SALT LAKE CITY -- The broad smile on Naomi Lang's face told the story.
She had a lot of fun in the original dance portion of the ice dancing competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Performing their original movements on the required Spanish dance, Lang and partner Peter Tchernyshev drew the pro-American crowd into their routine from the beginning and received slightly higher marks from the judges than in Friday's compulsory dance.
The marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.5 were not enough to move them past 11th place. Places in ice dancing traditionally change little after compulsories.
"This is the Olympic experience I've always dreamed of," said Lang, of Allegan, Mich. "Even though we are in 11th place, I still feel like a winner. Marks don't matter anymore."
Tchernyshev, dressed in a black-and-gold matador costume, gracefully carried Lang, who was in a bright red and black flamingo outfit, about the ice a couple of times. The routine ended with a carry spin.
Afterwards, Lang beamed and hugged her partner, who gave a thumbs-up.
"The crowd got excited and started clapping on the slow part of our routine, which we didn't expect," Tchernyshev said.
"Peter leaned to me before our routine and said, 'Let's have a blast,' and we did," Lang said. "The crowd helped so much. We were so disappointed after our placement in compulsories.
"We just wanted to show how tough we are and that we could fight. After the first straight-line footwork, I thought, 'The hard part is done and I can show off now.'"
Lang reiterated that she thought the fact that she and Tchernyshev weren't among the leaders was "it's not our turn ...
"I feel we are just as strong as everybody else in front of us," she said. "We'll get what's coming to us if we're just patient."
Tchernyshev noted that the United States did not have a judge on the panel.
"When you compete without a judge from your country on the panel, you really have to be a couple levels above the others," he said
Lang and Tchernyshev didn't compete in the Grand Prix series this season because he suffered from shin splits.
Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France compete in the ice dancing original program at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2002.
AP Photo/Doug Mills
"I think that plays into it," Lang said. "Even though the judges know our skating, it plays into it. It should be how you skate that night."
The original dance, where the music is set but skaters are free to interpret it as they wish, counts for 30 percent of the total.
The free dance, which counts for 50 percent, is Monday night at the Salt Lake Ice Center.
"We have some special moves planned for the free dance," Lang said. "I know the crowd is going to like it and that's what really matters."
The top 11 spots in the standings didn't change after the original dance. Maria Anissina and Gwendal Perizerat lead Russians Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh and Italians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Maurizio Margaglio.
(David McCollum, sports columnist for the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway, Ark., is part of the Morris News Service team covering the Winter Olympics).
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