ALBERTVILLE, France -- The trucker jackknifed.
When you get past the nervousness, the chest colds, and the crowd, it came came down to one swift and unavoidable collision with the boards.
Calla Urbanski and Rocky Marval tumbled from medal contention in the pairs figure skating after their original program at the Winter Olympics last night.
The 31-year-old waitress and the 26-year-old trucker who train at the University of Delaware in Wilmington are the unlikeliest of Olympians. As the American champions, they were poised to contend for an Olympic bronze medal.
But not now.
On the toughest jump in pairs, the 2 1/2 -revolution side-by-side double Axel, Marval checked himself into the boards that surround the rink, and the panel of judges sent the pair skidding to seventh place.
"We were heading straight for the wall, instead of coming across on a diagonal," Marval said. "My adrenalin was pumped so hard. Our speed carried us to the wall. It was a good thing the wall was so high. I thought I could have gone over it."
They've faced greater obstacles in their careers. She has been paired with six partners, and was once told she was too old to skate for Olympic medals. He fought for ice time at exclusive rinks that sought to keep out a skater with an Italian name and heritage.
But with tomorrow's free-skate final looming, they know their medal chances are nil.
"At home, everyone says skate for gold," Marval said. "Realistically looking at everything, we know our limits."
On a night when most teams stumbled, when perfection was unattainable, the world champions, Natalia Mishkutienok and Artur Dmitriev of the Unified Team led the way. With a balletic performance, filled with high kicks and higher lifts, they were first overall.
Their teammates from the Commonwealth of Independent States, Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov, were second. Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, the reigning world silver medalists from Canada, survived a fall and were in third.
The top American team was Natasha Kuchiki and Todd Sand, the reigning world bronze medalists who finished a dismal third in last month's U.S. championships. Burdened by an early start in the draw, and penalized when Sand touched down with his right hand on the double Axel, the pair was placed in sixth, on the fringe of medal contention.
Still, at least for the Americans, the night was dominated by Urbanski and Marval. As they took the ice, he turned to her and said: "This is it. This is the Olympics. We're here."
But they were sick. Urbanski caught a chest cold the night before Saturday's opening ceremonies. Marval had one, too.
They coughed and hacked their way through their 2 1/2 -minute performance. When they finished their routine to the French can-can, Urbanski had the blade of her right skate caught in Marval's pocket.
"I wanted to do it again because he hit the wall," Urbanski said. "I didn't even know if he had done the double Axel or pulled back and done a single."
After the music stopped, they stood at center ice and Urbanski asked Marval: "Did you do the single?"
He turned to her and said: "Hell no."
The trucker wouldn't lie.