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Skating Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 04:34 GMT
French duo lead the dance
Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat in action on Friday
The French pair say they have been misjudged in the past
By BBC Sport Online's James Cowling

With all eyes now focused on the ice dance competition after the scandal in the pairs' event, it was Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France who took the early lead.

The French team won both compulsories dances, the Quickstep and the Blues, convincingly, but whether it will be enough to silence figure skating critics that a deal has not been made remains to be seen.

There are claims that French judge Marie-Reine La Gougne voted for the Russian pair over the Canadian couple in the pairs' final to ensure victory for Anissina and Peizerat in the ice dance event.

When asked about the scandal, Peizerat tried to put it into perspective.

There are several times in the past where we feel we've been misjudged

Marina Anissina on 'Skategate'
He said, "It's happened to us so many times with the judges, we have learned to get away from it.

"I think that the public knows the difference between sport and all that's going on. What's on our mind now is to have a really great Olympics."

Anissina added, "This has happened to us in the past as well. There are several times in the past where we feel we've been misjudged."

After the first section of the ice dance, Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia were placed second by the predominantly eastern block panel.

Reigning World Champions Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy finished third.

British duo Marika Humphreys and Vitali Baranov finished the first section of the competition in 16th place.

Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio
World champions Fusar-Poli and Margaglio earned a top three spot
Amid the controversy surrounding the judging in ice skating, Ukrainian judge Yuri Balkov, who was suspended over the scandal that rocked the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, is back on this year's panel.

Canadian judge Jean Senft recorded a conversation she had with Balkov where he indicated to her what the final placements of the couples would be before the free dance had even started.

ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta justified his inclusion.

Earlier this week, Cinquanta said, "His suspension has expired and he is entitled to judge again."

After the scandal in the pairs, there were calls for a completely new panel of judges in the ice dance event to counter allegations that a deal had been done so the French dance team would win the gold medal.

The suggestion never came to fruition.

In a sport where placements rarely change after the compulsories, it will be interesting to see what happens given the events that transpired earlier in the week.

It must also be noted that there was no change in placements among any of the skaters between the two dances.

The next phase of the event, the original dance, worth 30 percent of the final score, will take place on Sunday night.

Links to more Skating stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more Skating stories

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