By Lynn Rutherford
All photos copyright 2005 by George S. Rossano
Twelve couples took the ice at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall this Thursday to perform the "Ravensburger Waltz" compulsory dance at the 2005 Skate America, held October 20-23 in the New Jersey seaside gambling Mecca.
The elegant, sweeping Ravensburger is the German brother-and-sister team of Angelika & Erich Buck’s gift to the skating world. The couple, who won the 1972 European title, created the dance in the ‘70s while training in their hometown of Ravensburg, a hamlet in Southern Germany.
While not considered as difficult as the Austrian or Golden Waltz, the Ravensburger – reduced in the last decade to two patterns, from three – is a challenging compulsory when performed at high speed.
"The Ravensburger is all about timing, edge quality, foot placement and leg line," said former U.S. competitor Susie Wynne, now a commentator for ESPN.
"When done well, the combination of all of these elements creates the feeling of waltzing in a ballroom. The dance is harder for the woman than the man; it looks easy but it is very vigorous. In a smaller rink, like the one here in Atlantic City, you have to cross the midline to create the space to get your pattern in and get all of the steps done. That’s hard to do, because skaters are so powerful today that they need more room."
Many of the top contenders, including reigning World silver medallists Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto, who won the dance by just .30 over current European bronze medallists Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder of France, agreed with Wynne, saying that the rink was even more narrow than a typical NHL-sized surface.
"The Ravensburger can be a very different dance, depending on where you are skating. It varies rink to rink, and you have to adjust and tweak your pattern. We were lucky enough to come here for a media day, so we knew the ice and knew what to expect," said Agosto.
The two-time American dance champions were handicapped a bit by Belbin’s severe bronchitis, which caused them to miss some practice time last weekend and earlier this week.
"With me being sick, we were cautious preparing for this competition in the past few days. We just did a little bit less and tried to go a little bit easy. I think we tested the waters a little bit out there and held back today. Tomorrow we can kind of let loose and unleash our real skating," said Belbin.
Delobel & Schoenfelder, who placed fourth at Moscow, were close behind Belbin & Agosto with 36.43 points.
"We skated good. This is our first international competition this season; (Atlantic City) has a good ambience and it’s good to feel the pressure (of competing) again with all of these good couples," said Delobel.
"After Europeans and Worlds we started to become more confident and more ambitious and motivated," added Schoenfelder.
Delobel joined in the chorus of dancers disappointed with the rink’s size.
"It’s hard to do (the Ravensburger) on a small ice rink. In Europe, we have larger ice," she said, adding that the couple and their coaches, Muriel Zazoui and Romain Haguenauer, do not focus much on compulsories in practice.
The tall and elegant Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin of Russia, who placed eighth in Moscow, were more than four points behind the top two couples and enter the original dance in third place with 32.41 points.
"It was a good job. Our coach said it was a good job, so we will believe him. The problem was the size of the rink; we usually train in an Olympic rink. This was too small. We tried the last two weeks to skate at home in smaller (patterns)," said Shabalin.
Canadian silver medallists Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe took fourth place with 31.49 points.
"It was pretty much what we had hoped for. Our practices have been nice and easy, and it was a good start," said Lowe.
"This dance is very fast and with just the two patterns, it goes by very quickly. You’ve got to skate strong to hit your edges. I think (the Ravensburger) was originally made on a long rink, by skaters with more shallow edges. Today, the skaters have deeper edges so the dance is really better suited for an Olympic- sized rink. This is an NHL-sized rink but it seems narrower. It just feels like you’re flying across the ice," added Wing.
Like Belbin & Agosto, the Canadians are coached at the Arctic Edge in Canton, Michigan by Shpilband and Zueva. All told, that coaching duo has five couples – Stiegler & Magerovskiy; Silverstein & O’Meara; and Karam & McGrath, in addition to Belbin & Agosto and Wing & Lowe – at this competition.
"It certainly keeps the coaches busy! Igor and Marina spread out their time pretty much evenly, but Megan and I, and Tanith and Ben, have skating together for a long time, so we might need less time than the newer couples. The coaches can focus on them a bit more at competitions. It works out well; it all evens out," said Lowe.
