Canadians Take Early Lead Over Belbin and Agosto in Compulsory Dance

by Laura Fawcett
Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon of Canada
Photo by Matt Stockman/Getty Images

2007 Four Continents Results, Photos, Video and News

(2/7/07) - Balance is everything to an ice skater.

So, when Canada's Marie-France Dubreuil suffered an inner ear infection shortly before leaving for the Canadian Championships three weeks ago, she had reason to worry.

“A piece of my inner ear shifted, and every time I moved my head, I had vertigo,” Dubreuil said after skating first in Wednesday's compulsory dance at the 2007 Four Continents Championships. “A specialist did a manipulation of my head to replace it.”

A manipulation of her head?

“Yes,” Dubreuil laughed. “It was almost like a wrestling match for a couple of seconds.”

After the “manipulation,” Dubreuil said it took about 48 hours for her to feel completely like herself again. She couldn't sleep lying down and had to keep her head still. Not surprisingly, it was a difficult nationals for the four-time Canadian gold medalists, although they still won with ease.

She's healthy now, and the World silver medalists fought the Colorado Springs altitude to finish first in the Golden Waltz with 38.54 points. Dubreuil and Lauzon have been training in Colorado for about a week to adjust to the 6,000-or-so-foot altitude. They chose not to return to their training town of Lyon, France, after the Canadian Championships because their coaches were at the European Championships. The Colorado training time paid off.

“It felt quick…very quick,” Dubreuil said of the dance. “I think it was a pretty good dance; we did it well. Of course, skating first is always a little more nerve-wracking with the altitude. We didn't warm up much because we wanted to still have some juice for the performance.”

The Golden Waltz is considered the most difficult dance, a theme which repeated itself through interviews with the top skaters.

“It's as hard for us as to do a short program,” Lauzon said.

U.S. champions Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto may have agreed about the difficulty, but they filled the World Arena with effortless movement and glide. A stumble by Agosto near the end of the second pattern only slightly hurt their scores, but it was enough to leave them in second place with 37.72 points.

“Yes, yes, I tripped in the corner,” said Agosto as he greeted reporters, “but it was OK, because the rest of it looked good.”

Agosto was not off the mark with calling the dance “good,” despite the mistake. He and his partner both felt it could have been the best Golden Waltz they have ever skated.

“It felt really strong,” Belbin said. “Nationals, we held back. It was clean, but it wasn't really that powerful. So, we filled in an Olympic rink, which we don't train in, so that was really good. We rose to the occasion, and if I had to choose between a tentative skate without a mistake and one like that, I would choose that one. Being less than a point behind with a major error is pretty good.”

Third place went to Belbin and Agosto's Michigan training mates, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, competing in their first senior-level ISU championships. With 33.68 points, Davis and White narrowly beat Canadian silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Virtue and Moir finished first at last year's World Junior Championships, with Davis and White finishing third.

The two newly minted senior teams had the biggest challenge this year learning the Golden Waltz. The Americans couldn't have been happier with their performance after two not-so-memorable renditions of the dance at last summer's Lake Placid Dance Championships and at Skate Canada.

“It's been an interesting ride doing this dance,” White said. “At first we thought it was almost hopeless. But you get into it and you start to feel the music and by the end of the year it's pretty comfortable.”

U.S. fourth-place finishers Kimberly Navarro & Brent Bommentre finished sixth with 29.37 points. They also had a minor error late in the second pattern. Navarro and Bommentre replaced U.S. silver medalists Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov, who are injured and could not compete.

“I think it was probably the best Golden Waltz we've ever skated,” Bommentre said. “We did a lot of things really well that we hadn't done before. We had a minor mistake which doesn't really happen to us in practice. But on the whole, from Skate Canada and from nationals, and from Vienna, we've really improved this dance each time we take it out.”

“It's been a journey in the right direction for this dance,” Navarro added.