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France takes gold in Ice Dancing

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- You wonder why they bother with three nights of ice dancing at the Winter Olympics.

You wonder why there would be any talk about vote trading among judges concerning French dancers Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat.

Anissina and Peizerat, the leaders from the beginning, claimed the gold medal Monday night with a smooth and seemingly flawless performance to "Liberta ("Non merci") by Claude Petit. The first eight places did not change after the first night and there was litttle movement among the top 24.

Americans Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev finished 11th, their place from the opening night.

The French withstood a strong challenge by Russians Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh, who took silver.

"We lost the gold only by one judge," Averbukh said after the free dance. "It was a 5-4 vote."

Bloc voting, often a problem in ice dancing, was difficult with the mixture of France, Lithuania, Italy, Canada and Russia in the final five.

"We are very happy to have won silver tonight," said Averbukh.

It was the first ice dancing gold ever for France and the country's first figure skating gold medal since 1932.

The French pair played to the mostly American crowd from the beginning with parts of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech interspersed through their performance.

"We chose something quiet that people can feel in their hearts and we didn't think that should be loud," Peizerat said.

Anissina, performing with long red hair, appeared to be crying when she finished the free skate.

"I wasn't crying," she said. "It was my mascara running."

Barbara Poli Fusar and Mauriziio Margaglio of Italy took the bronze even though he fell in the middle of the performance.It was the first figure skating medal ever for Italy.

With the door open for third, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz of Canada both tumbled to the ice on an overhead move on their climactic maneuver. They covered the mishap smoothly to the crowd, but the judges caught it.

"I think it was the best skate that we've ever done," Bourne said. "At the last second, we let it go. It's too bad because we might have had the bronze."



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