- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) With their tribute to America as the Land of Liberty, France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat narrowly won the Olympic ice dancing gold medal last night.
It helped that the couple stayed on their feet throughout the four-minute routine, something two contenders couldn't do.
Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia were second by a 5-4 judging split, followed by world champions Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio.
Peizerat blew kisses to the TV cameras when he saw the final standings, which mirrored the rest of the competition. In all three phases, Anissina-Peizerat were first, the Russians second and Italians third.
In fact, the top eight couples didn't move from the first compulsory dance through the original and free dances.
That normally is the way in ice dancing, and whether ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta's proposals for sweeping changes in the judging system will affect the dance is anyone's guess.
"We skated really well and this was the best performance we ever did," Peizerat said.
Stellar performances were rare, however. Margaglio fell about halfway through the Italians' routine. Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz tumbled to the ice at the end of their program.
Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev, winners of the last four American championships, finished 11th. Still, their first Olympics were a thrill for Lang, the first female American Indian in the Winter Games, and Tchernyshev, a native of Russia who became a U.S. citizen last year.
"This is probably the highlight of our career," Lang said. "We never skated better, and the marks don't matter."
Ah, but they do matter, and Lang knows it. She took a shot at the current judging system, too.
"It seems like there is a ranking order, and without a (U.S.) judge on the panel, we kind of have no chance," Lang said. "We have to wait our turn, like the speedskater from Australia. He just stole the moment."
Nobody could steal the moment from Anissina and Peizerat in the free dance, worth 50 percent of the total score.
Peizerat began the program lying flat on the ice, with Anissina pointing skyward as if she was Lady Liberty herself. Among their intricate moves was one where she carried him while he was upside down.
With Martin Luther King Jr.'s famed freedom speech mixed into the music, the French couple finished with their arms extended upward as if holding torches.
And with one fan yelling "Vive La France," Anissina, who was born in Russia, and Peizerat collected six 5.9s for presentation.
That left plenty of room with the judges, however.
Fusar Poli and Margaglio couldn't skate through the opening. He fell in simple footwork in center ice during the "I Will Survive" portion of their program, and the Italians couldn't survive that. They wound up third partly because the Canadians also fell.
While Bourne and Kraatz tried to cover it up by laying on the ice together as the music stopped, then kissing each other and the rink surface, their medal shot was gone.
Not that the Grand Prix champions would have passed anyone if they had been clean. Their program, to a mix of music ranging from Michael Jackson to Charlie Chaplin, was nowhere near the complexity of the top two teams.

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