Virtue, Moir at top of their game

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform during their ice dance free program at Skate Canada...

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform during their ice dance free program at Skate Canada International in Mississauga, Ont., Oct. 30, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:04 PM ET

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - There was really only one moment when Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir looked a bit awkward and out of sync on home ice.

The post-championship high five.

“We usually always finish off our programs back in training with the high-five,” Moir said after the Olympic ice dance champs wrapped up Skate Canada International gold with a 23-point margin of victory Sunday afternoon at the Hershey Centre, “but with this free dance, we’re trying to stay in our characters as long as possible. That was just my hockey celebration coming out.

“I was excited. She (Virtue) didn’t see the first high-five coming, but she saw the second one.”

The Canadian star’s Funny Face free dance scored 106.73 points, best in the world so far in this young Grand Prix season.

The 24-year-old Moir, from Ilderton, turned into Fred Astaire and Londoner Virtue, 22, morphed into Audrey Hepburn from the 1957 dance film they had kept their eyes on as program fodder the last several years.

“For four minutes, I was Fred,” Moir said, “but at 4:01, Scott Moir kind of sneaked out there. We covered every bullet in our program and it was a nice feeling to skate like that.”

A lot of skaters and teams limped off to slow starts here at Skate Canada. Not Virtue and Moir, who came off one of their best training summers and appear in mid-season form. “It’s only October,” their coach Marina Zoueva observed.

The scary part is they should be better by the time the Grand Prix final rolls around in Quebec City in December and the worlds in France next spring.

They came in after an injury-plagued 2010-11 season determined to win back their world title. They beat American training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s Skate America numbers for their second victory of the season.

Their difficult-looking straight line lift, a brand-new version this season, is as visually stunning and as high-intensity as their golden Olympic Goose.

“It comes at a crucial point in the program, too,” Moir said.

It’s too early, of course, to brand it with a trademark nickname. Moir is leaving that task up to Virtue.

“I haven’t thought of anything yet,” she said with a grin. “It was really rewarding to be able to skate a program we have a lot of fun with. We had some moments of improvisation out there, which was nice to see.”

They were lost in the moment and their characters. And yes, their noses touched in an Eskimo kiss mid-way through the performance.

There is a dictionary-calibre debate in ice dance these days over the definition of uplifting.

That’s what the International Skating Union wants to see. A Russian duo was docked a point because officials are trying to knock slow and monotone out of the game.

Silver medal Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje perform to a free dance entitled “Je Suis Malade”, which doesn’t exactly translate from French into happiness. But the music was mysteriously sent to Weaver in an anonymous e-mail, she loved the Lara Fabian version and they got musician Karl Hugo to spiff it up so they wouldn’t risk deduction.

There were some concerns surrounding a couple of teams, but not Virtue and Moir.

“We nailed it,” Virtue said. “Well, maybe not the skating, but the music.”

The skating, too.

Virtue and Moir have not committed for the 2014 Olympics yet. With the backdrop of Virtue’s multiple surgeries to fix her shins and calves, they are taking things year-to-year.

But Skate Canada is making it hard on them to call it quits.

They have announced the next Skate Canada International will make a stop in Windsor next October right across the border from the Virtue-Moir headquarters in Canton, Mich.

The 2013 worlds are set for their London, Ont. hometown.

“I think that’s what they’re trying to do,” Moir quipped. “It looks like I’m going to be driving my car up the 401 a lot the next few years.”

That’s as close as you’ll get to an official announcement from them that the dance magic will continue for at least a few more years.


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