Before tonight's event, Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto will not sit quietly as many athletes do, calming themselves with silent meditation. They will crank up a Latin beat and start moving even before they put their skates on, trying to put on their music as if it were a costume. Tonight they will unveil what they believe is the best piece they have ever performed, and they like to stock it with as much passion and energy as possible.
Agosto and Belbin, a Canadian by birth who received her U.S. citizenship after an 11th-hour congressional decision at the end of December, believe they can make a major impact tonight with their sexy, sultry piece to a selection of Latin rhythms (rumba, cha-cha and salsa). As the reigning world silver medalists, they are trying to end a 30-year medal drought for the United States in ice dance. They spent several weeks in Mexico last year seeking to master the Latin beat, and they hope this will be their defining program.
Of course, it won't be easy for the young team that qualified for the 2002 Winter Games but couldn't compete because of Belbin's citizenship. They will be challenged by two-time reigning world gold medal winners Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia, along with Ukraine's Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov, who won the bronze at last year's world championships. Canada's Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon also are expected to contend.