Tanith Jessica Louise Belbin (born July 11, 1984) is a Canadian-American ice dancer. Though born in Canada, she holds dual citizenship and has competed for the United States since she began skating with Benjamin Agosto in 1998. With Agosto, Belbin is the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, four time World medalist, three-time Four Continents champion (2004–2006), and five time U.S. champion (2004–2008).
As of April 2010, they are ranked 4th in the world by the International Skating Union (ISU).
At the 2010 United States Figure Skating Championships, they were nominated to represent the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics
Tanith Belbin was born in Kingston, Ontario and raised in Kirkland, Quebec. She lived and trained in Canton, Michigan for many years, before moving to Aston, Pennsylvania to train at Ice Works.
Belbin’s mother, Michelle (McKinlay) Belbin, is a costume designer and she makes some of Belbin’s costumes. She trained as a figure skater in St. John’s, Newfoundland, under Rolf Adomeit. Her father, Charles Belbin, an engineer, was a huge supporter of her career along with her mother.
Tanith Belbin competed as a pair skater and ice dancer in Canada before concentrating completely on ice dancing. She was introduced to ice dancing by Paul Wirtz and competed with Liam Dougherty as an ice dancer and Ben Barruco as a pair skater in Canada. She did not compete internationally with them.
Unable to find a dance partner in Canada, Belbin moved to Detroit in 1998, where she was partnered with Benjamin Agosto by their coach Igor Shpilband. They had early success, winning the bronze at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in their first competitive season. Belbin and Agosto qualified for the 2002 Olympics by placing second at U.S. championships, but were not able to go because Belbin was not an American citizen. Because Belbin started the citizenship process before new rules went into effect, her citizenship would not have been completed before 2007. Belbin and Agosto, therefore, focused more on Nationals and Worlds, winning Nationals four times, and earning the silver at Worlds going into the Olympics.
Fans of Belbin and Agosto wrote letters and signed petitions asking for a special act of Congress to let Belbin become a citizen in time for her to compete at the 2006 Winter Olympics, where many believed they could medal. This was a controversial move. The mother of fellow American ice dancer David Mitchell believed that it was unfair to bend the requirements for U.S. citizenship for Belbin, when so many other “aliens of extraordinary ability” were denied expedited citizenship.Supporters pointed out that the U.S. had three dance team spots at the Olympics only because Belbin and Agosto had earned the third spot by medalling at the 2005 World Championships.Had they not, the U.S. would have had only two spots. By this logic, Belbin and Agosto had earned their own spots. However, by a special act of Congress sponsored by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) that passed on December 28, 2005, which President George W. Bush signed on December 31, 2005, Belbin became a naturalized citizen, making her able to compete for the United States at the 2006 Winter Olympics.In January 2006, the pair won their third consecutive national title and qualified for the Olympics. At the Turin Olympics, Belbin and Agosto won the silver medal in ice dancing, the highest Olympic result of any American team in the discipline, and the first American ice dancers to win an Olympic medal in 30 years. They went on to win the bronze at Worlds.
For the 2007–2008 season, Belbin and Agosto began with first place finishes at both Skate America and Cup of China which qualified them for the Grand Prix Final, where they placed second. They won their 5th national title and then placed 4th at the 2008 Worlds after a fall by Belbin in the Compulsory Dance. Belbin and Agosto were regular cast members of the Champions on Ice tour from 2004 until COI went out of business following the 2007 season.They were guest stars on part of the 2008 Stars on Ice tour. Following the 2007–2008 season, Belbin and Agosto left Igor Shpilband, who had coached them for their entire partnership, and began working with the married coaching team of Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponossov in Aston, Pennsylvania.
Belbin and Agosto began the 2008–2009 season at the 2008 Skate America and 2008 Cup of China, winning silver at both competitions. They withdrew from the 2008–2009 ISU Grand Prix Final after the original dance due to a back injury to Agosto. They withdrew from the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships before the event began due to Agosto’s injury. They were named to the team to the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships. At the World Championships, they won the original dance and placed second in the compulsory and free dances to win the silver medal overall. At the 2010 Winter Olympics, they finished 4th.