Zaretskys proud of opening performance

Israeli duo in 10th place after compulsory dance; skier Renzhin prepares.

zaretsky 311 (photo credit: AP  )
zaretsky 311
(photo credit: AP )
VANCOUVER – Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky roused Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum with an expressive and lively tango on Friday night that placed the brother and sister pair among the top 10 ice dancing couples in the world.
Cracking the top four were Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, the Jewish-American half of the US team that became the highest-placing in Olympic history when they took the silver in 2006.
While the American pair is going for gold this time, the Zaretskys admit that a medal is out of reach for them and have their sights set on the more attainable goal of a top 10 finish.
Their compulsory performance on Friday put them in a position to do just just that, earning a score of 34.38 and 10th place.
Though they trail front-runners Oksana Domnini and Shabalin Maxim of Russia by nearly 10 points and their score is some three points lower than their season’s best – an effort earned them seventh place at the European Championship – they clearly felt pleased by their performance and results.
Hearing the marks in the “kiss and cry” booth, Roman pumped his fist and Alexandra gave a broad smile.
While the judges made almost no deductions on the Zaretskys’ technical performance, they awarded only slightly above average marks, and gave a similar appraisal of the more creative and subjective aspects of the program.
In the compulsory program, each couple had to perform the same basic steps to a classic tango theme, giving the judges a head-to-head comparison of skills, technique and presentation.
But the Zaretskys did add personal touches to the routine, including costumes – Roman in black tails and gloves, Alexandra in a red satin dress – and dramatic flourishes with their hands and upper bodies.
“They skated very well,” assessed Boris Chait, who heads the Israeli skating association and accompanied the Zaretskys to the arena Friday.
“They could have been higher marks,” he said, arguing that they performed better than at the European Championships, “but it’s okay.”
“We think of personal results out there, not personal bests,” Roman said after Friday’s routine. “We skate for our friends, our family and of course, for our country.”
Agosto also expressed satisfaction with the routine.
“I really feel like this pattern is a great one for us,” he said. “I think we had a really good performance.”
His partner, Tanith Belbin, also pointed out, “We’re in a good position right now, and there’s plenty of opportunity to make a move.”
Both couples will try to do just that when they take to the ice for the original and free dances on Sunday and Monday nights. The Zaretskys plan to skate to “Hava Negila” and the music from “Schindler’s List” respectively.
Regardless of their scores, supporters of the Israeli duo among the approximately 14,000 spectators at Pacific Coliseum were pleased by what they saw.
The couple was greeted with warm applause, a smattering of Israeli flags and even a few stuffed animals tossed on the ice at the end of the routine – a common way of complimenting performers in the sport.
Shirley Hyman had scoped out a good seat for holding an Israeli flag to maximum effect at an earlier visit to the arena. She was rewarded by a wave from Alexandra Friday when the couple took to the ice and saw the massive blue and white banner.
“They’re such a tiny team, they need our support,” she explained of wanting to make sure she and her fellow boosters could be seen.
She added that when it comes to Israel’s cold weather athletes, “We’re just glad that they’re represented. It isn’t exactly a winter country, as well all know.”
In fact, the Israeli winter Olympics team has just one other member, skier Mikhail Renzhin. The 32-year-old two-time Olympian was due to compete in his first event, the giant slalom, just hours before the Zaretskys’ original program on Sunday. But the event was postponed until Tuesday for weather-related reasons.
Renzhin said his practices had recently improved, as the conditions at the Whistler mountain course got better.
“We feel better on the snow than on the ice,” he said.
His coach, Stanley Rubenstein, said that whatever the conditions, Renzhin will be able to concentrate on the race at hand.
“He has experience in racing, and is very focused,” he said. He addedthat one of Renzhin’s stong points is his consistency where otherskiers might take more chances in pursuit of faster times only to wipeout.
Renzhin is looking to do at least as well as his Turin result of 32nd place.
TheZaretskys are also looking forward to getting back to the competition,according to Chait. “It’s a fight, a fight to be in the top 10,” hesaid. “This is just the first day.”