The dark-haired German brother-and-sister team of Christina Beier & William Beier, who are coached by Martin Skotnicky in Oberstdorf, placed fifth with 28.55 points despite some weakness at the end of their second pattern. The Philippine-born couple came to Atlantic City fresh from bronze medal finishes at both the Nebelhorn Trophy, held in their training town, and the Olympic-qualifying Karl Schaefer Memorial in Vienna.
"The second pattern was not so easy to skate, because we did not have much time to prepare. We came here straight from Vienna last weekend and we have had only two hours to practice (the Ravensburger), but it was okay. We are tired after three straight competitions but I hope we skate well here," said Christina Beier.
Despite their third-place finish in Vienna, it is by no means assured that the German Olympic Committee will send the duo to Turin.
"If we reach the top six in this competition, and in our next (Trophy Eric Bompard), then we will qualify if we also place in the top eleven in Europe. But we are happy with our two third place finishes and even if they do not send us (to Turin), we will go on and skate for more seasons. Of course, we will fight to go to the Olympics," said William Beier.
Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O’Meara of the U.S., who made an impressive debut at the Lake Placid Dance Competition in August by winning both the senior free dance and compulsories, finished sixth with 28.44 points, although they had higher technical scores than the Beiers.
"It felt really good. I’m just thrilled to be back," said the 21 year-old Silverstein, who won the 1999 World junior title with former partner Justin Pekarek before health issues and emotional problems prompted her to take a near five-year sabbatical from the sport.
Silverstein attended Cornell University for two years, traveling to college with her skates tossed in the trunk of her car, where they remained untouched. After contemplating a comeback most of last fall, she called Sphilband in January and asked if she could have a second chance. In April, he teamed her with O’Meara, the current U.S. dance bronze medallist who had recently split from his former partner, Lydia Manon.
"For me, it feels extra special because I had no clue last fall if (my comeback) was real or if I was just kidding myself. I have such great people helping me, and such a fantastic partner in Ryan. It’s not easy getting (compulsory dances) together in the short time we’ve skated together, but we have the same work ethic and great coaches," said Silverstein.
Competing at their first senior Grand Prix, Laura Senft & Leif Gislason of Canada were a respectable seventh with 25.59 points.
"It’s exciting. You step on the ice with mixed emotions. You’re really happy to be here, and then it’s, ‘Oh wow! I’m really here!’ and you’re a little nervous," said Senft.
"We just learned (the Ravensburger) two weeks ago. Our goal was to show (the dance) was a waltz and look like we’re having fun, just as if we were really doing it in a ballroom. It has a huge pattern; you want to make it as big as possible, and skate close to the corners with high free legs," said Gislason.
Julia Golovina & Oleg Voiko of Ukraine placed eighth with 24.77 points. Ekaterina Rubleva & Ivan Shefer of Russia, in their second season as seniors, were ninth with 24.32 points. Canadian junior champions Siobhan Karam & Joshua McGrath, making their senior debut here, placed tenth with 24.04 points.
Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy, who were fourth at the 2005 U.S. Nationals, had big trouble on the first pattern when Stiegler tumbled to the ice, unusual in the compulsory. They placed 11th with 23.71 points.
"It felt wonderful but unfortunately we fell. I lost my edge on a rocker, and (Sergei) stumbled over me. (Note: Magerovskiy did not fall, and the team received just a one-point deduction.) We picked it up well on the second pattern and had good speed and flow. It would have been a fantastic dance if we had not fallen," said the 21 year-old Stiegler, a long-time pairs’ competitor who switched to ice in the spring of 2004 and passed her senior compulsory dances just over a year ago.
"(The Ravensburger) is actually one of my least favorite (compulsories). Sergey has a lot of power and our size difference is extreme. Sometimes I feel out of control; the Ravensburger is a very solid dance and it’s hard for me to stay centered," she added.
