The golden Goose

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir stand on the podium with their Ice Dance gold medals on...

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir stand on the podium with their Ice Dance gold medals on Sunday. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

KITCHENER -- The Canadian ice dance team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir was really cooking by the time it unveiled "The Goose" yesterday at Skate Canada International.

The Goose is a difficult and unique lift where Virtue plants her knee on top of Moir's back while he is in a squat position, and then launches herself off with a spinning jump.

"We just named it that because people were calling it The Eagle and we didn't want to be too American," said Moir, who trains in Canton, Mich., with his long-time dance partner. "So we changed it to The Goose."

ARTISTIC, DARING

It's only one element in their free dance, performed to Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5, but it's spectacular nonetheless, and typical of their skating style -- artistic, but also athletic and daring -- a program that, if performed cleanly, puts them firmly in the driver's seat for a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in February. Possibly even a gold.

Yesterday, at Skate Canada, Virtue and Moir brought the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium crowd to its feet after completing their free dance, and the judges concurred with the audience's enthusiasm, rewarding the defending world champion bronze-medallists with a score of 103.12 for the free dance and an overall mark of 204.38 for the title.

The French dance team of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat finished second (185.07) while Houston-born Kaitlyn Weaver, who became a Canadian citizen in June, and Andrew Poje, of the local Kitchener Waterloo Skating Club, finished third (165.64).

For Virtue and Moir, yesterday's spectacular free dance helped erase the memory of a mediocre original program here and the incredibly tough 2008-09 season, when they were forced to miss the entire Grand Prix after Virtue, a London, Ont., native, underwent surgery in September '08 to correct chronic exertional compartment syndrome in both shins.

Despite her injury and the fact that they missed most of the season, the pair managed to win a bronze at the worlds. In retrospect, Virtue believes the set back made them stronger and more prepared for the pressures of an Olympic year.

"We've been kind of been cruising along in our career and haven't had to deal with too many obstacles, and that was a major one," she said. "That was a major blow. But I think it adds to the package and we can handle ourselves better on the ice now."

"And I think it's all part of our story," added Moir, 22. "We got five years of experience in six months last year, and we learned so much."

Virtue and Moir won the Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris last month with a score of 197.71 and, along with yesterday's victory, have earned a birth into the Grand Prix final, Dec. 3-6 in Tokyo. Virtue, 20, said yesterday's performance proves that they are still improving, and will continue to do so en route to Vancouver.

"Even to compare it to Paris, we've made leaps and bounds," she said of the free dance. "It was nice to have that time to really train it, and make it grow and add to the speed. And I think that takes the whole program to another level.

"But we're not taking it for granted. We're on track, but we're not getting too excited and we know we still have a lot of work to do."

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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