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Ladies and Dance Worlds Update

Well, I'm sure you've heard the news by now about the latest results of days one and two of the world figure skating championships, but just a quick recap and a look at the news coverage:

A lot of the hype surrounding the ice dancing competition before anyone even took the ice was the fact that European and Grand Prix Champs Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin had to withdraw due to an injury, which opened up the door for Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto to possibly win the first U.S. ice dancing gold. Unfortunately, it looks like Belbin squandered their good fortune. She had a rare fall during the cumpulsories (Argentine tango) yesterday, which caused a mandatory one point deduction and left the pair in fifth place. It's safe to say the definitive favorites to win the competition are the French couple Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, who lead the second place Canadian couple Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir by nearly 2 points.

Canadian writer Cam Cole of the National Post takes exception to what he/she regards as unfairly favorable treatment of Belbin and Agosto. I never thought I'd hear that ice dancing judges were presumed to be favoring a U.S. couple, especially when the couple is now in fifth place, but Cole does seem to argue that the couple did not lose enough points.

The 2007 bronze medallists were fifth by the end of opening day at these world championships, 5.71 points behind the leaders, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France, and 3.69 behind Canada's precocious stars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who sat in second spot.

And yes, that much ground is hard to make up in the dance.

But you want to make a little bet? Somehow, some way, they'll be on the podium after the free dance Friday.

The Americans could have, should have been even deeper in the glue, if they hadn't been blatantly propped up by a set of presentation marks better than Virtue and Moir's, better than any except those of the French couple.

That must have been some artistic fall. The only other team to hit the deck, Estonia's Kristina Kiudmaa and Aleksei Trohlev, finished last among the 31 couples.

"It's sport," Moir said. Well, almost.

Ouch. I should note that the article does make some valid criticism of the anonymity of the judging system.

The ladies competition got underway today. Carolina Kostner was favored to win a medal here, but her first place finish after the short program is a bit surprising to those who expected the Japanese skaters to be atop the standings. Mao Asada and Yukari Nakano are now in second and third, respectively. And our favorite infomercial star, Finland's Kiira Korpi, is in fourth! Go buy a bed!

The Americans are doing atrociously if you go by the standings, although the reviews of Meissner's performance have been good even though she is only in ninth place right now, and if things stay this way America will only be sending two skaters to next year's worlds. Meissner didn't fall, so I guess that is a bright spot. But she didn't complete a planned triple/triple. She plans to make amends in the long program, though.

Even though I regard ninth place as disappointing, if this is what it takes to get Meissner's confidence back before the long program and the important 2009 season, then I guess I'll take it.

"I don't care at all," said Meissner, who scored 57.25 points. "I am just so happy. ... This is something I can be proud of."

Meissner said she purposely downgraded her triple-triple combination to a triple-double to ensure a clean program. But she intends to do the triple flip-triple toe loop combination in the free skate.

Still, the Americans will have to fare better in the free skate if they are to keep three spots at next year's world championships. The top two skaters must finish with a combined placement of 13 — say, fifth and eighth — to earn three spots at the 2009 worlds, where results will determine how many entries each country has at the Vancouver Olympics.

Though Meissner may be down in the standings, she said she isn't bothered by being seven points out of the lead. Fellow American Bebe Liang is in tenth place and rounding out the U.S. team, Ashley Wagner is in 11th.