The Russian-born Magerovskiy, who is married to his first American ice dance partner, Rebecca, expects to gain his U.S. citizenship shortly. "The last update I had, we expect it to come through December 20th," he said.
Laura Munana & Luke Munana, the brother-and-sister team from California who represent Mexico, rounded out the field in 12th place with 22.43 points. While they had no noticeable errors, they lacked the speed and finesse of the top couples, and it showed in the program component scores.
"It’s a strong dance for us; we laid both patterns on top of one another. Some people say it’s harder for the girl, but the boy has to provide a strong foundation and base while she does the turns," said Laura Munana.
Although the personable duo, who are coached by 1992 Olympic champions Sergei Ponomarenko & Marina Klimova in San Jose, California, failed to earn a spot at the Olympics after placing tenth at the recent qualifying competition in Vienna, they still have hopes for Turin.
"Right now, we are the second alternates. There’s been some talk that other countries who have qualified teams might not send them, because they haven’t met some specific criteria. Going to Turin would be a great opportunity and we’d be happy to take it," said Luke Munana.
A dozen couples turned Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall into a salsa club yesterday when they took the ice for the 2005 Skate America original dance competition to interpret a selection of Latin American rhythms.
Skating the salsa, rumba and cha cha, two-time U.S. dance champions Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto, who won the silver medal at the 2005 Worlds, brought the crowd to its feet with a daring routine that captured the essence of Latin ballroom in a flamboyant, yet earthy way. Despite the difficulty of their elements, their superior technique helped them maintain the feel of actual dancing, which made the program seem to fly by. Not surprisingly, they won the event with 58.37 points (29.30 TES + 29.30 PCS) and enter the free dance with 95.10 total points.
"We visited Mexico this spring for a little vacation, and went to clubs to do some authentic salsa dancing. Some instructors worked with us and it was a fabulous experience. We’re trying to carry that intensity with us to the ice," said the 23 year-old Agosto.
"We really weren’t thinking about technique at all; we were just enjoying the program. It’ so much fun. It’s familiar songs, and it really connects with the audience," added the 21 year-old Belbin, who has been suffering from bronchitis but said she was "much better."
"It was a good start, better than their OD in Nebelhorn (earlier this fall)," said Igor Shpilband, who coaches the couple in Canton, Michigan. "Of course, there will be some changes. The program will continue to grow and change, probably until the (2007) Worlds in Calgary."
The duo made a statement with Belbin’s costume, which features a brief top with large cutouts – and no nude netting.
"My mom actually didn’t do this dress for me; a ballroom company, Dore, made our outfits for us. This is what Latin ballroom dancers are wearing now. It’s really revealing, but it makes a huge difference to have skin-on-skin contact when you are trying to do such sexy dances," said Belbin.
As usual, the two fielded many media questions concerning the Canadian-born Belbin’s U.S. citizenship prospects. (Currently, she is not eligible until 2007.) The latest centers on a proposal to expedite citizenship for people whose paperwork was held up during additional administrative processes instituted around the time of the 9/11 disaster.
"We’ve done all that we can; our parents, lawyers and advisors are really shielding us from the whole process, so that we can concentrate on our skating. But I know a lot of people are working with Senator Carl Levin of Michigan to pass the proposal, which has to happen by November. Still, as we’ve always said, our focus is on the 2006 Worlds in Calgary," said Agosto.
European bronze medallists Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder of France interpreted mambo, rumba and mambo rhythms, taking second place with 55.77 points. The couple, who are known for their difficult and unique OD’s, had a few missteps – Delobel added an extra twizzle during their mid-line step sequence, and Schoenfelder put a foot down on their combination spin while Delobel struggled a bit to gain the ubiquitous Beillmann position (the spin was called a Level 1).
Although the opening and closing mambo sections had good energy, the duo appeared less-than-comfortable during the rumba. Overall, the dance was a bit of a disappointment, best classed as a "work in progress." Nevertheless, they were awarded 55.77 points (27.50 TES + 28.27 PCS) and enter the free dance with 92.20 total points, 2.90 points behind Belbin & Agosto.
