Pair in prime position

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

GOTEBORG, Sweden -- Dance is in definite danger of becoming a sport.

And two Canadian kids put themselves in position to be proof positive.

Two things happened here yesterday to give evidence to the concept that dance no longer is fixed fancy skating.

First of all, Kingston, Ont.-born Tanith Belbin, fell and she and her American partner plummeted to fifth. There are no falls in dance. But there was the fall of all falls as the World Figure Skating Championships opened.

On rare occasions when dancers have fallen in the past, they were seldom penalized for it. They were this day.

But the big shocker is that a couple of Canadian kids from London, Ont., aged 18 and 20, sit second.

And they're the real deal.

"There's nothing fake about us," said Tessa Virtue of herself and partner Scott Moir.

If they'd come along when Belbin did, eight years ago when she left Canada to win U.S. citizenship in search of a partner, they would have had to start at the bottom of the ladder. They would have to spend most of a decade as part of a slow climb.

But these Canadian kids might make it on top of the podium their second year at worlds, two years after winning the world junior title.

"Bring it on!" said Moir, the 20-year-old who calls Ilderton, Ont., home.

"The thought is there," he added. "Whatever will be will be. Que sera, sera."

The pair, which started skating together when she was seven and he was nine, were sixth in their first worlds together last year in Tokyo. That sort of thing didn't used to happen before the Salt Lake 2002 judging scandal.

"I don't think it's ever happened," said Michael Slipchuk, the high performance director of Skate Canada.

"Before there was kind of structure. Skaters like Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz would go to their first worlds and expect to be 12th to 14th. These kids started at sixth ... Now there are technical scores and the technical score is what it is.

"Now if a skater falls, it's a deduction of one point," he continued. "If two skaters fall, it's a deduction of two points. Before, there was no way to gauge a fall. You could fall and it didn't cost anything."

As for the fall yesterday ...

"It was just a freak accident," said Belbin. "It's never happened in a practice. It just sucks that it had to happen at worlds.

"I'm really bummed out right now because we're really fond of this dance. I just hit my toe to the ice in the turn. No one is to blame but myself."

With Belbin falling, there is now almost no chance for them to finish first. Belbin and partner Benjamin Agosto are more than five points back of Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France, who lead at 40.73 after the compulsory dance. The original dance goes tomorrow and the free dance is Friday.

The Canadians scored a personal best 38.71 points, while Russians Jana Khorkhlova and Sergei Novitski had 37.98 and Italians Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali sit at 37.15.

The fact that Belbin was born in Kingston, Ont., made the story all the more juicy.

Belbin started as a pairs skater who chose to move to Detroit and become a U.S. citizen in 2005 to hook up with Agosto. The two, both eight years older than their Canadian counterparts, are the first U.S. ice dancers to medal (silver) at the Torino Olympics.

But the spotlight is now on Virture and Moir. All the planets, stars and moon seem to be lined up for this young couple to medal here this year.

An added twist to all of this is that Virtue and Moir train out of the same club in Detroit as Belbin and Agosto.

"We want everyone to skate well," said Virtue. "We see them at home every day."

Maybe they'll see them from the top of the podium.


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