Bauer and the dip. Itís pretty cool. You have to show good edges. We could have skated a little bit faster." He added, "We have to show knee action and more extension. Itís a ballroom dance. I like it because itís more elegant."

Also making their debut are Lindsay Evans, 18, & Kevin O'Keefe, 22, who are lying ninth. They train at the SC of Boston with Barret Brown and Tom Lescinski. Last year OíKeefe finished 7th nationally at junior level with Victoria Devins.

Evans said, "It was a fun dance to learn with lots of difficulty. It was a challenge. There are moves that arenít in any other compulsory. The others are more basic, more technical. Itís pretty." He said, "I donít like the first three steps in the Reverse Foxtrot position."

Lying tenth are Stephanie Ellis, 18, & Ian Ross-Frye, 24, who train with Liz Coates & Genrikh Sritenski, and are making their first trip to senior nationals.

Ellis said, "The new music makes it more like a Foxtrot. Itís very complex and challenging. It doesnít look like a compulsory. Itís much more difficulty than the others, except for the Golden Waltz. The others have simpler patterns."

In 11th place are the locals, Elizabeth Palmer, 20, & Ryland Stucke, 17. She was born in Portland and he was born over the state border in Vancouver, Washington. They made the bold move of moving up from Novice level, where they finished 4th in í04 and 10th in í03, bypassing Juniors.

"Some of the judges told us we should have been in Junior last year," said Stucke, "so itís not that unexpected. But I donít know of anyone else who did that." Last summer they moved to train at the Skating Club of Wilmington with Irina Romanova & Igor Yaroshenko.

This is one determined couple. She survived a bad fall from a lift during practice before the free at Pacific Coast which cost her her front two teeth, but she refused to withdraw. "We were in a lift and he caught a rut and we both went down. I was in a lot of pain but no way was I going to give up.

"Today we had a bobble in one of the corners. It was a problem with tracking. We were so close to each other. You try for perfect synchronicity. But we kept going. It was a great experience. It was nice to be out in front of a home town crowd. It puts extra pressure on you but it motivates you to show your best."

In 12th place are Alisa Allapach, 21, & Benjamin Westenberger, 21, who train in Escondido and Lakewood with Suzy Semanick-Schurman & Darlene Gilbert. They were 10th at Junior level last year are making their first trip to senior nationals.

"Thereís not a whole lot of information on the Midnight Blues," said Allapach. "Weíve been studying the videos from Worlds."

Lying 13th are Francesca Cheli, who turned 19 on January 6, & Alex Clark, 22, who train at the SC of Boston with Barret Brown and Tom Lescinski, are in their first season as a team. They met through the internet.

Clark said, "The most difficult part is the layback. The man has to set up the move for the lady to do it correctly." Cheli said she liked doing the dance because, "itís different. It has some variety.

 

Original Dance

 
Starting Order - Original Dance
  1. Elizabeth Palmer & Ryland Stucke

  2. Stephanie Ellis & Ian Ross-Fry

  3. Alisa Allapach & Benjamin Westenberger

  4. Francesca Cheli & Alex Clark

  5. Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre

  6. Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara

  7. Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov

  8. Lindsay Evans & Kevin O'Keefe

  9. Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy

  10. Kate Slattery & Chuen-Gun Lee

  11. Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

  12. Julia Rey & Phillipp Rey

  13. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

 

Original Dance Placements
Place Couple
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto
2 Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov
3 Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara
4 Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy
5 Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre
6

Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

7 Julia Rey & Phillipp Rey
8 Kate Slattery & Chuen-Gun Lee
9 Lindsay Evans & Kevin O'Keefe
10 Stephanie Ellis & Ian Ross-Fry
11 Alisa Allapach & Benjamin Westenberger
12 Elizabeth Palmer & Ryland Stucke
13 Francesca Cheli & Alex Clark

Contestants had to choose two or three rhythms from Slow Foxtrot, Quickstep and Charleston.

Belbin, looking absolutely gorgeous in a frothy creation in pink, & Agosto, her sophisticated, dark-haired partner, suavely attired in white tails, skated last to upbeat music from the shows "Cabaret" & "New York, New York", choreographed by Igor Shpilband.

They opened with casual nonchalance plunging into a tongue in cheek Charleston which contained great difficulty on their straight line step sequence. That segued into a foxtrot which was flowing but still had great joie de vivre. That morphed into an energetic Quickstep with a terrific ending right in front of the nine judges.