"I think with more work, this dance will be very good for us. We have been changing the steps a lot, so we made some mistakes today," said the 27 year-old Schoenfelder, who married former ice dance competitor Isabelle Pecheur in May.
"Each time we skate it seems easier to do everything. Today during the mid-line, I was like ‘okay – I can do one more (twizzle)!’" added the 27 year-old Delobel with a laugh.
Russians Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin skated to rumba and (slow) salsa rhythms, producing a sexy, yet soft dance that was one of the highlights of the evening. They opened with a fine mid-line step sequence with a strong one-foot section; all of the elements that followed transitioned seamlessly from one to the other. For some, the dance will not feel "Latin" enough; for others, its subtlety will be sublime. The Russians placed third in the OD, earning 51.50 points (26.60 TES + 24.90 PCS), and enter the free dance in third place overall with 83.91 total points.
"We are quite pleased with today’s performance. There were some things we feel we can do better, that we should improve. For example, there are technical elements that can become more perfect and have a higher level. It’s still the beginning of the season and the program will become better and smoother," said the 21 year-old Domnina.
Americans Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O’Meara, part of the contingent of five teams brought to this competition by Sphilband and his coaching partner Marina Zueva, placed an impressive fourth with 48.28 points (26.50 TES + 21.78 PCS). The highlight of their routine was their opening diagonal step sequence -- skated in salsa style with the expressive Silverstein "selling" the steps – followed by a well-done Level 4 curve lift.
While the focal point of the duo is undoubtedly Silverstein, O’Meara’s strength and deep edges afford his flamboyant partner a strong base. In fact, he exhibited better technique on his twizzles here than did Silverstein, who was a bit wild. O’Meara’s fine posture and carriage will help him shine more in other OD’s, including the waltz, foxtrot and quickstep.
"It was fun. I didn’t really have a clue were we would place. We train with such fantastic skaters and we know how great they’re doing, so we just wanted to do our personal best," said the 21 year-old Silverstein, the 1999 World junior champ (with former partner Justin Pekarek) whose comeback to competitive ice dancing after a near five-year absence has been a major story this fall.
"It feels like we have been skating together a lot longer than we have. It just feels incredibly comfortable. I’ve never experienced this before; we’re having a great time," added the 21 year-old O’Meara.
Canadian silver medallists Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe performed mambo, rumba and samba rhythms and took fifth place with 48.12 points (25.70 TES + 22.42 PCS). The veteran couple, who placed a career-best 10th at the 2005 Worlds, skated a sophisticated program but seemed a bit slow on their midline steps.
"We’re trying to create the feel of dancing late at night at a mambo club. We went to Montreal and worked with the many-time Ten-dance ballroom champions," said the 31 year-old Lowe.
Dancers with good flexibility – including Belbin and Silverstein, as well as two-time World champion Tatiana Navka – are at a great advantage under the New Judging System (NJS), which asks (almost demands) that they hit fully extended Beillmann and lateral split positions in their lifts and spins to qualify for Level 4 elements. The Biellmann "craze" has left some teams scrambling to keep up.
"It’s new – I haven’t done it a lot before! It’s something to learn. A lot of us are a little sore. It takes a while to get used to it. The ladies are a bit limited on how many positions they can do that qualify as "difficult" (under NJS); hopefully, the ISU will expand that at some point," said 29 year-old Wing.
German brother-and-sister Christina & William Beier performed an upbeat, energetic program to mambo, rumba and samba rhythms, showing improved performance quality since moving to Oberstdorf to train with Martin Skotnicky a year and a half ago. Here, although their skating still lacked some of the musicality and speed of the top teams, their elements were solid. They placed sixth with 47.89 points (26.20 TES + 21.69 PCS) and sit in sixth place overall (76.44 total points.)
