Virtue, Moir position selves as stars

JIM CRESSMAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir wanted to make a splash at their first world senior figure skating championships.

Splash? The London-area teens caused a tidal wave of excitement with their debut.

Virtue, 17, from London, and Moir, 19, of Ilderton, finished sixth in ice dance yesterday in Tokyo.

Such a lofty position the first time out is almost unheard of, especially for a couple so young and inexperienced.

And the timing couldn't be better with the Vancouver Olympics only three years off.

"We were just trying to enjoy every moment, so to end up sixth is just amazing," Virtue said from Tokyo.

"To be honest, we weren't exactly sure what to expect, with it being our first worlds. Top 10 was definitely one of our goals, so being ninth after compulsories, we had nothing to complain about, except we knew we wanted to move up."

Which they did -- to seventh with their original dance and then yesterday's free dance performance, they popped up to sixth.

Moir said Vancouver 2010 is on their minds and a medal is realistic. Observers are already saying this showing enhances their reputation as future stars in the sport.

"We can use that time to build and hopefully we can be the best in the world by then," he said.

"Our goal coming here was to make a splash on the senior world circuit and we feel we did that. Hopefully, we can build on it now."

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And they weren't that far out of the top five, which makes this debut by the Canadian silver medallists and 2006 world junior champions that much more impressive.

"It was kind of nice to feel how close we can be," Moir said. "Now we want to push the envelope."

To put it into perspective, defending Canadian champions Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, who won silver yesterday, were 10th in their world senior debut, and Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz were 14th their first time.

"Being a young team and making a name for ourselves on the senior scene is definitely something that has been tricky for people in the past," Virtue said.

"But we've been working on the difficulty and all the technical aspects, the lifts, footwork, etc., so being rewarded for that just really helps us."

Virtue admitted they felt the butterflies.

"Not knowing what to expect was a little bit tricky and certainly intimidating with having all these amazing teams on the ice, but I think we were able to relax in training and we felt really prepared coming in, so that really got rid of all that," she said.

"This give us that confidence boost and it's really motivating heading into next season. We're already trying to think of some interesting ideas for programs and hopefully up our placement next year."

If they'd made their debut a couple of years ago, under the old judging system, they likely would have been locked into ninth after the compulsories.

But the new system, put in place by the International Skating Union following years of judging scandals, has made it more difficult to manipulate the marks and allows for movement, especially in dance where cheating by the judges was so rampant.

"It was very exciting for us to move up three spots," Moir said. "Obviously with this new judging system, it's a boost to us to see some movement in the field.

"We might have been stuck in the old system, but we feel we're getting rewarded for the skating we're doing."


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