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Gold at last: Virtue, Moir finally beat Americans

Canadians edge Davis and White on technical elements; Weaver, Poje take bronze

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir relish their victory over Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir relish their victory over Meryl Davis and Charlie White. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/12/2012) - For the first time since the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir defeated Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They did it on the free dance technical mark: Canada's Olympic champions were awarded seven Level 4 elements by the technical panel versus four for the U.S. world champions. They also gained perfect grade of execution (GOE) marks for their final element, a combination lift.

"Not everything is going to go your way," White said. "Today I think some of the calls didn't go our way. I could not be prouder of the way we fought through both programs."

Canada also won the battle for bronze at the Four Continents Championships, as Kaitlin Weaver and Andrew Poje's angst-ridden "Je Suis Malade" free dance outdid Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani's breezy Sun Valley Serenade program. As in Saturday's short dance, none of the top four ice dance teams notched a season's best score.

Virtue and Moir performed their sophisticated Funny Face free dance with panache, fully inhabiting their "Audrey and Fred" characters while nailing their twizzles and steps. They seemed unaffected by Colorado Springs' high altitude, maintaining their energy right up through their final lift, a gloriously smooth straight-line/rotational combination that gained the maximum 11 points.

The Canadians earned 111.24 points for their free dance and 182.84 overall, edging their U.S. rivals by 3.44 points.

"I think it was a great performance, both performances. Especially today, we felt really strong, and it was kind of a test for us up here with the altitude and we were definitely feeling it today," Moir said. "Regardless of that, we just came together and got a strong score, and it was just a great feeling."

The duo had revised their program prior to last month's Canadian championships, and the changes obviously worked.

"We had some strong elements and we definitely had to work on our spins to get ready for the world championships," Moir said.

"We performed everything that we have been practicing so we are obviously pleased with that," Virtue said. "We have six more weeks until worlds, so we're looking forward to getting home."

Davis and White, too, put out a superb effort, offering up a smooth and fleeting free dance to Die Fledermaus that had no visible errors. But their step sequences, twizzles and spin gained just Level 3, and their GOEs were a shade lower than their rivals.'

"I think we're pretty proud of ourselves finishing this competition," Davis said. "Silver isn't the color we were aiming for this year, but that's OK. We have a lot to go home and work on and we are looking forward to it.

"We'll take a look at our technical score and see where we went wrong, but I think we're on the right track for Nice."

Although White admitted he was "gassed" at the end of the routine, he said the 6,000-foot altitude was not a factor in their loss.

"I was tired, but that's not something you think about too much going through it. There's always the next step. Your partner is there and she's relying on you, and you're relying on her. I don't feel it affected the performance at all."

Weaver and Poje took another step up the international ladder with a smoothly executed outing of their dramatic program depicting love gone wrong. As always, the stirring routine was highlighted by the emotional connection between the skaters as well as superb lifts. They earned 99.03 for the free dance and 163.26 overall.

"The story creates the emotions that we put out during the program," Weaver said. "We have a story that we think about every single time we skate this program, and it never fails because it brings out real emotion, and I think that is what people connect to because it's real. It's not put on, it's not fake; it's something that is inside of everybody."

"Andrew and I are very happy we finished our free dance with energy, and especially that we were able to bring a lot of emotion to the ice and interpret the music," Weaver said. "We're thrilled to be sitting here with the top two teams in the world."

Shibutani and Shibutani had a clean and entertaining outing, highlighted by their blazing opening twizzle sequence as well as their "Chattanooga Choo Choo" tap sequence. Although all four of their lifts gained Level 4, they also had a one-point deduction for an overlong lift and finished with 94.91 for their free dance and 158.29 overall.

After maintaining his energy through their final element, a strong rotational lift, Alex dropped to one knee on the ice, momentarily weakened by the altitude.

"Alex has been fighting a cold all week so it was definitely challenging today," Maia said. "I'm proud of the way we fought through the performance and I'm proud of Alex for skating the way he did when he's not feeling the best."

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue lost ground when Donohue fell on their circular steps, but closed strong with an attractive straight-line lift. The U.S. bronze medalists earned 129.20 points for fifth place.

Rest is prescription for Shibutani

There's nothing unusual about getting winded after a four-minute-plus performance in Colorado Springs' high altitude, but Alex Shibutani felt under the weather well before he took the ice for his free dance.

The skater began the day coughing and heavily congested, and as the hours wore on, it just got worse.

"It was diagnosed as a viral infection," Alex said. "It picked up this morning after practice.

"It wasn't until the last second I decided to skate and finish the competition. It's something that has never happened before; it's just a difficult experience, but in the end it will make us stronger. We're well trained; we did as well as we could under the circumstances."

Alex and sister Maia will not perform in Sunday's exhibition gala, having received a medical bye.

"We're disappointed that we're not able to skate," Alex said. "People drove here to see us, and we hate letting down the fans, but it's best I head back to the hotel to rest."