LOS ANGELES -- They came here in search of a medal of a specific colour. Tonight they'll skate to make sure it's a medal, period.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who manufactured a silver medal-winning performance at last year's World Figure Skating Championships in Goteborg, Sweden, kept their third place position through the original dance here yesterday but had a poor performance and left a large gap between themselves and the top two. Moir, of Ilderton, Ont., nearly fell on a program-opening twizzle and they never really got themselves back on track.
"Obviously falling back a lot more from the beginning of the day was not in our plan. It was a little bit of a difficult performance today. Obviously that was not our personal best," said Moir.
"It gives us a lot of motivation for the free dance," he said of tonight's final.
While the order of the top three didn't change, Canadian ex-patriot Tanith Belbin and hometown hero Benjamin Agosto won the original dance to close the gap with the still-leading Russian duo of Oksana Dominina and Maxim Shebalin.
The Russians go into tonight's final with a total of 105.45 points, the Americans 104.81 and the Canadians, who were sixth on the day, dropped back to 100.45. The fourth-place team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. have a total of 100.33.
Moir's twizzle problem at the beginning of the program wasn't as serious as when Massimo Scali of Italy, wearing a sailor suit and looking like a drunken sailor, tripped and then tripped over his partner to drop back to eighth.
"I over-checked my twizzle a little bit. It's tough when you're skating with the best twizzler in the world. It can show up," said Moir of his London, Ont., teammate, who missed much of the season as a result of surgery.
Canada's other dance duo, Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, if nothing else, entertained the Staples Centre crowd more than most with their rag time original program. But they lost ground on the day, dropping from 10th after the original dance to 11th - a significant number considering it takes a combined placement of 13 or less for a country to get three entries into the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.