Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Melting Italian Ice

Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio are the Italian 2006 Olympic ice dancing team (the Italians fielded two teams). They held first place going into the original dance competition on Sunday. On that skate, however, Maurizio fell while holding Barbara during their last required lift. The fall effectively removed them from medal contention.

Ice skaters fall. That happens all the time. But the stare-down that Barbara gave to Maurizio after they finished is one that will long live in Olympic ice dancing lore.

She glared at him as they stood on center ice. If they were hockey players, they would have already thrown off their gloves and started circling one another, ready to throw blows.

Maurizio knew (had to know!) that Barbara's accusing look was justified. It was as if she was daring him to try to make a case for himself. The sadness and anger and frustration were thoroughly apparent on Barbara's face and body language.

The Olympic spectating world seemed to focus on them during last night's final ice dancing program, the free skate. Dozens of camera shots showed the pair at odds with one another. They clearly hadn't resolved anything. Their every movement conveyed that chilly atmosphere a home has when the parents are fighting. They had their backs to one another. They avoided any eye-contact. Their mouths were grimly shut. Any couple in any kind of long-term relationship can relate to this.

They skated a splendid free skate, much to my relief. They didn't medal, but during their program they became more assured, warmer, and more emotional. Smiles crept to their once-taut faces. They finished with a well-skated routine, and that routine brought a catharsis to their very public dispute. It brought relief and tears. And it brought hugs and kisses from Barbara and Maurizio to one another. "Passion lives here," declares the banners of these Olympics. Yes, it does.

They finished sixth in the ice dancing competition, but they will be be among the first things I will remember about the 2006 Torino Olympics.

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