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Davis, White take gold ahead of training mates

Virtue, Moir drop to silver medal; Samuelson, Bates take bronze

Meryl Davis and Charlie White show off their first Four Continents gold medal.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White show off their first Four Continents gold medal. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(02/06/2009) - Meryl Davis and Charlie White scored a major upset at the 2009 ISU Four Continents Championships on Friday, taking the ice dance gold in a come-from-behind win over favorites Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

The U.S. champions were nipping at their Canadian training mates' heels throughout the meet and finished the week with 192.39 points to Virtue and Moir's 191.81. Davis and White's Samson et Delila free dance earned 96.74, helping them overtake the world silver medalists. All of the Americans' elements but the circular step sequence were graded Level 4, the highest level of difficulty.

Virtue and Moir tallied 94.51 points for their unconventional Pink Floyd program. A little bobble by Virtue in the middle of their combination spin could have cost them the win.

The bronze medal went to Four Continents rookies Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates. The young American team -- 18 and 19, respectively -- collected 180.79 points in all and 89.90 for their free dance, set to a piece called "Amazonic."

Vanessa Crone, 18, and Paul Poirier, 17, of Canada, were fourth (176.82). The two teenage duos finished 1-2, with the U.S. team in front, at the 2008 World Junior Championships.

White summed up his thoughts about their performance with this: "It felt powerful and emotional, which have been two of the things that have been key this season for us. We felt we wanted to give everything we had and just leave it out on the ice, which is what we wanted to do."

Davis and White, who were sixth at the 2008 World Championships, have had a successful season so far -- a gold medal at Skate Canada (their first at a Grand Prix), a bronze medal at the GP Final and their first U.S. title.

"Things have been really coming together for us this season," Davis said. "Last season and the season before, in particular, we were working on different aspects of our skating and, I think, this year it all kind of came together for us. We've been working really hard, so we're pretty happy with our performance."

Asked about his emotions in the medal ceremony, White said, "It was just nice to hear the national anthem up there. It means a lot and working as hard as we did to get there. When you're up there and the spotlight is on you and you've got the flag rising up, it's a really nice moment."

Virtue and Moir's program, set to "Great Gig in the Sky" and "Money," had some rough edges due to the lack of mileage the couple has been able to put on it. With Virtue's ongoing recovery from early October surgery to alleviate excruciating pain in her shins, repetitions of the routine have been limited. The overall impact of the program, however, was obvious.

The highlight of Virtue and Moir's choreography is their unique lifts, which defy description. All of their lifts were judged to be the maximum Level 4.

Virtue and Moir will use the next six weeks to smooth out the rough spots in preparation for the battle of the Pink Floyds at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles. France's reigning world champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder also selected music from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album for their free dance, creating an interesting match-up.

Virtue, who was sidelined for the first half of the season, went immediately to the medical room after their performance to ice her legs. She emerged, smiling, about 20 minutes later and returned to the ice for the medal ceremony.

"Obviously, it's important for us to make sure we're not making the injury any worse. We need to be close to 100 percent the next six weeks going into worlds. This free dance, being a lot longer than any of the other dances we've done [this week], is a lot more straining on her endurance for the particular area of her legs that the surgery was done on," Moir explained.

"We were happy with that performance, given where we're at today. It's kind of been a short year for us. Tessa's been under a lot of stress. It takes a lot of energy to get back. We were actually glad how we were able to pull it together today -- actually all three days," Moir added.

Moir said that despite the challenge ahead, they are not backing down on their primary goal for the season. "We still have our expectations set for worlds. We still want to win," he said.

Bates said they were pleased and proud to be able to execute all their elements and also give a good performance.

"We got a new personal best, so we're really happy all round," he said.

The third American couple, Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre, finished sixth (151.82) among 11 couples.

This week's Four Continents Championships are being held in the Pacific Coliseum, where the 2010 Olympic figure skating contests will be decided just over a year from now. The competitors here have had nothing but good things to say about the facility and ice conditions.