Forgiveness warms hearts — even on ice

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist

The 2006 Winter Olympics at Torino, Italy, are now history. I like the Olympics, and I like the winter games best of all.

I’d come down with an almost terminal cold and was still sneezing, sniffling, coughing and spluttering on the second Sunday of Olympic competition, but I still managed to do my part to help out with the ice dancing that evening. I drank warm liquids, covered up with a warm blanquet, occasionally poked the fire in the fireplace, and pet the dog, who herself sneezed sympathetically a time or two.

It was a good thing we helped. If you remember that evening’s competition, folks were dropping like flies. Four teams suffered falls that evening, one serious enough to knock that pair out of competition and all serious enough to really mess with the scores.

It was the Canadian team, I believe, who had to drop out of the next evening’s competition. That poor girl hit so hard that her partner had to carry her off the ice. I was glad to hear later that she’d not broken anything. But I felt sorry for them. An interview on the next evening showed what a class act they were.

As the competition went on, the U.S. team of Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto made us proud as they won silver, the first U.S. figure skating team win a medal since 1976 (bronze), the first year ice dancing was an Olympic event.

In their interviews, and especially when you heard the story of Tanith’s citizenship, Belbin and Agosto just seem like the kind of people you’re glad to see do well.

But one of the most interesting ice dancing stories had to do with the Italian team of Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio. The first Italian team to win a metal in figure skating (they won bronze in 2002 in Salt Lake), they came out of retirement to skate in this year’s Olympics in their home country. They were doing well until, on that ill-fated Sunday evening, they were one of the pairs who suffered a fall that dropped them out of medal contention.

I couldn’t tell whose fault the fall was. After reading about it, I’m still not sure. But Italian language skills were not necessary to translate Barbara Fusar-Poli’s opinion. The two were standing on ice, but for 15 seconds after their routine, her fiery eyes burned holes through his. I expected him to burst into flames and melt into oblivion.

Off the ice, they wouldn’t even look at each other, and cameras bore painful evidence that the chilly conditions hadn’t thawed one degree by the next evening and right up until the time they were scheduled to dance. How can a pair dance and not touch each other?

They took the ice. He looked at her and said something that seemed to me to say, “What’s done is done. Let’s do this!” She nodded. They skated beautifully, and the thaw in their hearts translated into fire — of the right kind — on the ice. At the end, they kissed and hugged, and then saluted their cheering countrymen.

Ice dancing is beautiful, I think. Forgiveness is more beautiful still.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at