In the wait for the marks you could sense the audienceís anticipation. Since they had received a 6.0 yesterday, which was unprecedented for a compulsory in this event, everyone expected more today. But how many? The first set for technique comprised six 5.8s and three 5.9s. Then came those for presentation Ė four 6.0s and the rest 5.9s.

Belbin said it was the best they had skated the original this season. They had continued to add difficulty throughout the season and were, of course, delighted with the sixes.

She explained, "Itís not easy to be defending champions. All through the early part of our career, we were always the underdogs. It was great to come from behind. But now, defending our title, itís a challenge to shift our mindset to maintaining your position. In Dallas, at the 2003 national championships, we did a great OD and were in the lead above Naomi and Peter, the defending champions, and we crumbled in the free dance. So we have to learn how to focus mentally. Itís a matter of maturity and confidence in ourselves."

2. Gregory, in a short pink dress, & Petukov, in a white shirt and black vest, skated to music from the show, "Chicago" and continued firmly in their runner-up position. They opened with a sexy, slinky pose which Gregory does so well. Their highlights were their superb side by side straight line step sequence and polished lift. Their Foxtrot, to "Razzle Dazzle", continued the momentum and then they returned to the Charleston wowing the audience with a move in which they were both entwined in a horizontal to the ice position which gained great applause.

3. Manon, in a peach colored dress she designed, & OíMeara, in standard tails with black bow tie, skated to "They Canít Take That Away From Me" and "Dancing Feet" from "42nd Street". Their strength lay in the Foxtrot which was extremely smooth and polished. It was sufficient for them to pull up from fourth into third. They even got one vote of second place from judge Carol Wooley of Alvord, Texas, although, balancing that was one vote of fourth place from Sam Singer of San Francisco.

Manon & OíMeara train with Belbin & Agosto and Stiegler & Magerovskiy in Canton, Ohio under the eagle eyes of Igor Shpilband, who said he felt the result was correct because Manon & OíMearaís routine was much more difficult than Stiegler and Magerovskiy.

Manon said that training with these skaters is "great because we support each other. There isnít a catty atmosphere. We applaud each other and seeing the other skaters are an inspiration to us." Manon said they really enjoy doing this original. "You hold your upper body a certain way so you flow like in ballroom dancing. If you watch ballroom dancers, their feet are moving but their bodies just float like skaters."

4. Stiegler, in a floating pink and smoke confection, & Magerovskiy, in a black dinner jacket with casually undone bow tie, skated to "Somebody Loves Me" and "Sing, Sing, Sing" with fantastic aplomb for a couple who teamed together less than a year ago.

Stiegler had never competed with an original, or a free dance, before because they had no challengers in the Regionals and Sectionals. Of course she has had a life time of performing in that other discipline - pairs.

5. Goodwin, in a rather over-powering, dramatic, shin-length blood-colored dress with one side gold, & Bommentre, with a large silver V on the back of his jacket, interpreted Bobby Darinís "Call Me Irresponsible" & "One Bad Habit" by Linda Eder.

6. Matthews & Zavozin, skating to music from the show, "Thoroughly Modern Millie", began and ended with a Charleston with a Foxtrot sandwiched in the middle. The whole presentation was extremely enjoyable. They looked as if they were having fun and audience erupted with applause for their spectacular fast rotation lift.

7. Rey & Rey, in the most original - for which you can read weird Ė outfits, skated to "Man Wanted", "I Want to be Loved by You" and the Charleston from Chicago. He had a ragged-hemmed skirt with a pink tie.

8. Slattery, in a very long purple dress, & Lee, in standard white tie and tails, skated to "Too Darn Hot" from the musical ĎKiss Me Kateí; "Call Me Irresponsible" sung by Bobby Darin, & "Puttiní on the Ritz" sung by Judy Garland. The number was choreographed by Irina Romanova.

The first piece of music was an unusual variation and its fussiness interfered with the strict rhythm. Lee worked very hard but perhaps needs a partner who is shorter.

9. Evans, in a lovely lavender outfit, & O'Keefe, in a charcoal grey regular suit, skated to a Frank Sinatra medley, "Night and Day" & "Come Fly With Me". There didnít appear to be enough contrast between the music used for the Quickstep and that for the Foxtrot. The audience loved a move near the end in which she toe picked and rotated into his arms.

