Annoyed Canadian dance team fumbles way to first

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:32 PM ET

KITCHENER -- Good thing the dance championship at the Skate Canada International is more coronation than competition. Anything short of that and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir might be in trouble.

With some of the top dance teams in the world taking a bye, the Canadians would pretty much have to throw themselves through the boards, or suggest a judge's mother looks like Frankenstein's uglier sister to blow this thing.

Well, they almost found a way.

"I don't think it does a lot for us. We had bigger things in mind," said Moir, when the North American debut of their much-anticipated spanish flamenco fell flat after Virtue took a misstep and almost ended up going tresses-over-tea kettle into the boards.

They still finished with the highest score among eight teams, 60.57, to go into today's free dance program with a commanding 101.26 to 91.60 advantage over France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. But the shock was evident all over Virtue's face as she grabbed Moir to keep him from hitting the ice.

"I'm thinking: 'Can I please start over. Can I please go back to the beginning,' " she said.

Neither Moir or Virtue were taking much satisfaction from the numbers.

"We were surprised to see our scores were still pretty high. We've been practising this program so hard and it is so strong that it's a little disappointing for us," Moir said. The two are trying to solidify their reputation as the top dance duo in the world heading to Vancouver. CBC skating analyst Tracy Wilson, a 1988 Olympic ice dance bronze medallist, has compared Virtue and Moir to the legendary British team of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, 1984 Olympic gold-medal winners. Fair to say, with that kind of billing, there was nothing to suggest they'd be tripping over their own feet. Friday, they had scored their best point total ever in the compulsory dance. That set coach/choreographer Marina Zoueva jumping up and down in the kiss and cry area.

But yesterday Virtue, skirt billowing, stumbled, eliciting a collective gasp from a crowd that included about 100 family members.

"It wasn't the skirt. I practise in a skirt that long every day. I don't know. It just seemed off balance. I couldn't get over my skate. It was just a bobble," she said. "It wasn't even on an element. It was just on a connection step ... a fluke."

The fact it wasn't on an element saved them from losing more marks but that was little consolation. The score might still have been there, but the show wasn't -- and that's what they wanted, to put on a show to make the world take notice.

"It was less costly because it wasn't on an element but it takes away from the whole program," Virtue said. "We've been building this program as a whole, working on the connections and building the speed and something like that just throws everything off."

Today, they get one more chance to get it right. One more chance to look like Torvill and Dean. And, here's hoping nobody trips going up the medal podium step.


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