Friday, February 15, 2002
As expected, and not debated, French pair leading
SALT LAKE CITY -- For once, people actually paid attention to the ice dance compulsories. And it had nothing to do with the racy costumes or unfortunate choices in hair and makeup.
Hours after Canadian pairs skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were awarded a gold medal because of judging improprieties, all eyes turned to ice dancing, where complaints are not only common, they're practically expected.
Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France were in first place as anticipated, and Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia were second. Reigning world champions Barbara Fusar Poli and Mauricio Margaglio of Italy were third, and Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz were fourth.
But for once, nobody was complaining about the results.
"There's a lot of interest around this sport and around dance tonight," Margaglio said through an interpreter. "There's a lot of curiosity and a lot of interest around the Olympics."
Four-time U.S. champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev were tied for 11th after the two compulsories, 20 percent of the final score. The other Americans, Beata Handra and Charles Sinek, were 20th.
"We know we're as strong as the top five teams," Lang said. "We have to wait our turn. It's painful sometimes, but we are going to stick it out. We're patient enough to wait for that moment."
The original dance (30 percent) is Sunday night and the free dance (50 percent) is Monday night.
"I think there could be movement in the next few days, and a lot can happen," Bourne said.
Dance compulsories are usually only for hard-core figure skating fans. Or insomniacs looking for a surefire sleep aid.
It's five hours of all 24 couples doing the same patterns to the same rhythm of music. It's hard to tell one couple apart from the other, and unless someone falls, thrills are few and far between.
But the judging scandal is the hottest story of the Winter Games, and everyone is waiting to see where the furor heads next.
Ice dancing is the logical place to look. A dance competition just isn't complete without someone claiming they were robbed or conspired against.
In Nagano, it was Bourne and Kraatz, claiming the Russians and French conspired to keep them off the medals podium. Anissina, who was born in Russia, and Peizerat wound up third four years ago.
"The most important thing is to have confidence in ourselves and skate our best," Peizerat said of the controversy. "Then the rest is not our business."
Still, it was clear skating's soap opera was on fans' minds. A rousing cheer went up when the clip of International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge's announcement that Sale and Pelletier would get a gold medal was replayed.
There was another big cheer when the news that Marie-Reine Le Gougne had been indefinitely suspended flashed on the Jumbotron.
"What's been on our minds this week is to really skate well and have a good Olympic Games," Peizerat said. "And this is a good place to start it."
With almost all of the men in tuxedos and tails and the women done up in sexy fluff and frills for the first compulsory dance, the quickstep, it looked like a prom dance. All that was missing was a couple of punch bowls and some chaperones.
Scratch that. With all eyes on the judges, there were about 16,000 chaperones Friday night.
"There still is a lot that has to happen, and I believe that tonight we've shown what we can do with a really good dance," Margaglio said. "Obviously, we'd have preferred to be a little higher as far as the scores go, but it's OK.
"And there's a long ways to go."