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And your U.S. ice dance world team members are ...

January 24, 2009 |  5:15 pm

Icedance_300CLEVELAND -- An injury prevented five-time U.S. ice dance champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto from competing at this year's championships, and though they were gone they were not forgotten.

The top three duos paid tribute to Belbin and Agosto, the Turin Olympic silver medalists, and wished them a speedy return from Agosto's injured back.

The most selfless expression came from third-place finishers Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre. The U.S. can send three ice dance teams to the world championships at Staples Center in March, but Belbin and Agosto can petition for a spot -- and would almost certainly get it if they're fit and ready. The top two finishers here would also go, and that would bump Navarro and Bommentre off the team.

Despite knowing they face that scenario they said they wouldn't be bitter to lose out to Belbin and Agosto.

"It's weird being at nationals without Tanith and Ben," Bommentre said.

Navarro quickly chimed in. "It would also be weird not to have them at worlds," she said, "so hopefully they'll be there."

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who are from the Detroit suburbs and train in Canton, Mich., won their first U.S. title by sweeping all three phases of the competition and earning 201.68 points. Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, who train in Ann Arbor, Mich., were second in each phase and finished second overall with 181.64 points. Navarro and Bommentre faltered in the original dance -- the second phase -- but held onto third, with 176.30.

Davis and White, both 21, teamed to win the bronze medal in this season's Grand Prix final. They were second to Belbin and Agosto last season and third in 2007.

"It's kind of surreal right now," Davis said after their free dance to music by Camille Saint-Saens. "We've been dreaming of this for years. It's surreal, but it's amazing nevertheless."

Davis also wished Belbin and Agosto luck.

"They've done so much for our sport, specifically for ice dancing," she said. "I really hope that they get better soon."

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform their long program during the ice dancing competition on Saturday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland. Credit: Jerry Lai / US Presswire

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