Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform to perfect 10’s

A wash of perfect marks of 10 filled the scorecard of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir when they won the short dance at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships on Friday night.

Count ‘em up. There were 22 of them handed out by judges for the performance marks. Mind you, some of the higher and the lower would be dropped, but still, these measures of outstanding deliverance don’t happen all that often.

There were plenty of positives to take from their routine to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Virtue and Moir didn’t get a grade of execution lower than two (when the utmost is three, and the lowermost is minus three.) They received a perfect string of perfect 10s from each judge for choreography and composition, almost as many for interpretation.

Still, Virtue and Moir, ever the perfectionists, weren’t completely satisfied with their performance, for which they earned 76.16, a heavenly send-off for the 2010 Olympic champions. Their faces didn’t look as if they’d just garnered a bouquet of 10s.

“We felt like we had a couple of moments today that weren’t quite the way we have been training,” Moir said. “…It’s one we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked to. “

True enough, Virtue and Moir lost a point for a lift that went too long, but for Moir it was more. “It felt like I was battling a little bit with my knees and I wasn’t quite into the ice.”

“Maybe I was watching junior world highlights,” he said, referring to the Canadian junior hockey team that failed to win a medal at the recent world championships.

Virtue and Moir’s technical mark of 37.66 was only marginally behind that of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who are in second place with 72.68 points. Their technical mark stood at 36.09.

This Canadian championship means far more to Weaver and Poje than mere point-gathering. Four years ago, they lost the chance to compete at the Vancouver Olympics by only .30 points and it crushed them. “It’s still a sore spot with me,” Weaver said. “I can tell you standing here right now, it makes me emotional about how we felt at this event four years ago.”

There is little danger they’ll miss the trip this year, but Weaver is very well aware, from all the incidents that have befallen them, that “You never know when something can be taken away from you.”

The desire to never let an Olympics be taken from them again lies beneath each hard training day. “It was a turning point for us,” Poje said.

Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, who delighted Canadian crowds so when they first emerged as gems at a Skate Canada International several years ago, have struggled with injuries and bad luck sometimes since, and they don’t want to remember last year’s Canadian championships any more than do Weaver and Poje, who had to sit it out with an injury. Last year Paul and Islam were in third place after the short dance and in line for a trip to the world championships in London, Ont., when a slip plunged them to fourth. However, in the short dance on Friday, they flew around the rink, with big, deft beautiful movement, skating to “Crazy for You.” And took third place with 67.67 points.

Canada has three Olympic dance spots and one of the biggest battles of this event is for the third spot. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, overcoming injury this year, are in fourth place with 65.11 points, while last year’s bronze medalists Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams are fifth. Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill are sixth.

Beverley Smith

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