U.S. duo dances to silver medal

By Barry Wilner The Associated Press

TURIN, Italy – At last, a figure skating medal for the United States – in ice dancing, of all things. And yet another Olympic gold for Russia.

Tanith Belbin and partner Ben Agosto snapped the U.S. medals drought in figure skating with a silver yesterday. They were behind Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, who gave Russia a gold medal hat trick – pairs, men’s and dance. No nation has swept the four skating events in one games, and Russian Irina Slutskaya is favored in the women’s competition.

“I am extremely proud that we’ve been able to achieve this for our country,” said the Canadian-born Belbin, who became a U.S. citizen on Dec. 31.

“It’s only our first Olympics,” he said. “We’re competing with second- and third-time Olympians, so this is great to come here and get a medal the first time out when we didn’t even know we’d be here. [We] can’t ask for more.”

Belbin and Agosto won the first dance medal for the United States since a bronze in 1976 by Colleen O’Connor and Jim Millns – and only the second medal of any kind. It also is the only medal for American figure skaters at these Olympics.

Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of Ukraine won the bronze.

All three couples performed with poise and style. Even better, nobody crashed to the ice.

Sunday’s original dance was marred by falls and an injury that forced the top Canadians out of the free dance. Italian favorites Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio were back friends again after their flop and subsequent venomous staredown.

“We are like brother and sister,” Fusar Poli said.