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Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur of France on Monday became the first black couple to compete in Olympic pairs skating, electrifying the crowd at the Pacific Coliseum with an acrobatic free skate program.

James and Bonheur, who met on an Internet site for competitive pairs skaters seeking partners, finished 14th on the evening. But with a series of high-flying jumps and high-risk lifts and throws, they were an audience favorite.

Bonheur, 27, took the moment in his stride, saying he did not set out to find a black partner.

“We hope that in the future we can win many medals and have a black coach and officials in pairs skating,” Bonheur told reporters after the performance. “I didn’t search for a black girl in the first place, just a girl who wanted to try and work for it.”

James, 22, has skated with Bonheur for three years. Born in Canada, she had competed for Britain as a single. She was granted French citizenship last year. She said their performance at the Winter Games showed the door had finally been opened for black pairs skaters.

Not only are they the first all black team to get this far – representing France in the Olympics games but it is a remarkable accomplishment for a couple of skaters who only met in December of 2007. It can take far more than a few years for ice skating pairs dancers and competitors to learn how to merge their styles. Some never do and have to find new partners (thus the need for sites like Ice Partner Search).

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