Wed, Feb 22, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Italians make up after icy incident

ICE DANCE All is well again for Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, whose staredown had observers wondering if the pair would ever perform together again

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , TURIN, ITALY

Italy's Barabara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio look at each other after they fell on the ice at the end of their performance in the ice dancing event in Turin, Italy, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Every man knows the stare the Italian ice dancer Barbara Fusar Poli gave her partner, Maurizio Margaglio, after Sunday's original dance.

It is the look a woman gives before throwing the dishes, the gaze she delivers just before storming from the room. It is the expression that conveys disappointment and blame, the one that says, "You ruined things again."

Margaglio stared back, but in comparison, his effort was impotent. He knew her anger was justified. They were in first place, but just seconds before their original program ended, while Margaglio was lifting Fusar Poli, he lost his balance. Both tumbled to the ground, in a lump of sequins and skin.

When the music stopped, the two stood facing each other for nearly a minute at center ice, Fusar Poli steaming as her eyes burned through Margaglio, her partner of 12 years. The fans who had packed the Palavela to watch them skate stood with their Italian flags drooping at their sides, witnesses to one of ice dancing's most memorable moments.

In its Monday edition, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica described the stare-down: "Barbara, with horror in her stare, an emptiness inside, would have shot him immediately if she had a pistol."

"It was a shame, but also beautiful," the article added, "that long moment as they stared at one another, everyone expecting them to attack one another."

At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Margaglio fell in the final program. Afterward, Fusar Poli sobbed uncontrollably because she thought Margaglio's fall had cost them a medal. It did not. They were awarded generous marks and won the bronze, Italy's first figure skating medal. That day, Margaglio said, "At that moment you have all your life crossing in front of your eyes."

Margaglio's more recent gaffe caused them to drop to tenth place from first entering the free dance on Monday.

The stare afterward seemed the embodiment of the sport: it had drama, passion and that edgy sexiness that comes from two people dancing intimately, with the woman nearly naked. Fusar Poli, looking sassy with her red hair pulled into a ponytail, wore a costume that was backless, but was nearly front-less, too. Two strips of sparkling flowers and leaves grew from her navel, to cover her breasts.

Fusar Poli, 34, and Margaglio, 31, were one of five couples to take a tumble in the original dance, showing that the sport may not be as easy as it looks. Some couples blamed their falls on the pressure of the Olympics. Others blamed it on the new scoring system, which calls for many more elements to be packed into the program. But, of course, Fusar Poli looked as if she blamed it on Margaglio, with whom she has no romantic relationship.

Margaglio and Fusar, the 2001 world champions, were under extreme pressure, as the home country favorites. They had come out of retirement to compete in the Olympics in Italy and had worked hard to get to Turin. They had competed only once, at the Italian nationals this winter, since finishing third at the 2002 Olympics. Fusar Poli had a baby nearly two years ago.

On Sunday, in the kiss-and-cry area where skaters wait for the judges' marks, Fusar Poli could not even bear to look at Margaglio. When she saw the scores, she buried her head in her hands and began to cry.

Every fan in the stands on Monday for the finals had to know Fusar Poli and Margaglio were fighting. Even if they had not seen the stare the day before, they could see how the couple reacted to each other during the warmup, which they largely did at opposite sides of the rink. He looked docile, while she looked determined.

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