10. Ellis & Ross-Frye, opening with to "Come Fly With Me", did a nice dance spin but their footwork didnít seem to reflect this music. They appeared more comfortable with their Quickstep.

11. In tails for him and a daffodil yellow dress with a blue underskirt for her, Allapach & Westenberger gave an acceptable showing to "Fly Me To The Moon" but their strength lay in their outgoing, peppy showing to "Dancing Feet" from "42nd Street". It was sufficient for them to overtake Palmer & Stucke.

12. There was a huge cheer as the local skaters, Palmer & Stucke, took the ice. Skating first, they certainly warmed up the audience, which was an impressive size for a grey Wednesday afternoon.

Palmer appeared in the traditional white tie and tails, while Stucke was in a knee length pink dress accompanied with long red gloves. They were a slightly tentative in their "Steppiní Out With My Baby", and he nearly dropped her in a lift. They were a little more outgoing in "Diamonds Are A Girlís Best Friend".

Though they are from the Portland area, this past summer they moved across to the eastside of the country and are trained at the SC of Wilmington by Igor Yaroshenko

13. In greenish gold for her and a checkered pullover, yellow and black on the front, blue and stone on the back for him, Cheli & Clark skated a Foxtrot to "More Than Youíll Know" and a Charleston that didnít quite work.

 

Free Dance

 
Starting Order - Free Dance
  1. Elizabeth Palmer & Ryland Stucke

  2. Alisa Allapach & Benjamin Westenberger

  3. Francesca Cheli & Alex Clark

  4. Stephanie Ellis & Ian Ross-Fry

  5. Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

  6. Kate Slattery & Chuen-Gun Lee

  7. Julia Rey & Phillipp Rey

  8. Lindsay Evans & Kevin O'Keefe

  9. Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov

  10. Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre

  11. Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara

  12. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

  13. Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy

 

Free Dance Placements
Place Couple
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto
2 Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov
3 Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara
4

Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

5 Kendra Goodwin & Brent Bommentre
6 Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy
7 Kate Slattery & Chuen-Gun Lee
8 Julia Rey & Phillipp Rey
9 Lindsay Evans & Kevin O'Keefe
10 Alisa Allapach & Benjamin Westenberger
11 Stephanie Ellis & Ian Ross-Fry
12 Elizabeth Palmer & Ryland Stucke
13 Francesca Cheli & Alex Clark

 

Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto


The buzz at the dance event was, of course, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agostoís perfect set of 6.0s, a record in this division at nationals. Belbin said, "It was a surprise Ė the six in the CD and an even bigger one in the OD, but this was indescribable. Iím sad to see the 6.0 system go. Weíll never see a six again." Agosto said, "It was a little bit surreal." Even their coach, Igor Shpilband, looked dazed. He said, "They made my day, my year, maybe even my life."

The second most discussed topic was citizenship. Skaters must hold a US passport to represent the country in the Olympics. As of this instance, neither the top two couples are eligible, nor are two other duos who finished in the top five.

Belbin, who was born in Canada but moved to Detroit after her successful tryout with Agosto in 1998, explained, "Weíve been representing the United States since our first junior grand prix event in Montreal in 1999 so weíve been aware of the situation for a long time. Skating for Canada was discussed but you have to reside in the country you represent. We knew we wanted to train with Igor and, to do that, we had to live in Detroit. When we found out we could not go to the Olympics in Salt Lake City, we hoped we would be cleared for 2006. That didnít work out. (Her application for a green card was delayed.)

"Thereís a five year waiting period from the time you get your green card (residency permit) to when you can apply for citizenship. Iím still pushing through that. There are rules and we understand that. There are exceptional circumstances but Tanith Belbin, the skater, wanting hers sooner is not a critical issue. Not going to the Olympics doesnít mean you canít be the best skater in the world and that is our goal. We are looking forward to 2010. We could even go till 2014."

In 2010 the Games will be in Vancouver, the country of Belbinís birth, which will make it even more special. In 2014 Tanith will be 29 and Agosto will just have turned 32, certainly not too old to be at the top of their game.

Because Melissa Gregory married her partner, Denis Petukhov, on August 30, 2000, he is on the fast track to his citizen. A spouse married to an American citizen only has to wait three years after getting their green card before applying for a US passport. Petukhovís application has been filed and he explained, "I just heard before we left for Nationals, that I had been summoned for finger printing on January 18." Once the fingerprinting is done, it is generally a matter of months because the extensive checks are completed and the final hurdle, the "interview" is schedule. Nevertheless, these prolonged vetting proceedings can take longer.

