Figure Skating

Delobel-Schoenfelder Win Ice Dance Title

France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder triumph at the world championships.
France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder triumph at the world championships. (By Francois Mori -- Associated Press)
Saturday, March 22, 2008

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder won their first ice dance title at the World Figure Skating Championships yesterday in Goteborg, Sweden, 18 years after the French pair began skating together.

Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto failed to win a medal for the first time since 2004. The Olympic silver medalists and five-time U.S. champions had a rare fall in the compulsories, and finished a mere 0.26 of a point short of the podium.

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who train with Belbin and Agosto in Detroit, won the silver and Russia's Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski took the bronze.

"This competition was a big mind game for us," Belbin said.

Added Agosto: "I'm not going to lie, it was pretty difficult to come back after the fall. It was shocking."

Also yesterday, Olympic bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle and American Johnny Weir took the lead in the men's competition with strong short programs, while the last two title winners fumbled or fell. Weir's finish was some rare good news this week for the Americans, who have been shut out of the medals so far.

Stephen Carriere, last year's junior world champion, is in 11th and Jeremy Abbott is 14th. If they hold or better those positions in the long program, the United States will keep their three spots at next year's all-important world championships in Los Angeles.

Results at the 2009 worlds determine how many entries countries get at the Vancouver Olympics, and the Americans have already lost one of their spots in the women's competition next year. The U.S. ice dancers will have three 2009 worlds spots, with up-and-coming Meryl Davis and Charlie White finishing sixth.

Buttle skated impeccably, landing a gorgeous triple flip-triple toe loop combination and scoring top levels for all of his spins. With a total score of 82.10, the Canadian is 1.31 points ahead of Weir, the three-time U.S. champion. Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, the defending silver medalist and the most consistent of the top men this year, is a close third at 80.49.

Two-time world champion Stephane Lambiel was fifth and defending champ Brian Joubert was sixth, though the French federation is appealing a one-point deduction for having vocals in his music.

-- From News Services

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