- SKATING - Italians win world title in ice dance

Sunday, April 1
Italians win world title in ice dance

VANCOUVER, Canada - - Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio capped off a perfect year with the biggest title of them all.

Fusar Poli and Margaglio became Italy's first world champions Friday, winning the ice dance competition in the World Figure Skating Championships. They also won the European crown and the Grand Prix title.

Maurizio Margaglio
Italy's Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio completed a memorable season by winning their first world championship.
"In Italy, it's soccer, soccer, soccer, and now I hope it is figure skating, figure skating, figure skating," Fusar Poli said. "This is for the other skaters in Italy and the skaters beyond us."

Of course, it wouldn't be ice dancing without a little controversy. Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, world champions last year, finished second despite a more physically demanding program. They held the audience's attention, too; fans couldn't take their eyes off them for a second lest they'd miss something.

But their technical marks were low, and they lost a 5-4 split with the judges. The Italian and French judges each put their own skaters in first place.

"They were OK for presentation, but not high enough for technical merit," Peizerat said of their marks. "We did some very difficult dance moves on the ice."

Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz of Canada, three-time bronze medalists, drew the loudest cheers for their program - and the loudest boos when the audience saw they were fourth behind Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia.

Three-time U.S. champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev finished ninth. Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto were 17th in their first senior world championships.

Fusar Poli and Margaglio led after the compulsories and original dance. And this being ice dancing, there wasn't much chance that result was going to change, even with the free dance worth 50 percent.

Skating to "Beethoven's Last Night," Anissina and Peizerat performed one of the more entertaining programs of the competition. They were constantly moving, always doing some intricate turns or footwork. Other couples had moments where they simply stroked and picked up speed.

He displayed unusual flexibility, doing the kind of leg extensions usually reserved for the women. And their lifts were impressive, particularly their trademark move where they glide across the ice with her supporting his weight on her thighs.

As they finished, Anissina shook her right fist and grinned.

But the Italians were still to come. Their program to a death scene in "Romeo and Juliet" was very dramatic and they had incredible speed and good spins.

As they finished, Fusar Poli slung over Margaglio's knee, she jubilantly pounded her fist on the ice in triumph. She grabbed Margaglio and he twirled her around in a long hug before they turned to acknowledge the judges.

Backstage, Peizerat sat alone on a chair, staring into space a few feet from a monitor he never looked at. At one point, he closed his eyes, almost as if he was wishing for the title.

When the marks flashed, Fusar Poli shrieked and jumped up. Peizert simply smiled and shrugged.

"We are very happy, not because only we are in first place, but because we've had such a good season," Fusar Poli said. "We've skated well in every competition. We were in nine competitions and won nine. This is just the last."

Lang and Tchernyshev have improved considerably, and their speed and energy was even better than two months ago at nationals. Skating to "Storm," they had several nice lifts and spins, including one where she looked as if she was being blown about by the wind.

But they're not quite on par with the top couples yet. He caught an edge on their last lift, throwing them off-balance and out of position.

"We're just happy. We've caused people to talk about us," Lang said. "Everyone is giving us good vibes, so going into next year, I think we'll have more confidence.

"We know people like us. We know the judges like us. We just have to wait our turn."

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Results from Friday

Italian ice dancers lead at world championships

Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier win Pairs

Q & A with Maurizio Margaglio

Q & A with Barbara Fusar-Poli

 Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Peizerat claim the Ice Dance title (Courtesy: ABC Sports).
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 Italy's pair of Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio are in first place after the original dance.
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 France's pair of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat are in second place after the original dance.
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 ABC's Melissa Stark speaks to Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Peizerat following an emotional victory.
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