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Ice dancer eyes Olympics, but needs citizenship

The Winter Olympics are just 84 days away and for America's best ice dancers in three decades, the fight to get to Turin is playing out in Washington, D.C. NBC's Campbell Brown reports.

NEW YORK — Ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto spend their days practicing the fundamentals, looking for that extra edge that could mean an Olympic medal. With drive and talent to burn, Belbin lacks only one thing — American citizenship.

“It would be our dream come true,” Belbin says, “to go to the Olympics and make this country proud.”

Belbin and her family moved from Canada to the U.S. in 1998 so she could train with Agosto. From the first, they were a winning combination; even qualifying for the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002. But as a Canadian, Belbin could not compete for the U.S.

“We were meant for each other as far as skating's concerned,” Agosto says, “and I wouldn't have it any other way.”

Belbin began the process of applying for U.S. citizenship back in 1999. While she was waiting, Congress changed the rules — actually making it easier for people like Belbin to become Americans. But because she applied before the change, the new rules don’t apply to her.

Belbin needs U.S. citizenship by Jan. 10 to go to the Olympics. So lawmakers from her home state of Michigan tried to help by tacking on an amendment to the spending bill that would have expedited her case. But the bill failed in Congress Thursday.

There are few options left. And even the United States Olympic Committee, which normally stays out of citizenship cases, is speaking up.

What makes this case different?

“It's unfair,” explains Peter Ueberroth, the chairman of the USOC. “I mean, they did what they were told to do.”

There is still a chance Congress will act in time to get Belbin and Agosto to Turin, Italy, for the Winter Games.

“I can't really let myself imagine too much what it would be like to stand on top of a podium,” Belbin says, “because I might be sitting at home on my couch.”

And that leaves two of America's best on the edge of Olympic glory.