Although the Beiers are young (21 and 23) and improving, it is unlikely that they will be sent to the 2006 Olympics. The German Olympic Committee maintains a stringent set of standards for all athletes, and is reluctant to send those without a feasible chance of a top-ten finish. While the Beiers placed third in the recent Vienna qualifying competition, they must finish in the top ten at the 2006 Europeans, or have a top-six Grand Prix event finish plus a top eleven finish at Europeans. In Vienna, the couple surpassed three teams that placed ahead of them at the 2005 Europeans, where they placed 15th. However, the return of former World champions Barbara Fusar-Poli & Maurizio Margaglio, as well as former World bronze medallists Margarita Drobiaszko and Povilas Vanagas, to the eligible ranks makes a top 11 placement unlikely.
Americans Tiffany Stiegler & Sergei Magerovskiy recovered from a disastrous Ravensburger waltz compulsory with a solid outing to merengue, rumba and merengue rhythms, highlighted by lovely lines in both their combination spins and fast-moving rotational lift, where Stiegler hit a particularly attractive Biellmann position. On the debit side, the twizzles in their opening diagonal step sequence were not in unison, and their mid-line step sequence was a bit slow. They placed seventh in the OD with 43.52 points (26.50 TES + 17.02 PCS) and stand seventh overall with 67.23 total points.
"It was fun. We had a blast. I was a little nervous; I had to calm down and say to myself, ‘Stay on your feet.’ After a while, though, I was shakin’ it," said Stiegler.
The couple, who have been together about a year and a half, had four Level 4 elements – impressive for Stiegler, a long-time pairs competitor who just passed her senior dance tests a year ago.
"We expect Level 4’s from ourselves. Sergey has been a top-level skater for many years and I was in pairs, so I can’t imagine trying anything at half (speed). I wouldn’t expect anything less because I know we can do (Level 4 elements)," said Stiegler.
"She has so much experience in pairs with the spins and the lifts, that it really helps," added the Russian-born Magerovskiy, who announced yesterday that he expects his U.S. citizenship by December 20th.
Performing to cha cha and samba rhythms, promising Ekaterina Rubleva & Ivan Shefer of Russia showed good unison on the opening one-foot section of their mid-line sequence, and the 20 year-old Rubleva – a pretty blonde with an attractive pixie haircut – "sold" the program with good energy throughout. Shefer stumbled slightly on the rotational lift, resulting in a GOE of negative .40. They placed eighth in the original with 40.51 points and stand in ninth place overall with 64.83 total points.
Canadians Lauren Senft & Leif Gislason, performing to rumba and merengue rhythms, did not make any major gaffes, but were a bit slow and tentative on their footwork sequences. They placed ninth with 40.21 points and enter the free dance in eighth place with 65.80 total points.
"We really wanted to commit to the performance and we did not today. We didn’t execute the elements as well as we should have. We’ve had a lot of changes done to the program, and now we just have to go home and drill," said Gislason.
Ukrainians Julia Golovina & Oleg Voiko, who skated to samba, rumba and samba rhythms, placed tenth with 39.67 points. They had some unison problems on the difficult one-foot section of their mid-line step sequence, but show good expression on the ice. They placed tenth in the OD (39.67 points) and stand in tenth place overall (64.44 total points).
Canadian junior champions Siobhan Karam & Joshua McGrath, competing in their first senior Grand Prix event, hit attractive positions in the lifts and spins in their rumba and salsa original dance, although she strained a bit to attain the Beillmann position in their combination spin. They were 11th in the OD (39.67 points) and are in 11th overall (63.59 total points).
"We’re pleased; it’s great competing with all the big names here," said the 18 year-old McGrath, who added that competing with four other Sphilband-coached teams at the competition was "relaxing. It’s nice we’re all here; we don’t really feel competitive with the other teams yet."
"Since this is our first year in senior, we’re really out there trying for personal best scores. We’re not comparing ourselves to the others," added the 19 year-old Karam.
The sibling team of Laura & Luke Munana, who represent Mexico, finished 12th (35.85 points) and remain in 12th place overall with 58.28 total points. Skating to samba, rumba and salsa rhythms, the couple had missteps in their footwork sequences but entertained the crowd with their freewheeling style.
"We skated well; we thought we really performed it. Little things were not as sharp as we would have liked," said the 24 year-old Laura Munana.
