by Alexandra Stevenson
American ice dancer Isabella Tobias is dancing on clouds. She is going to the Olympic Games, by special order of the Lithuanian President, Dalia Grybauskaite.
Grybauskaite had previously noted that 22-year-old Tobias, although she had represented Lithuania three times at the world championships, did not meet the general criteria to get a passport from that country, which demands a certain fluency in that country’s language and residency requirements.
But that country’s Olympic Committee worked hard on behalf of Tobias, who partners, Deividas Stagniunas, 28, who was born in Kaunas, took up skating at five and then came to the United States to look for an ice dance partner. He has lived in the United States since then, but has often returned to his country for skating events.
Indre Pukanasyte, a Presidential Advisor, said the President’s change of mind about Tobias was made because Tobias had been working on her language skills and there had been a huge public support for the duo, on the grounds of an “exceptional merit” criteria. Denial would be a great disappointment for the Lithuanian Skating Association, and would be hurt Stagniunas, who had devoted years to this partner.
Even the Lithuanian Olympic Association got involved. Their President, Daiva Gudzineviciute, hailed the decision, explaining, “Lithuania will field only nine athletes to these Games, and Isabella and Deividas could be the top finishers.b
Tobias, who attended the George Ballanchine School of American Ballet 1999-2007, and then represented Georgia with Otar Japaridze, now trains with Deividas in Novi, Michigan with Igor Shpilband.
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