Virtue, Moir steam up ice with sultry Rumba
Olympic champions lead by 8.3 points; Chock, Bates sit seventh
|Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir grabbed a huge lead in the short dance. (Getty Images)|
"It's always great to skate in your own country," Virtue said of Mississauga's adoring crowd, which gave the golden couple a long, loving ovation.
In a tight battle for second, Canadian silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, the fifth-place finishers at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, have 63.31 points, with Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte close behind at 61.92.
Newly teamed Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are sixth after both skaters fell toward the end of their routine.
Skating to a medley including "Hip Hip Chin Chin" and Diana Krall's "Temptation," Canada's Olympic champions looked aggressive and confident throughout, gaining Level 3 and 4 for their Rumba sequences and Level 4s for both their twizzles and curve lift.
The skaters and their coaches, Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, have improved the dance since its first showing at the Finlandia Trophy earlier this month, gaining higher levels for several elements, including the lift.
"We're very focused about what we do," Virtue said. "We've taken what we did in Finland and built up from that."
Virtue and Moir's score, 71.61, is slightly higher than the 70.33 earned last week at Skate America by longtime rivals and training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who defeated the Canadians to win the 2011 world title.
Weaver and Poje served up a sinuous Rhumba and hot Samba, highlighted by a three-part, Level 4 twizzle sequence.
The couple, which trains at the Detroit Skating Club under a coaching team headed by Pasquale Camerlengo and his wife, two-time world champion Anjelika Krylova, worked with Dancing with the Stars pro Anna Trebunskaya to perfect its Latin moves.
"We started working on the ballroom floor and looked for music even before  worlds," Weaver said. "Today it came to life, and we got energy from the crowd."
Cappellini and Lanotte took a softer, romantic approach to the Rhumba before closing their routine with a fast-paced Samba.
"We had a very difficult year last year; we changed coaches, and I had an injury," Lanotte said. "But this is a new season, and we felt very good today on the ice."
Chock and Bates, who like Virtue and Moir train in Canton, Mich., under Shpilband and Zoueva, skated a fluid Rhumba with authentic ballroom feeling and a smooth lift.
The couple, which teamed this August, sustained a two-point deduction when Bates slipped, fell and took his partner down with him at the very end of the routine.
"I got a little excited and at the end, instead of stopping, I just kept going and then I was on the ice," Bates said.
"It's only our second competition together (they won bronze at Finlandia). It's a total learning experience."