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FIGURE SKATING

Ice-dancing competition at world championships has no clear favorite

The injury withdrawal of French title-holders guarantees a new champion will be crowned, with several contending pairs showing the ability to win the gold medal.

March 24, 2009|Helene Elliott

Only this is certain about the ice dance competition at the World Figure Skating Championships, which begin today at Staples Center with the compulsory dance: the injury-induced withdrawal of 2008 winners Isobel Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France guarantees a new champion will be crowned.

But it's not safe to assume last year's runners-up, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, will move up. Virtue had surgery on both shins six months ago, and the duo lost the Four Continents title to U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who could be in the mix here. Turin Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto can't be counted out either, despite a fourth-place finish last year.

"Everybody wants to win but I really feel like the steps have been taken to only one position," Belbin said Monday. "We're not fighting for a podium position. We're fighting for gold."

Also likely to contend are Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy and two Russian duos, 2008 bronze medalists Jana Khoklova and Sergei Novitski, and 2008 European champions Oksana Dominina and Maxim Shabalin.

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

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