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Belbin and Agosto ready for testing

Benjamin Agosto and Tanith Belbin skate in the pair's ice dance final at the Skate America figure skating competition in Everett, Wash. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, the best U.S. figure skating ice-dance team over the last five years, will make their second, and final, appearance before a panel of judges Thursday at their home rink in Aston, Pa., outside Philadelphia to show that Agosto has fully recovered from a back injury that kept the team out of U.S. Nationals and unable to qualify for the March 22-29 World Figure Skating Championships at Staples Center.

The five-time U.S. champions performed limited portions of their programs for judges last Thursday.

Belbin said she and Agosto were expected to do three complete programs Thursday, and besides a panel of judges, Agosto's doctor, who has treated his back injury, will be on hand. "The judges need to see all three of our programs on the same day," Belbin said. "That shouldn't be a problem."

Agosto said that because he and Belbin missed nationals and a chance to skate under the pressure that comes with needing to qualify for the world team, it was worthwhile to skate in front of judges, even in an empty arena, to earn their spot to worlds.

"We don't have a full audience, of course, but it is good to have extra pressure," Agosto said. "We have to do our job and in the mode of competition."

Short of Agosto's back collapsing, it seems unlikely the pair won't be skating in Los Angeles. The results of the world championships determine how many spots each country gets for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and Belbin and Agosto are the defending Olympic silver medalists.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Ben Agosto and Tanith Belbin skate in the pairs ice-dance final at the Skate America  competition in Everett, Wash. Credit: Kevin P. Casey / Associated Press

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