John Summers of Vienna, Va., and partner Stacy Smith of Delaware, Ohio, have little chance of finishing better than sixth in ice dancing at these Winter Olmpics, but they have a personal goal: "to bring the audience to its feet" with a rousing free dance performance on Tuesday night.
Smith, 25, and Summers, 22, are in eighth place after two of the three portions of the ice dancing competition, which was added to the Olympic figure skating program in 1976.
Free dance -- which has no required sequence of steps, but must consist of nonrepetitive combinations of established or innovative dance movements -- completes the competition.
"Free dance is one of our fortes, and also accounts for 50 percent of the total final marks" said Summers, a 1974 graduate of O'Connell High School in Arlington, Va.
"We're hoping to pull back to sixth or seventh after making a bad mistake yesterday. We're also just going for a good free dance performance, one that will get the audience to its feet and screaming."
Ice dancing is not exactly disco on figure skates, but it is the closest thing to it in the Olympics -- a man and a woman skating in harmony through three compulsory set-pattern dances, an original set-pattern dance for which the couple chooses its own music, tempo and compositon, and the climactic free dance.
The Smith-Summers free dance, which drew appreciative applause from spectators at practice today at the Olympic Arena is fast-paced and flamboyant, performed to a medley of four musical pieces: the Russian "Concerto for the Domra" (a stringed instrument similar to the guitar), George Gershwin's "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necesarily So," and a piano rendition of "the 12th Street Rag."
"We hope we can make up for our mistake in the compulsory dances," said Summers. "You're supposed to do six patterns, and we lost count and only did five, which cost us at least three-tenths of a point from each judge. It was just a foolish, foolish error that dropped us from seventh to eighth."
Summers, who was born in Bethesda, Md., took up ice skating at age 11 when his family moved from the Washington area to Winchester, Mass.
When his father, John K. Summers relocated in McLean, Va., in 1972, John kept skating at rinks at Tysons Corner and downtown Washington. Lack of ice time and coaching led him to move to Wilmington, Del., where he now lives and trains with Coach Ron Ludington.
"Ron is one of the best coaches in the world," said Summers, who has been skating with Smith for six years and teamed with her to win the national championship in ice dancing in 1978-79 and to finish ninth in the world championships both years.
"When I decided to make competitive skating my career for awhile, I decided Wilmington was the place to go, but my family still lives in Virginia."
They undoubtedly will be on their feet and screaming Tuesday.