Virtue & Moir leave the Iceberg Palace breathless with phenomenal short dance

Defending Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir delivered an Olympic moment in the Sochi short dance, channelling Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, mustering all the lush skills for which they’re known.

When they finished, Moir leaped up and down on the ice with utter joy. It was what they had been training for over the past four years and the moment they’ve been searching for all season.

“We certainly felt more like ourselves out there tonight,” Virtue explained. “We created the moment we wanted to create. I don’t think we could have done it much better than we did tonight.”

They are in second place with 76.33 points, 2.56 points behind their U.S. training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with 78.89, a world record score. “We were just in our zone,” White said. Virtue and Moir are still within striking distance of winning gold, so is the perfect skate all that matters?

“We sat in the kiss and cry and kind of looked at each other and said: ‘It does matter,’” Virtue said.

“We like our chances,” Moir said.

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia out finished their more highly ranked teammates Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, to take third spot with 73.04 points.

At the moment the young Russians are winning a tightly fought battle for the bronze medal, taking a narrow lead over French veterans Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat with 72.78; Bobrova and Soloviev at 69.97, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy in sixth with 67.58 while Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje – who had the third highest score of the season – are in seventh place with 65.93 points.

Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam are in 18th place – making the cut for the long program ­-after Paul bobbled on her second of three twizzles. They finished with 55.91 points, about four points lower than their personal best. “We’re not disappointed with our score because we had a bit of a rough skate,” Islam said. “We put up a good fight and now we’ll put it behind us. We still have tomorrow.”

Before they stepped out on the ice, Virtue and Moir hugged each other for a long time. And just before the music started, he gave her a wink.

And this time, their twizzles were perfect, robust, quick, moving forward with grace, driven by confident edges. After they finished, legendary Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova stood in the stands and applauded with enthusiasm.

She wasn’t the only one. Both Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko, who had invented the Finnstep to which they had to skate, applauded them, too. “Thanks for a beautiful Finnstep,” Kokko said in a tweet.

Moir said that he and Virtue felt a little more pressure during the team short dance, but their ease and comfort returned for the performance on Sunday, even though the six days between events had Moir “twiddling” his thumbs. It was a challenge. But that all fell away when they skated into the bright lights. “I think you could tell by our reaction that we were really excited by that skate,” he said.

They did what they needed to do to win a second gold medal, Moir said. “When you have a career like ours, so much hard work goes into everything. We’ve worked so hard this season and every season to get us here. Now we just want to enjoy ourselves.”

Katsalapov wore a little grin before this Russian team began, and they delivered nice twizzles and excellent skating skills with ease. They had been part of the Russian team that won gold, and they gained confidence from competing in it. But Ilinykh said the team medal didn’t satisfy them that much and “we forgot about it quite quickly,” she said. “Still, it has helped us a lot mentally in the individual event.”

Katsalapov said he felt a 100 per cent connection to his partner, and so it looked perfect. For the free dance, he says they are not going to compete against anyone. “We’re just going to do our job cleverly as we did tonight,” he said.

Weaver and Poje lost marks in their twizzles, their first Finnstep pattern and a midline step sequence. “We’re thrilled with the way we performed tonight,” Weaver said. “It might have been our best short dance of the season.”

“Nothing can wipe the smiles from our faces,” she said. The atmosphere in the arena was “electrifying,” she said. “I was thinking to myself: ‘Thank goodness we’re doing a happy program,” because I couldn’t help but smile out there. I was also thinking: ‘Do everything right.’ Those are the memories we’re making here that I’ll never forget.”

Poje said they were disappointed with their marks but “we’re not here for the marks,” he said.

The French got their season’s best marks, but in fourth place, they promise to attack more for the free skate Monday. “We want to skate like crazy,” Pechalat said. “We want to bring emotion.” Everybody will.

Beverley Smith

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