Povilas Vanagas: "We are prepared!"

By Magdalena Osborne
Photos © EMJO, Joy, Titia

For three consecutive years the audience of the Antwerp "Stars on Ice" shows have enjoyed the beautiful and dramatic skating of Povilas Vanagas and his partner/wife Margarita Drobiazko. Last time it was a sword fight to "Pirates of the Caribbean", this time they performed as Christine and the phantom to music from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "The phantom of the opera". The audience loved it and it was a special treat since the couple wasn't even scheduled to perform in Antwerp. It was totally unexpected and Povilas laughed:

"It was unexpected for us too! We were in Detroit training when our IMG agent called us and asked if we could go to Antwerp, and that was only a few days before the show. We were a bit hmm since we don't get to be home much. Every time we come home it's only for a few days, then we're off someplace again. But we really love Antwerp, the shows there are very nice productions and the audience is great so we said OK!"

Last year rumors surfaced about the Lithuanian dance team making a comeback, and when they entered the Karl Schäfer competition in Vienna it was a fact. Margarita and Povilas finished first, they were back! Returning to eligible skating was a big decision:

"There were many circumstances leading up to it, some private and some official. In 2002 we thought we'd never come back because we didn't want to, at all, but as the 2006 games got closer we thought maybe we should try again. We also wanted to help the Lithuanian Winter Olympic team since we knew it would be very small and probably not do so well."

Winning in Vienna gave them a ticket to Torino and competing in the Olympic Games is certainly nothing new to the team, they have done it four times already. After placing fifth in Salt Lake City in 2002 they spent their time touring, but now they're hungry for an Olympic medal.

"Naturally we'd like to medal and we've been watching all the top skaters in the world (dance teams) and we feel like we can do what they do and give them a good fight."

Since the new judging system was introduced after Salt Lake City, there has been some concern about the team not being ready to perform and do well under the new rules. But Povilas is not worried.

"Some moves in our free dance have been altered to fit competitions. And we're surrounded by a great staff: Elena Maslennikova, our coach whom we've worked with for many years, Igor Shpilband, Rostislav Sinitsyn, Marina Zoueva and Gintaras Svistunavicius. For the choreography each one has something to contribute and the program kept changing a little bit all the time, until just a couple of weeks before a major competition, then the changing stopped and we just worked on what we had or it would have been a never ending story."

The shape needed to compete in Torino is also no worry.

"We have been invited to tours all over and done a lot of shows, so we have kept ourselves in really good condition, we are prepared!"

Getting bronze at the recent European Championships in Lyon proved him right. And judging from the crowd's reaction in Lyon, Povilas and Margarita are big time favorites for the Torino podium. They were cheered on and applauded like no other couple. Dazzling performances and persistence have paid off, but what will happen after the games? The question made Povilas laugh again.

"Well, that is a question with no answer! The way you lose your eligibility these days is to partake in professional competitions, but there aren't any for ice dance. So maybe we'll be back for the 2010 Olympics, it would be our 6th!"

Audiences and fans around the world surely wouldn't mind!

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