Skate America is the couple’s third international competition in a month. They placed 11th at the Nebelhorn Trophy and tenth at the Karl Schafer Memorial.
"I stumbled on a bracket in the mid-line (step sequence); actually, my heel got stuck on the end of my pants. This costume fit me six weeks ago, but after all the traveling and competitions, the pants are getting a bit loose," said 26 year-old Luke Munana.
Under the guiding hand of Igor Shpilband, the young couple continues to lift their performance quality, all the while closely adhering to the stringent guidelines of the New Judging System ("NJS") and attaining "Level 4’s" for the majority of their elements. With a total segment score of 95.35 (49.60 TES + 46.75 PCS), they gained the highest level for eight of ten elements, with GOE’s ranging from 0 – 2. They had a one-point deduction for an "extended lift," meaning their combined or serpentine lift ran more than ten seconds, or their curve or rotational lift more than six seconds.
On the artistic side, the dance could benefit from an earthier feel and more animated expression in the latter half, facts not lost on the hardworking couple.
"We’re happy with the program for this point in the season. Certainly, this was better – in terms of performance quality – than it was in Oberstdorf (Nebelhorn Trophy) three weeks ago. We’re going to re-work a few of the elements to make sure they fit into the rules, and work on the speed and performance during the six weeks before our next competition (Japan’s NHK Trophy)," said Agosto.
Belbin, who fought a bronchitis infection this week, agreed.
"I fully expect this program will show a huge amount of improvement before Nationals and Worlds," she said, adding that her illness was not a factor in their performance.
Second place (92.27 points for the free, and total points of 184.47) went to European bronze medallists Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder of France, who presented a creative routine choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo.
"We tried to make a new concept. It is the story of the Venice carnival; it’s about two people hiding behind masks. It’s a mystery, because they don’t know who is who. They discover each other during the program and that’s the story," said Schoenfelder.
As usual, the couple’s highlights were their strong and difficult lifts; even within the restrictions of the NJS, they are able to find (and hold) unique positions. They took the time to add a (non-scoring) move – a low-to-the-ice hand-to-hand abdominal "stretch" – to interpret the music. To avoid the competitive restriction on props, they sported specially designed gloves with painting depicting masks, and placed their hands in front of their faces at key moments in the choreography.
Still in its formative stage, the ambitious program seemed a bit trick-laden and could use more speed and flow as well as better unison on the step sequences. Undoubtedly, these improvements will come with greater mileage.
"Somebody (Jaky Azalei) made the (free dance) music for us; we tried to do the music together with the choreography for (extra) timing and emotion. It needs a lot of work, but we know what we have to do," said Delobel.
Russians Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin skated their "Waltz of the Spirits" dance with lightness, elegance and lovely lines throughout their spins and lifts, particularly during a difficult "no hands" serpentine lift. They showed one of the finest twizzle sequences of the event and closed with a dramatic fast rotational lift; although parts of the program could use more speed, it is in a fine stage of development for this point in the season.
The Russians were third in the free dance with a total score of 85.32 (TES 46 + PCS 39.32) and third overall with 169.23 total points.
"We are very happy to win our first senior Grand Prix medal here. Of course our performance could be better, but we will work with our coach and choreographer, Alexei Gorshkov, to make some changes before Cup of Russia," said Shabalin.
Canadian silver medallists Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe recovered from a disappointing fifth-place finish in the OD with a fourth-place showing of their "Coppelia" free dance. Inspired by their 1999 OD using music from the same ballet, the program depicts the story of a doll maker who watches a girl dance inside his shop and mistakenly believes he has brought a doll to life.
While the routine brought a refreshing sense of characters and story line to the competition, it could benefit from crisper, more unified step sequences as well as a faster rotations on their final two lifts. Wing & Lowe placed fourth overall with 159.31 points, earning 79.70 points in the free (44.20 TES + 35.50 PCS).
Americans Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O’Meara were a strong fifth with a total score of 155.51 points, including a fifth-place finish in the free dance just .71 behind Wing & Lowe (78.79 TSS = 45.40 TES + 33.39 PCS).
