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Case closed: Davis, White dump rivals for crown

Virtue, Moir collect silver in hometown; Bobrova, Soloviev claim bronze for Russia

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White ousted Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir by 4.52 points.
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White ousted Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir by 4.52 points. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/16/2013) - They left it all out on the ice -- superb twizzles, impossibly complex lifts, intricate footwork -- all cloaked in drama and intensity worthy of grand opera.

Two teams, unique in abilities but evenly matched, performing programs nearly equal in technical content, but miles apart emotionally. Adding spice to the sauce, sharing the same coach and choreography.

In the end, the romantic yearning of Meryl Davis and Charlie White's Notre-Dame de Paris surpassed the dark passion of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's Carmen, and the five-time U.S. champions won the free dance and their second world title at the 2013 World Championships.

"We literally left everything we had out there," Davis, 26, said. "We put everything we had, emotionally, physically, into that performance."

"It was one of those things where we said to each other, 'You don't have many opportunities like this, so let's enjoy it,'" White, 25, said. "That was something we did. It came with a little bit of freedom. We had to keep it within the program and stay on top of our elements. Luckily, our bodies are so well trained, we can have a nice combination of freedom and still have a good approach."

The Americans' victory over their Canadian training partners came on their rivals' home turf, and it came in inches: a bit extra on grades of execution (GOEs) here, a shade higher program components there. Both teams gained six Level 4 elements, with the two remaining elements -- the diagonal and circular steps -- reaching Level 3. Neither made a noticeable error; neither was penalized for a too-long lift.

To put it plainly, the judges just liked Davis and White a little bit better.

Davis and White earned 112.44 points for their free dance, slightly under the season's best they scored at the 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and edged out Virtue and Moir by 1.27 points. Overall, they earned 189.56 points, winning the tile by 4.52 total points.

"I think what sets our discipline apart from the other disciplines is we really take it upon ourselves every year to come out and try to be fresh," White said. "Lifts are now so important, spins are so important. You're constantly creating things, and that makes it difficult to be able to combine the athleticism and the performance. It's what makes ice dance so cool and special to be part of."

The rivalry has been one for the ages. The Canadians dominated through their junior and early-senior years. After Davis and White gained an upset win at the 2009 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, the teams grew closer, but Virtue and Moir snagged the biggest prize: the 2010 Olympic title, as well as world titles in 2010 and 2012. Davis and White countered with three victories over the Canadians at Grand Prix finals and captured the 2011 world title.

This season, Davis and White have dominated, winning all three face-to-face meetings. The victory in London was by the highest margin.

"Having the same partners our entire careers, training together, adds to the mystique," White said. "It's what makes it a great rivalry. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am. Having such talented rivals every day has pushed us; I like to think we've pushed them back. It's a great storyline for next year and exciting to be part of."

Virtue and Moir, who entered the free dance 3.25 points behind after twizzle trouble in the short dance, skated full throttle from start to finish to deliver their finest-ever performance of Carmen, with smoother execution and greater speed than they showed in previous competitions. They gained a season's best 111.17 points.

"They are really great skaters. We take our hats off to them," Moir said of his rivals. "We know they are strong, and they have their attributes and they are amazing. We're both pushing the sport.

"We were behind a lot, but it wasn't over. We believed that. That is part of being an athlete; you need to believe that. That's why we had the performance we had today."

Carmen was a controversial choice for the Canadians, who are known for their romantic connection and appeal on the ice as well as their line and natural elegance. The program was not universally embraced by judges, and a few rough edges were smoothed out over the course of the season.

In the mixed zone on Saturday night, Moir alluded to returning to the "Tessa and Scott" of old for the coming Olympic season.

"This year, we had some really tricky elements, tough stuff. Everything that we did was new, and that's tough," he said. "It was a really hard season. We're going to go back to what we do well, not that we're not going to push ourselves next year."

Asked what they do best, Moir said, "I think it's our connection. We showed it in Carmen, just in a different way. There were a lot of figure skating people who didn't agree with it all. We'll see what we can make next year. We're not just going to go back to the classic Virtue and Moir; we're more mature."

Marina Zoueva, who coaches both teams in Canton, Mich., had mixed emotions. "They are like your children; for me, it is a little bit difficult," she said. "But one did better job, the judges decided. But, the other one did an awesome job as well. I can't say they did anything wrong; it was great. Ask the judges, not me."

The major subplot this week in London was which team would come away with the bronze medal, and Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev gained that prize, although they were defeated in the free dance by Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who finished fourth overall.

"We have new coaches (including Olympic silver medalist Alexander Zhulin), and they sort of opened up our potential more," Soloviev said. "Hopefully, next season we can be even more and get closer to the top teams for the Olympics."

Two teams that had missed recent competitions due to injuries, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada and defending world bronze medalists Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France, placed fifth and sixth, respectively.

Competing at their first world championships, U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates had a season's-best outing of their romantic free dance to the score of Dr. Zhivago, highlighted by a magnificent combination lift done to the music's sweeping crescendo. They placed seventh with 163.93 points.

"[We got] our season's best for our short and free; it's exactly what we were hoping for," Bates said. "The whole experience is huge for us as a new team in our first world championships together. We have both experienced it with other partners, but it's so different here. This is going to serve us well going into next year."

"We've achieved the goals we set for ourselves this season," Chock said. "We will set the bar even higher next season."

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who also train in Canton, placed eighth with their delicately mesmerizing free dance to music from Memoirs of a Geisha. Although the intricately woven program was rich in detail, their two step sequences gained just Level 2s from the technical panel. They finished with 157.71 points.

"We're satisfied with this season and the improvements we've made," Alex said. "It's a much better feeling standing here today than it was a year ago after the free dance ... As far as this performance, it was as good as we could have put out today. I'm proud of Maia and how we handled the week. We went out on a high note."

"Last season, our free dance at worlds wasn't necessarily what we wanted to put out," Maia said. "This year, we put out two strong performances. This is just a step in the journey we're making."