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Perfect Tango Puts Champs Closer To Title Ice Dancers Earn 6.0s; Sand, Meno Tumble

Associated Press

This was a tango tangy enough for perfection.

Three-time champion ice dancers Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow strengthened their lead in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships by winning the original dance. Their tango, to “Tanquera,” received two 6.0s for presentation, the first perfect marks in the event.

“I was very surprised,” Swallow said. “It goes by so fast and everything is so together. It was a real interesting experience. You always dream of 6.0s.

“It’s an achievement you work for your entire career.”

At night, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand’s bid for a fourth straight pairs crown hit a snag with a sloppy final 30 seconds, dropping them to second place in the short program. The two-time world bronze medalists were behind Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen, who have been runners-up in the last three nationals.

“We did something you shouldn’t do and took it for granted,” Sand said.

The 6.0s were the first ever given in original dance in the nationals. In 1984, Judy Blumberg and Michael Siebert - the last dancers to win four U.S. crowns - earned a 6.0 in the original set pattern, which has been replaced by the original dance.

The other marks were nearly as good. For presentation, they earned seven 5.9s along with the two 6.0s. For technical merit, they received five 5.9s and four 5.8s.

“Our artistic impression and expression especially is something we’ve been concentrating on all year,” Swallow said. “It’s something that we focused in on that is going to make us competitive with our world competitors.

“We’ve been hammering away at that passion day in and day out.”

The married couple from Pontiac, Mich., led a Detroit sweep of the top three spots heading into today’s free dance, worth 50 percent of the total score. In second place were Eve Chalom and Mathew Gates, followed by Kate Robinson and Peter Breen.

What happened to Meno and Sand most certainly was disastrous. As they approached the end of what was a strong program, Sand slipped as Meno dismounted from the required lift. Then, in a maneuver they could do in their sleep, he fell as she went into a death spiral, losing control of his wife, who flopped a few inches to the ice, but was not hurt.

The pairs free skate is today.

Earlier in the day, USFSA president Morry Stillwell announced that the U.S. team for next month’s world championships won’t necessarily be comprised of the top three finishers at nationals.

“The performances … of the Champion Series and other international championships will be considered,” Stillwell said.

A rules change by the International Skating Union for determining spots in the Olympics prompted the altered American policy.

Now, performances by all skaters in the worlds determine how many berths a nation gets for the next Olympics. In the past, if the U.S. won a medal, it got three spots in the next Olympics in that event.

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