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New world order: Virtue, Moir top rivals in short

Four Continents champs ride momentum, down Davis and White

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir edged U.S. rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White by 1.33 points.
Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir edged U.S. rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White by 1.33 points. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(03/28/2012) - Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada won the short dance at the 2012 World Championships in Nice, 1.33 points ahead of Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States (72.31 for the Canadians, 70.98 for the Americans). Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat took third place, more than 2.5 points ahead of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada. Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are seventh, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are eighth.

Virtue and Moir skated with their characteristic style -- deep and long edges, ample moves and nearly straight backs. She was dressed in purple and he in black, and they entertained the audience with a near-perfect program. They got Level 3 for their two Rumba and circular step sequences and Level 4 for their twizzles and final rotational lifts. Their components were also the best of the field and slightly higher than those of the Americans.

Davis and White gained exactly the same levels as the Canadians: Level 3 for their two Rumba and circular step sequences and Level 4 for their twizzles and final curve lift. Many wondered how both teams could receive these Level 3 scores after a whole season at Level 4.

"We feel a bit frustrated by these levels," White expressed afterward.

"Obviously, our scores are not totally under our control," Davis said. "We'll have to go back and analyze. But as far as our performance is concerned, it's the best program we've done in the whole year."

With Davis skating in fluo orange and White in plain black, they had the fastest steps and most precise edges of the whole competition. Davis and White, and Virtue and Moir were the only two teams to be awarded 9+ component scores.

Péchalat and Bourzat were last to skate Wednesday night. They skated their Brazilian night samba at high speed in front of their home crowd. Péchalat made it a duty never to complain publicly about her broken nose, but each lift, especially the circular one, when her body is upside down, was particularly painful.

"My nose is the last thing I'm thinking about," Péchalat stated afterward, rather abruptly. She then added, "In order to do that, I think that I have more pain in my legs!"

The duo nevertheless skated the short dance flawlessly. They got Level 4 for their Rumba sequences and curve lift, but Level 3 for their twizzles and step sequence, which were a bit rough at times. Although they did not catch the 2010 world and Olympic champions, nor the 2011 world champions, they pulled out a real victory against themselves: They beat their season's best with 69.13, only 3.2 points fewer than Virtue and Moir.

"We've never been that close from these two [duos]," Bourzat said laughingly at the post-event press conference. "So tomorrow, we're going to attack and give our best!"

"This is our personal best performance and it is our season best result," Weaver said after she and Poje received their Canadian standing ovation.

The Canadian team won 66.47 points for their energy-packed short dance. The crowd became quite vocal as the couple was flying over its technical elements, and a flock of Canadian flags were raised by those who were bearing them.

"We wanted to finish this program with the right feeling in our heart," Poje said.

"We wanted to show the Latine style, but also skate fully uninhibited," Weaver said. "We could not put anything else than we did today. We have a huge job tomorrow, but confidence will help."

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov from Russia, who finished seventh at 2011 worlds and took the bronze medal at the 2012 European Championships, ended fifth after a flawless program. They approached their samba and Rumba as ballroom dances and seemed a bit slower and energy-lacking at the end.

Maia and Alex Shibutani rejoiced to be skating in the same group as Virtue and Moir, and Davis and White. Yet the difference of style and maturity became obvious. They managed to give a character to their dance and now need to add some personality to it. Alex's minor case of unbalance during the second Rumba sequence lost them two points.

Hubbell and Donohue, who joined forces at the beginning of this season, made a fantastic entrance at worlds, beating their season's best by almost 10 points (59.56 vs. 49.93 previously). Hubbell was ecstatic when she saw her levels in the mixed zone computer.

"We got Level 4 on our two Rumba parts!" she yelled to herself. "I feel terrific.

"We may have had too high expectations at the beginning of the season, but now we can say that we have improved on something at every performance."

"We have really bonded together," Donohue said. "Coming from different backgrounds, we needed to find our sweet spot. I think we found it, especially in the free dance."

Hubbell and Donohue remained in first place until the 19th team skated. They finished 8th.

Virtue and Moir, and Davis and White have shared gold medals throughout the season. One wonders how it is possible to evaluate properly those two duos when they skate at their best like on Wednesday.

"It's not by comparing their programs," explained Marina Zoueva, who choreographs both teams along with Igor Shpilband in Canton, Mich. "But by the way they perform, judges decide."

Concerning their programs themselves, Zoueva was positive.

"It's not difficult to create programs for each team, because they are so different," she said. "I always base the programs I create on the kids' personality. They are totally different: Meryl and Charlie are more into the athletic way, so they can play passion, power and emotion. Charlie used to play ice hockey, so he is probably the fastest on the ice. He has extremely quick feet. Whereas Tessa and Scott are more artistic, or let's say more romantic, so they will portray the relationship between a man and a woman."

How athleticism and romanticism can be compared remains to be seen. The answer will come Thursday. If both teams skate at their best, the overall difference between the two should be quite limited.