In any other sport, they'd be described as comers. Maybe contenders. But in ice dancing, which operates in its own little, intensely political sphere, the U.S. team of Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert is coming on more as the heiress and heir apparent.
Right now, Blumberg and Seibert are spotted third, tight behind the not-so-formidable Soviet couple, 1983 world silver medalists Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin. What many fans didn't quite catch in the reports from the '83 world championships at Helsinki was that Blumberg and Seibert missed knocking off the Soviets by a mere one-tenth of a point; if one certain judge had voted the U.S. twosome a 5.8 instead of a 5.7 in technical merit, Blumberg and Seibert would have brought home the silver. As it is, getting the bronze medal marked a notable advance: the first U.S. medal in seven years.
Which accounts for the growing interest in Blumberg, 26, and Seibert, 23. They've won the U.S. title for the past three years, and at the 1983 nationals they knocked down five perfect 6.0s in the free dance. Like Torvill and Dean, they've been steadily advancing: from seventh in the 1980 Games at Lake Placid to fourth in the 1981 and '82 world championships to their step up at Helsinki. Now they have a good shot at a silver in Sarajevo.
This is partly because the Soviets, artsy and balletic to a fault, haven't kept pace with the new wave of faster, more intricate dancing that's rolling through the sport. Blumberg and Seibert, she of Tarzana, Calif., he of Washington, Pa., have been taking that jazzier approach for the past couple of years. They've based an entire freestyle number on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' Top Hat, White Tie and Tails and They Can't Take That Away from Me. Says Blumberg. "Our Fred-and-Ginger routine is a strongly American number, maybe too much for certain meets in Europe, but we risk that. We're Americans, and we want everybody to know it."