Ice Network

Virtue, Moir distance themselves from field in short

Canadians break own world mark; French second; Hubbell, Donohue third
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were as good as ever in their first skate on world championships ice in four years. The 2010 Olympic gold medalists earned a world-record 82.43 points for their performance of their Prince medley short dance to take a 5.54-point lead over the field. -Getty Images

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the short program at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki on Friday afternoon, easily outdistancing France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron and Team USA's Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

Virtue and Moir smashed the world record they set at the Grand Prix Final in December, amassing 82.43 points, 1.93 more than their previous mark.

As they have all year long, hip hop, rock 'n' roll, disco, swing and boogie-woogie numbers contrasted with the required Midnight Blues rhythm to set fire to the arena, launching the audience into thunderous applause.

Virtue and Moir were, of course, one of the most loudly applauded teams. They delivered a soft and accurate -- yet completely controlled -- rendering of their Prince medley short dance. Their five required elements all picked up a Level 4 as well as the highest Grades of Execution (GOEs) of the event. Their step sequences garnered GOEs of +2.99 and +2.83 and totaled a whopping 23.02 points combined.

"I felt really electrified!" Moir said afterward. "There was so much energy going through my body, so I needed to calm down a little bit."

"It's nice to end the season with a season's best, but it was just so much fun," Virtue added with a smile.

Virtue and Moir's program was a model of consistency between the music, the way the couple turned it into an ice dance routine and the way they delivered it on the ice, with their mood, movement, music -- even their costumes -- completely aligned.

"Part of our comeback was to skate artistically in a way that we feel represents the place we are in right now as artists," Virtue offered.

Twelve teams followed the 2010 Olympic gold medalists onto the ice, and not one received straight Level 4's across the board like the Canadians did. Most received Level 3 for their step sequences, with several registering Level 2 for their partial step sequences.

Papadakis and Cizeron were also completely in harmony with their music, floating over the ice at high speed throughout their routine. They languorously skated to Lene Riebau and Maxim Illion's "Bittersweet," completely embodying their blues before setting the ice surface ablaze with their subsequent swing portion.

The French garnered 76.89 points, topping their season's best by 1.63, and stand in second place.

"We want to share that experience with each other and the audience, without really focusing on the scores," Cizeron said.

Hubbell and Donohue made a giant leap Friday, after the most brilliant skate of their career. Their partial step sequence was rated Level 3, but all their other elements picked up a Level 4. Their technical merit was even higher, as the team's components were somewhat lower than those of their competitors. They garnered 76.53 points, bettering their previous career high by almost three points.

"We're there!" a radiant Hubbell said with tears of emotion in her eyes.

"Not quite!" Donohue added. "Yes, for today we are: We won the first small medal of our careers!"

She insisted.

"'Make them come to you' was the word Marie-France [Dubreuil] told us before we took the ice," Hubbell revealed.

That's exactly what they did, mastering their music and technical elements -- as well as the audience's emotions -- all at once.

"We took our program very calmly and focused on being in the moment, putting all our feelings where they needed to be," Hubbell explained.

As they told icenetwork earlier in the week, Madison Chock and Evan Bates were focused on "doing clean turns and getting more slow through our footwork to help our edges." They delivered a strong routine, receiving Level 3 for their two step sequences and 76.25 points for their short dance, inching past their previous personal best by 0.04.

The U.S. holds the third, fourth and fifth positions, with Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani coming in just behind their teammates. Skating a powerful dance to Frank Sinatra's "That's Life," the siblings' class was visible not only through their opening blues pattern but also when Jay-Z's remix of their original piece turned their silky routine into an electrifying hip hop number. They did, however, receive a Level 2 and Level 3 for their two step sequences.

Cappellini and Lanotte have always made a point of being able to deliver the best ice dance elements along with their unique performing skills. They went from a smooth yet tempered dance to "Cry for Me," from the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, to a mesmerizing "Choo Choo Ch'boogie," which brought the crowd to its feet. Their Midnight Blues pattern picked up a Level 4, and their two other step sequences were rated Level 3. The team received 73.70 points for the dance and stands in seventh place.

Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev were rather disappointed with their scores. Their step sequences were rated just Level 2 (partial) and Level 3 (diagonal), and they amassed 73.54 points to advance to the free dance in eighth place.