Qualifying for the remaining quota spots for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games began today in Oberstdorf, Germany, at the 41st Nebelhorn Trophy.
Starting the competition were the ice dancers, who competed one compulsory dance, the Tango Romantica. Of the 16 couples competing, six teams are competing for five remaining Olympic spots. That includes couples from China, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Georgia, and Hungary.
The Australian team of Danielle O'Brien and Gregory Merriman, who had an excellent chance of being Australia's first Olympians in ice dancing, withdrew before the compulsory dance when Merriman was stricken with an infection of the heart muscle. He was hospitalized in Germany for antibiotic treatment and is not expected to be released before Sunday.
The first competitors on the ice were Allison Reed and Otar Japaridze of Georgia. Although Japaridze has competed internationally with several partners, this was the first competition for Reed, whose brother and sister, Cathy and Chris Reed have qualified to skate for Japan at the Olympics.
U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, ranked third in the icenetwork.com world rankings, scored 37.62 points to place first in the compulsory dance.
"The skating skills required are really tremendous," White said, "but we're comfortable with the difficult steps and trying to add character to the dance. We've spent more time on the tango than the Golden Waltz because we've been able to work with ballroom dancers on it."
The were followed by Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski, the 2009 World University Games champions, who scored 32.34 points. The Zaretskis are 14th in the world rankings.
Russia's Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko scored 31.64 points in the compulsory dance to place third.
Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuiania earned 31.23 points to finish fourth.
Hungary's Nora Hoffman, who is trying to make a second Olympics, and her new partner, Maxim Zavozin, scored 31.20 points to place fifth in the compulsory dance. They lead the countries trying to gain an entry to the Olympics.