Moir, Virtue one step away from national title

Young stars have commanding lead at Canadians

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have a lead of more than 17 points heading into the free dance.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have a lead of more than 17 points heading into the free dance. (Getty Images)


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By Laurie Nealin, special to
(01/18/2008) - Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir continued to build a commanding lead over the rest of the ice dance field at the 2008 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships on Thursday.

Their "Dark Eyes" original dance scored a personal-best 65.29 points and drew a rousing ovation from the fans at the Pacific Coliseum, the venue for the 2010 Olympic Games.

With their Yankee Polka compulsory scores added in, Virtue and Moir head into Saturday's final with 105.33 points, some 17 points more than the second-place couple, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Weaver, the Houston, Tex., native, and Poje have 88.14 points overall, while Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno are just a fraction of a point behind (87.22).

"It's exciting for Tessa and I to be in Vancouver. Hopefully, we'll be back in a couple of years," said Moir, who has his sights set on an Olympic medal, preferably gold, two years from now.

Weaver and Poje surprised the field a year ago, claiming the bronze medal and earning a trip to both the junior and senior world championships in their first season together. At the 2007 World Junior Championships, they won bronze. They recently put their fortunes in the hands of Canadian ice dance icon Shae-Lynn Bourne, who won the world title with Victor Kraatz in 2003, and Weaver's earlier coach Matthew Gates.

Since the Grand Prix in Paris, Weaver and Poje have worked hard to revamp their original dance, a Russian folk dance, which they enhanced with help from renowned choreographer David Wilson.

"We felt happy with our performance. It's the first time it's been out in the public after we made all the changes," Poje said.

Interestingly, Kraatz is coach to Hann-McCurdy and Coreno, who are the most improved couple this season, having made a substantial move up the ladder from eighth in this event last year.

"Being home in B.C. has been awesome. We're in the top three so far, and that was our goal. We're really looking forward to Saturday," Hann-McCurdy said.

Canada has three spots for ice dancers at the worlds.

American Kevin O'Keefe and his new partner Siobhan Karam are sixth, but the fourth through sixth couples are less than 0.5 points apart.

A top-five finish means membership on the national team.

Asked for his impressions of the Canadian versus U.S. Championships, O'Keefe said, "Everyone's happier, not stressed out. Everyone's really friendly, hospitable, welcoming."

Next week, O'Keefe will be in Saint Paul, Minn., for the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships to cheer on his girlfriend of five years Brooke Castile, who will try for her second pairs title with partner Ben Okolski.

The second American man making his Canadian debut this week is Augie Hill, who partnered with Canadian Lauren Senft last spring. They are currently eighth and well back, points-wise, from the contenders for national team membership.

There is little chance that Virtue and Moir will not win their first Canadian title, which, for them, is a stepping stone to the world podium in Sweden in March. Sixth in the world last season and fourth at the Grand Prix Final a month ago, the young Canadians have made no secret of their ambitious goals.

Moir, Hill and O'Keefe and their partners are all based in Canton, Mich., where they train with Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva.

The coaches also train Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto and Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who will compete at next week's U.S. nationals.