People were also talking about the promising new partnership of Tiffany Stiegler & Sergei Magerovskiy, who finished fourth after taking third place in the compulsory. The couple were watching themselves on ESPN 2 on Thursday when they got quite a shock. "Sergei and I were watching it. We were very upset about it," said Stiegler. Terry Gannon announced that Stiegler would be sending her partner out the door to skate with five time US champion Peter Tchernyshev. The reason was that she has Olympic aspirations and Magerovskiy, a Russian citizen, is not eligible at this time.

Tchernyshev, who was born in Russia, received his US citizenship in time to compete with Naomi Lang in the 1998 and 2002 Olympics. He said he had no knowledge about any plans for him to skate with any body at the present time. Stiegler and Magerovskiyís coach, Igor Shpilband, was broadsided by the television statement. "It is completely not true. Also Magerovskiy has his (US papers in and it should go through in time, if they were to make the team."

The US junior champions, Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin, who finished fifth are also not Olympic eligible for 2006.

1. Belbin & Agosto skated with mesmerizing skill and great exhuberance to "Sheritsa" choreographed by Igor Shpilband. The level of difficulty was amazing and the speed with which they carried the moves off resulted in an almost blur like effect. They began kneeling, she supplicant to him and quickly moved in the first of their intricate spins. There was one worrying second when material from Belbinís shoulder blocked her face but that didnít stop their progress. The most spectacular of many spectacular moves was when she executed a turnover in a lift and traveled with her hair sweeping the ice.

"With each competition we do better," said Belbin. "We come closer to our goal. We have to work on getting even more speed and on our free leg extensions." Shpilband suggested they use this music which was previously used by another of his couples, Canadians, who skated it at junior level. Said Belbin, "He thought we could get more out of it. Itís a natural fit for us. Gypsies have incredible passion."

Belbin was actually skating with a minor ankle injury. "I rolled it over in practice but that was a positive. It was a very mild injury. I woke up this morning and it had swollen but it kept me focused. I was determined it wouldnít make a difference."

They wore brilliantly colorful outfits that perfectly matched the Russia Gypsy music.

2. Gregory & Petukhov skated right after the ice make in flamboyant black and silver outfits with Gregory sporting a sexy hip cutout. They interpreted "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" and "Money" by Pink Floyd & Sandstorm, choreographed by Nikolai Morosov, who trains them along with Shae Lynn Bourne. They began kneeling on the ice and skated to each other to perform a scissor move followed by the first of many impressive lifts including ones in which he is in a spreadeagle position. They also made full use of their "M&D" blades which have curved ends. It enables them to do unique positions such as that in which she is able to put a leg out in front of her with the back of the heel gliding along the ice.

Gregory said, "We could have skated a little bit better. I hit something in the ice on the first set of twizzles. I did think of stopping but what are the odds of you finding a stone or a sequin?" Her partner agreed. "It was not our best today. We hope in our next two competitions (Four Continents and Worlds) to do better."

3. In contrast, Manon & OíMeara, who finished third, skated their best. "Our 6.0 friends," said Manon, looking at Belbin & Agosto while in the press conference following the event, push us every day. We donít train in the same sessions but we watch them and it really is inspiring."

Manon & OíMeara are a product of the Igor Shpilband School of Good Skating and Hard Work. Their routine used intriguing, very unusual music, "Black Cat, White Cat" by Goran Breckovich, with lyrics, sung first by a man, projecting great emotion which came through even though the language was Croatian. They demonstrated several moves which had great difficulty including a one foot footwork sequence for him. She wore a one sleeved turquoise and purple creation and he was in black with a purple sash. Towards the end, though, when she swung her legs over his shoulder, she nearly took his head with them.

4. Stiegler & Magerovskiy brought the competition to a close with a performance to Evita, dressed in red with him in grey pants. Upset by the incorrect television report discussed above about their future, they gave a performance which was far less strong than their showing in the compulsory in which they were third. They lay fourth after the original and held onto that position although they finished only sixth in the free.

