December 23, 2005

Belbin could compete in Turin

NEW YORK (Reuters) - World silver medal-winning ice dancer
Tanith Belbin took a step closer to competing in February's
Turin Olympics after a fast-track U.S. citizenship process was
approved by Congress.

Canadian-born Belbin, who with her American partner Ben
Agosto finished second at the world championships in Moscow
this year, needs to be granted U.S. citizenship before January
28 to eligible for the 2006 U.S. Olympic figure skating team.

Her application is being considered under a bill containing
a provision for "aliens of extraordinary ability" and she is
now hopeful that she will be able to compete at the Winter
Games once the Bill has been signed by President George Bush.

"I've always felt comfortable and proud to be a part of the
U.S. Team," Belbin said in a statement released by U.S. Figure
Skating on Friday from their base in Colorado Springs.

"Ben and I have always strived to represent the country as
best we can. Now that this last little bit is over, I know we
will make the most of this opportunity.

"I'm just so glad to be a part of this country through and
through, and I'm very proud."

Belbin, who moved to the United States from Canada in 1998,
and Agosto have also won two U.S. national titles, two Four
Continents crowns and three Skate America gold medals.

Another ice dancer, Maxim Zavozin, could also be granted
citizenship in time for the Olympics under the same process.

Zavozin, who emigrated to the United States from Russia in
1998, and his partner Morgan Matthews are the 2005 World Junior
champions. They will also be hoping for one of three ice
dancing spots on the American Olympic team.

(Writing by Pritha Sarkar in London)