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Davis, White break new ground with win

Americans best training mates Virtue, Moir

Meryl Davis and Charlie White will try and defend their U.S. title on Thursday.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White will try and defend their U.S. title on Thursday. (Getty Images)

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By Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(12/04/2009) - Hang on to your hats -- the 2010 Olympic ice dance competition just got a lot more interesting.

For the second time in their senior careers, U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White have defeated two-time Canadian world medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, edging out a win by 1.22 points overall. The win gives them an illustrious honor -- they are the first U.S. dance team to ever win the GP Final.

The teams, who have been best of friends and best of rivals since their junior days, train together under Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva in Canton, Mich.

While Davis and White previously bested Virtue and Moir at last season's Four Continents Championships, Virtue was clearly suffering from the after effects of a leg injury. This time around, the Americans capitalized on a winning original dance and stayed close enough in the free dance to bring home gold.

The superb programs tonight showed a clear contrast in styles.

Davis and White explode at the start of their Phantom of the Opera routine with White's leap and lunge and do not stop skating full-throttle until a final lift with an almost "throw" descent. Their level of difficulty and speed keep knowledgeable fans on the edge of their seats; a slight slip of a toe pick by White could wreak disaster.

Their performance on Friday set a new personal standard of 103.64, but remarkably, there is still room for improvement: while the Grades of Execution (GOEs) were all positive, including many +3's, three of their elements gained only Level 3.

"It's just getting harder and harder to get Level 4 this season," White remarked.

"It's been a really great season so far, and we've been feeling great in all competitions," Davis said. "I think that we can definitely skate a lot better and going home we're going to look through that. There are technical performance things we want to improve on."

Skating to Mahler's Symphony No. 5, Virtue and Moir were more classical, the epitome of a graceful ballroom couple. The program is more subtle and seamless than the Americans' and is highlighted by extraordinary lifts, especially one some fans call "the eagle" that has Virtue standing on Moir's back before she "flies" off to land on the ice.

The Canadians earned 104.21 points, a season-best but not personal-best score, and gained Level 4 for all elements except their circle steps. As in the OD, their program components were a bit lower than those of their training mates, 52.51 to 53.14.

"There is room for improvement and I can't wait to get back home and start training for [Canadian] nationals," Virtue, who sported a new, blush-colored costume, said.

"We are happy to be first in the free dance, and we are happy for Meryl and Charlie, because they won [overall]."

The chasm between the top two couples and the rest of the field, to put it unkindly, was huge.

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France won bronze with a free dance score of 90.69 points and 147.62 overall. They were disappointed in their avant-garde outing to a medley of "Kika" and "Requiem for a Dream".

"It was bad performance," Bourzat, who has an ankle injury, said. "I could only skate one hour [a day] or even less to prepare for this competition. Sometime I feel pain but I just do my job. The lack of practice made me feel tired in the last part of the program. I didn't have enough energy."

Scottish siblings Sinead Kerr and John Kerr, the first Britons to qualify for a Grand Prix Final, were fourth with 145.33 points overall.