Brother-Sister Skating Pairs, Too Close for Comfort

Though brother-sister pairs may be awkward, harmony counts in Olympics.

ByABC News
February 16, 2010, 5:11 PM

Feb. 19, 2010— -- As Israeli Alexandra Zaretsky intimately embraces her tango partner at Olympic ice dancing competition today, she'll sink closely into his arms.

But not too close for comfort. Her partner is her 26-year-old brother Roman Zaretsky, as they skate the "Tango Romantica."

"We try to find ways to kind of look through, or look a little up, or a little sideways," Zaretsky told the Wall Street Journal. "Hey, you got to act."

The siblings are four odd couples of 23 ice-dancing pairs at the Vancouver games. The seductive tango has been mandatory since ice dancing was added to the Olympics in 1976.

Sinead Kerr, 31, of Great Britain, is dancing with her brother John.

"The training is a sport, but the performance is an art," said Kerr.

Figure skaters are judged not only on their leaps and turns, but their artistic interpretation of the music.

"Our coach told us envision someone else's head is there," Chris Reed, 20, who dances with his sister Cathy for Japan, told the WSJ. "It's all an act."

Being in emotional sync with a partner goes a long way to gaining gold, even if it means a few awkward moves for brothers and sisters.

Just this week, married Chinese figure skaters Hongbo Zhao, 36, and Xue Shen, 31, won the skating pairs competition, proving that harmony at home can yield results on ice.

After they took the ultimate prize on Monday, they declared, "Maybe it's time to have a baby," after dazzling the judges with their marital on-ice moves.

Former Canadian lovebirds Jessica Dube, 22, and Bryce Davison, 23, etched their own heartbreak in ice to the sentimental backdrop of "The Way We Were."

They had been romantically involved and split up before the Games.

"I was crying near the end," Dube, who had placed sixth, told Ottawa Citzen. "Once it was over, it was too much for me."

Nowhere does harmony count more than in pair skating.

"You have to have the right mentality to be able to go out there and skate pairs," said Jason Dungjen, who began skating with his sister, Susan Dungjen.

The siblings placed second at the 1984 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Today, he skates and coaches with his wife, Yuka Sato, on the Stars on Ice tour.

Dungien skated with Kyoko Ina at the 1994 and 1998 Olympics, where they placed fourth.

"You have to be able to give up control, very much like a marriage," he told"Two people have to work together for a common goal, each taking the lead at different times."

But it's not all a glide on golden pond. With his wife -- a 20-hour day between skating and home -- he's seen "the good the bad and ugly."

And, like the Russian pair, Dungjen's had a purely professional relationship with his pairs partner, Kyoko Ina.

"We competed for eight years and did two Olympics together, and in our relationship off ice, we were completely away from each other," said Dungjen. "I can understand what it means when you heard they don't get along."

But many skating partners do end up in a love.

"These teams are together day in and day out for so many hours that they pretty much are forced into some sort of relationship and then they move from there," said Sarah Granger, a former national figure skating competitor who writes a column for BlogHer. "An unusually high number of couples end up married."

Canadian figure skaters David Pelletier and Jamie Sale were living together when they won gold at the 2002 Olympics. They married in 2005. They now have a 2-year-old son.

Four-time U.S. pairs champions and three-time Olympians Todd and Jenni-Meno Sand, who met at the 1992 Winter Olympics, are now married and coaching at the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.