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US ice dancing pair set sights on gold in 2010

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ASTON, Pa. (AP)

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are hoping to upgrade that silver medal from the 2006 Olympics in Vancouver.

The ice dancers appeared along with a number of other skaters and coaches Thursday as part of what was dubbed a Destination Vancouver Kick-Off Celebration at the IceWorks Skating Complex.

"We know firsthand how the experience changes you, what it means and how indescribable it is," Belbin said. "We know what it takes to get there and everything that goes along with it."

Including the sacrifices.

Belbin and Agosto are the most successful ice dancers the U.S. has produced. In addition to their silver from the Turin Games, they won the silver medal at the world championships in March and are five-time U.S. champions.

But after a rare finish off the podium at the 2008 worlds, the two decided they needed to make a change. They left their longtime coaches and the lives they'd built in Detroit and came to suburban Philadelphia to train with Olympic gold medalists Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov.

The team had a setback last fall when Agosto suffered a back injury that forced them to withdraw from the U.S. championships. But they returned in time for worlds, where they finished second to training partners Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia.

"I had a really serious back injury, but today it feels phenomenal," Agosto said. "It's the strongest I've ever felt in my entire skating career."

And now they've got their sights set on Vancouver.

They officially kick off the Olympic season next week, when they compete at the Cup of China, their first Grand Prix assignment.

"After Torino in 2006, looking ahead to 2010 seemed like an eternity," Agosto said. "But the time has really flown by and it has been an incredible experience as we try to do it again."

Other skaters who attended the press conference included: Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, Italian ice dance champions and current European silver medalists; and Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, who were third at the last two U.S. championships.

"It would be an honor to compete in the Olympics," Bommentre said. "That's what were working toward every day."