Coach Igor Shpilband has substantially revised their modern tango since its debut at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Competition this August, with the footwork sequences totally reworked to better display brackets and rockers. The highlight of the program continues to be the couple’s stunning opening poses, as well as their first lift, a curve to rotational combination with Silverstein in a full diagonal split and O’Meara offering steady support on deep edges. Their first forward twizzle sequence was in perfect unison and timed to the music, and the second set (backward) nearly as strong.
"I’m so proud to have Ryan out there with me. Personally, I’m also proud of myself. I’m so glad that I took a chance (with this comeback). Of course, I’m also grateful that Igor and Marina were there for me," said the 21 year-old Silverstein, the 1999 World junior champion. She added that the earlier battles with emotional problems and anorexia that drove her into retirement five years ago were firmly "in the past."
"Ryan is fantastic. He’s such a good skater. I tend to be a bit wild out there when I’m expressing myself; I’m trying to get better centered," said Silverstein.
The couple is now firmly in the mix for one of three U.S. Olympic dance berths. With both Belbin & Agosto and reigning World junior champions Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin currently ineligible due to U.S. citizenship issues, they seem a good bet. But even if legislators coax the citizenships through, Silverstein & O’Meara hope to gain a spot.
"We’re definitely shooting for a top-three finish at the U.S. Nationals. Going to the Olympics is a big goal and we don’t want to go just because another team (that finished above us) is ineligible," said O’Meara.
The brother-and-sister team of Christina Beier & William Beier of Germany placed sixth in the free dance (TSS 76.39 = 42.70 TES + 33.69 PCS) with their uplifting program set to the Beatles’ "Come Together." The couple maintained their energy throughout, and although their lifts and footwork were not as difficult as those of many of the other couples’, they have improved markedly since just last season.
"It was good; we are very satisfied with our free dance here. It was our third competition in a row and we are a little tired, but we did well. Our free program was a personal best, and so was our OD, so we are really happy with this competition," said Christina Beier.
"Placing sixth here was the second step to make the Olympics. (The first was a third-place finish at the Karl Schaefer Memorial Olympic-qualifying competition.) Now we have to place in the top eleven at Europeans. The German Olympic Committee is very strict," added her brother.
2005 U.S. pewter (fourth-place) medallists Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy performed their free dance to music from "Notre Dame de Paris," opening with a fine serpentine lift and showing nice lines and speed in their combination spin and rotational lift. They took seventh place in the free (75.71 points) and placed seventh overall with 142.94 total points.
Stiegler, a former pairs’ skater, continues to make rapid progress as an ice dancer.
"I’ve wanted to dance since I was six years old. But my brother (Johnnie) never wanted to; he’s very macho, and he said he would never do dance, so we stuck with pairs. If he had done dance, he would know how athletic it truly is," said Stiegler.
Magerovskiy recently received an interview appointment for his U.S. citizenship,
and if all goes as scheduled, he could gain his citizenship by December 20th. Both he and Stiegler are cautiously optimistic.
"You never know. With the immigration department, there certainly could be a delay. But we are hoping," said Magerovskiy.
Canadians Lauren Senft & Leif Gislafson were eighth in the free dance (73.39 points) with their tango, and eighth overall with 139.19 points. Russians Ekaterina Rubleva & Ivan Shefer placed ninth in the free, with 66.61 points, and ninth overall with 131.44 total points.
Canadian junior champions Siobhan Karam & Joshua McGrath skated a sprightly folk dance to traditional Hungarian music, placing tenth in the free and tenth overall with 129.84 total points.
"It felt good for the first time at a senior international. We’re very happy with it. I like how the program is designed; there’s no place for us to stop. You just have to keep going," said McGrath.
Laura & Luke Munana of Mexico were 11th in the free and 11th overall with 122.88 points. Ukrainians Julia Golovina & Oleg Voiko had a disastrous free skate to a tango, receiving a one-point deduction for Voiko’s fall on the exit of a lift as well as two points in deductions for extended lifts.
2005 Skate America Medalists
Return to title page