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Favorites falter on first day of world championships

GOTEBORG, Sweden -- Things didn't go quite as planned for the favorites on the first day of the World Figure Skating Championships.

A rare fall in the ice dance compulsories left Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto in fifth place Tuesday, five points behind leaders Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France.

Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao of China led the pairs, executing a flawless short program after Grand Prix final champions Alina Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy made two minor errors.

"We're just going to have to do what we always done: We just have to skate a strong (original dance) and free dance," Agosto said. "I think the programs we have this year are the strongest we ever had."

Belbin and Agosto arrived as favorites to win the dance titleafter European and Grand Prix champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin withdrew because of his injury.

The Americans had devoted extra time this year to compulsories, considered their weakness.

Santa Rosa's Kim Navarro and Philadelphia's Brent Bommentre were in 12th place.

But Belbin stumbled and fell while performing a rotating turn on one foot, called a twizzle, during their Argentine tango. Falls in compulsories -- where every couple skates the same pattern for two rotations around the rink -- are extremely rare, and the Argentine tango is considered a relatively simple dance.

The Americans' score of 35.02 leaves them little margin for error in Thursday's original dance or Friday's free dance if they are to have any shot at becoming the first U.S. team to win a world dance title.

Delobel and Schoenfelder lead with 40.73 points, and Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in second with 38.71 points.


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