Sunday, February 17, 2002
Updated: February 18, 3:16 AM ET
Anissina and Peizerat still dominating competition
SALT LAKE CITY -- Before the gold medalist pairs came onto the ice, the French ice dancers scorched it with a flaming flamenco.
While the big question for much of Sunday night wasn't who would win the original dance or whether the judging was fair, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat buried any hint of controversy with their torrid performance.
They won eight of the nine judges, and it took a perfect mark for presentation from the Polish judge to keep them from sweeping the panel.
"Today is the highest point we skated this original," Peizerat said. "This flamenco is in our hearts and we felt it."
The original dance ended in a timely fashion and, not surprisingly, with little change in the standings. This one was clear, with Anissina and Peizerat, who also won compulsories, beating the field.
Russia's Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh repeated their second-place finish in the compulsories, even though they received one 6.0.
"Today was the best performance of our lives," Averbukh said. "This is the first 6.0 in international competition in our lives, a wonderful surprise for us."
World champions Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy remained third, ahead of Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz.
Then, a nearly full Salt Lake Ice Center paid tribute to the pairs champions, Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, and Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.
Sale and Pelletier finished second to Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze by the slimmest of margins in the pairs last Monday. When a French judge admitted she was pressured to vote for the Russians, an International Skating Union investigation ruled that her marks were tainted.
The ISU recommended awarding two gold medals and one bronze, which is officially what occurred Sunday night.
Pelletier and Sikharulidze conducted a friendly, animated conversation before the ceremony, and the four skaters hugged after the national anthems of Russia, then Canada, were played.
Sale was the only one with tears in her eyes, but all four smiled widely throughout the short proceedings that drew huge cheers from the crowd.
The French soared above the dance competition. Anissina was swathed in red, from the tip of her ruffled dress to her flaming hair. Peizerat couldn't have played the flamenco role better had he been dancing atop a table.
They received all 5.9s for presentation and four of them for technique.
Lobacheva-Averbukh had one unique spinning carry in a lively performance that combined tango and flamenco.
Fusar Poli-Margaglio danced a quick-paced flamenco in matching costumes. She sported a red rose in her hair, which was dyed black for the routine.
Their energetic program also charmed the judges, who gave them all 5.8s -- and a 5.9 from the Italian -- for presentation. But she got her dress caught under her skate at one point, although they probably still would have been third.
"I was a little in shock," she said of the mishap.
Her partner admitted he was annoyed with the marks Friday night in compulsories, but expressed no dissatisfaction this time.
"The first and second-place couples made mistakes and we skated clean," he said of the compulsory round. "The free dance is probably our best part."
Bourne and Kraatz were much more playful, particularly during the "Cell Block Tango" portion of their routine. The Grand Prix champions still couldn't squeeze into the top three heading into the free dance Monday night, which is worth half the total score.
Four-time American champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev finished 11th in the original dance, worth 30 percent of the total score. That placed them 11th overall.
While the judges weren't that much more impressed Sunday night, the audience went wild during and after their "Carmen."
Tchernyshev, a Russian native who became an American citizen last year, was the dominant character in his garish bullfighter's costume. Lang, the first female American Indian in the Winter Games, played the tragic heroine's role, dressed in a flashy red and black lace dress.
Although their moves weren't particularly innovative -- or even that difficult for this level -- the drama and Latin spirit of their program had the fans cheering almost throughout their two-minute presentation.
"After the compulsories, we were so disappointed with our marks," Lang said. "We just wanted to show how tough we are and that we could fight."
Beata Handra and Charles Sinek, the second U.S. couple, were 21st overall.