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Virtue, Moir's edgy departure good for gold

Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier win silver

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold in dance at Canadian Nationals.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold in dance at Canadian Nationals. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(01/18/2009) - It was creative. Athletic. Theatrical. And ultra-original.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir unveiled their on-the-edge, Pink Floyd free dance on Saturday en route to winning their second national title at the BMO Canadian championships.

The program, set to tracks from the "Dark Side of the Moon," is quite a departure for the world silver medalists known for their lyrical, romantic routines.

Appropriately, Virtue and Moir had the Saskatoon fans on the edge of their seats as they executed complicated acrobatic lifts that they developed in conjunction with their lifts coach Johnny Johns.

The couple posted virtually unbeatable scores -- 94.68 points for the free dance and 197.77 in all for the week.

"We have a lot of difficult elements in that program and it's really hard to execute, but we're happy with the way we skated and I'm excited to be national champion again," Moir said.

"Given the circumstances, I have to be happy with that skate," Virtue said, referring to the injury and subsequent surgery on her shins that sidelined them for three months last fall. "It was not necessarily what we hope for at this point in the season, but I'm just so pleased with our progress and I'm really grateful to be back here."

Second place went to Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, the 2008 world junior silver medalists who were fourth nationally a year ago. The teenagers created a buzz in their debut season as senior Grand Prix competitors. The athletic duo won the silver medal at Skate Canada in November.

Crone and Poirier had some slip ups in the free dance and actually ranked only fourth in that segment (84.40), but with a total of 175.58 they were able to hold off the challenge of last year's silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

"It's good we got this out of our system before the big events at the end of the season," said Poirier, who fell at the end of their step sequence.

Crone said she was thrilled to be in the company of Virtue and Moir all week, noting they consider their teammates "huge role models."

"Skating with Tessa and Scott gives us a really big push to get up there with them," Crone said.

Weaver and Poje's lyrical, yet dramatic Dr. Zhivago program ranked second-best (85.42) and they finished with 170.23 on the board.

After missing the first half of the season, Virtue admitted it was a quite a race for them to be ready for this competition. A few rough spots in the performance were evidence of that.

Moir lost his balance on a knee-slide and had to put his hand down to keep from toppling over. It cost them a 1.0 deduction. Well-known for his sense of humor, Moir quipped, "Tessa will like this [joke] because she's a psych major. It was my Floyd-ian slip."

Skate Canada has announced that the first and second-place couples will comprise the world team headed to Los Angeles while all three medalists will compete at Four Continents.

While the rest of the dancers can take a little breather tomorrow, Poirier is not done yet. He still has his long program to skate in Sunday's men's final. In his debut in senior company, Poirier ranked 11th in the opening round in the extremely competitive field.

The men's final will bring the 2009 Championships to a close.