5. Matthews & Zavozin skated first of the second group to music from the Irish show, "Lord of the Dance", choreographed by Zavozinís mother, Elena Garanina, who also coaches them along with her husband, Val Spiridinov. They wore gorgeous black and green chiffony outfits with silver which included headbands. It was their first competition with four minutes and though the program had potential, the added early section looked unpolished. They have had great success with the shorter version used when they won the Junior Grand Prix final in December but in Zavozin fluffed the end of an early twizzle section and she had problems later on some footwork. They received 4.7 up to 5.4 for the first set of marks and 5.0 up to 5.6 for the second set.

It is their first competition in three years in which they hadnít made the top four who are invited to perform in the concluding exhibition. But, overall it was a good start to their senior career. They now go back to juniors hoping to win the world title at the beginning of March in Kitchener, Ontario.

6. Goodwin & Bommentre also skated to music from ĎEvitaí, choreographed by Natalia Linichuk. Trained by Robbie Kaine, they gave a smooth, fast moving showing she wore a white "cocktail" dress. He was in an open necked shirt with the arms rolled up to the elbow, a waistcoat and askew red tie.

7. Slattery & Lee, skating in red and black to "Xotica" by Rene Dupťrť choreographed by Irina Romanova, gave a performance in which he demonstrated a flair for the dramatic and enabled them to move up a position to seventh.

8. Rey & Rey, trained by Natalia Linnichuk & Gennadi Karponosov, performed to the soundtrack of Jim Careyís "The Mask" and "Iím Just a Baby in This Business of Love" with a drum section finish. They wore fun black and white outfits. He had an extra twizzle at one point and they tried to put in as much difficulty as possible with the result that they looked messy.

9. Evans & O'Keefe, trained by Barret Brown & Tom Lescinski, presented a Latin medley including a well performed tango and mambo dressed in black and gold that was smooth and enjoyable.

10. Ellis & Ross-Frye performed to "Valley of Dreams". Trained by Sergei Ponomarenko, they began well with a move in which she was draped on her back over his shoulder while he, in the latest CoP fashion, tentatively took one foot off the ice. They executed another lift with him on one foot for a split second, and another with him in a spreadeagle position. Obviously they were looking for Level 2 from the new judging system which was being used in the background. However, since they had a bad collapse with her sprawling messily over him, and she had a second trip, the regular judges brought out marks which ranged from 3.7 to 4.7.

11. Allapach & Westenberger, dressed in beautifully flowing creations of muted pink, blue and brown, skated to Aerosmithís ĎDream Oní, choreographed by Suzanne Semanick-Schurman. The duo, who are coached by Darlene Gilbert in Escondido and Lakewood, received marks for the first set ranging from 4.1 to 4.4 and, for the second mark, 4.2 to 4.6.

12. Up first were local skaters, Palmer & Stucke, who skated to "Harem" sung by Sarah Brightman, choreographed by Irina Romanova. Though they train across the country with Igor Yaroshenko in Wilmington. the crowd enjoyed having their own couple to cheer for. However, Palmer fell twice and they stayed 12th.

13. Cheli & Clark, who are training partners of Palmer & Stucke and Slattery & Lee, skated to "Circus Princess" flamboyant march and waltz music identified with 1994 Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov and currently by Russian pair skaters, Maria Petrova & Alexei Tikhonov. I have never seen dancers used this lovely music. I kept expecting this twosome to launch themselves into a throw Axel. On second thoughts, Iím glad they didnít since the lifts they did were very tentative. They remained firmly in last place.

Judges

     J1:  Robert Horen
     J2:  Richard Dalley
     J3:  Janis Engel
     J4:  Susan Keogh
     J5:  Margaret Faulkner
     J6:  Sam Singer
     J7:  John Millier
     J8:  Carol Wooley
     J9:  Kanae Tagawa

 

Ordinals

Compulsory Dance 1
Place Couple J1 J2 J3 J4 J5 J6 J7 J8 J9 Maj.
1                      
2                      
3                      
4                      
5                      
6                      
7                      
8                      
9                      
10                      
11                      
12                      
13                      

 

 

Original Dance
Place Couple J1 J2 J3 J4 J5 J6 J7 J8 J9 Maj. TOM
1                        
2                        
3                        
4                        
5                        
6                        
7                        
8                        
9                        
10                        
11                        
12                        
13                        

 

Free Dance
Place Couple J1 J2 J3 J4 J5 J6 J7 J8 J9 Maj.
1                      
2                      
3                      
4                      
5                      
6                      
7                      
8                      
9                      
10                      
11                      
12                      
13                      

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