The past three decades were a stumble to nowhere for U.S. ice dancers. The near future could be a waltz to the medals stand.
The present is pretty darn good, too, thanks to Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
The pair, in Olympic limbo just two months ago, won the first U.S. ice dancing medal in 30 years Monday night, a silver behind Russia's Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov. It also was the first U.S. figure skating medal in Turin.
"This has been a very up and down year with our emotions," Agosto said. "We were not even sure we'd be here, and to now be here and with this medal around our necks is amazing."
In ice dancing, of all things.
Since Colleen O'Connor and Jim Millns won bronze in 1976 for the only other U.S. medal in the event, most Americans bumbled while the Russians, French, English and Canadians boogied on by.
Then along came Belbin and Agosto. Although they have won three U.S. titles, they were barred from the Olympics until she got her American citizenship.
The Canadian-born Belbin became a U.S. citizen seven weeks ago thanks to an act of Congress, pushing up the pair's Olympic schedule four years. They paid back everyone who sped up the naturalization process, surging from sixth after compulsories to second through the original dance.
The Americans remained in second with a passionate flamenco free skate that far surpassed their program at nationals, but was not completely clean -- and certainly was not in the same league as Navka and Kostomarov's playful routine to "Carmen."
No matter. Considering where U.S. dance has been, or hasn't been, through the past three decades, silver was just super.
"I think that all athletes, U.S. athletes in particular ... have additional pressure to add to that medal count," Belbin said. "We were discussing before we were competing here that it's funny there is so much attention on the podium, " reports the AP.
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