Moir, Virtue fall short

Ice dance couple Tessa Virtue and Scott moir perform during the free dance at the International...

Ice dance couple Tessa Virtue and Scott moir perform during the free dance at the International Skating Union's Grand Prix final in Quebec City, Que., Dec. 11, 2011. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:30 AM ET

QUEBEC CITY - When he fell on his back Friday, Scott Moir rose again full of hearty laughs and good cheer.

But he wasn't so amused on Sunday after he and partner Tessa Virtue delivered what they thought was a winning Funny Face-themed free dance – and still lost the International Skating Union's Grand Prix final at the Pavillon de la Jeunesse at ExpoCite in Quebec City.

“It's a piss-off,” said the Canadian Olympic ice dance champion. “It's a bitter pill for us to have to swallow. Overall, it's not where we wanted to finish. We were pretty honest with our goals coming into this week.

“We wanted to win and it didn't happen.”

Their master plan, with Virtue healthy again this season, was to re-establish themselves as the world's dominant ice dance team at home at the only major figure skating event they haven't won.

Not this time. They'll still have to do a little navel-gazing and globe-trotting to get there.

The Canadians smashed their season's best free dance score by five-and-a-half points (112.33), but couldn't gain ground on United States training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White, whose spirited Strauss-infused Die Fledermaus earned them a third straight title at this annual mid-season gathering of the world's top half-dozen teams.

The Americans topped Virtue and Moir by a mere five-hundredth of a point in the free skate (112.38), holding onto their five-plus point bulge from the short dance, where Moir took his unfortunate tumble.

“We bounced back in the free dance, it was our best this season, and I thought it was good enough to win,” he said, “but obviously, we're going to have to go back and look at things and try to figure out where we can pick up some more points.

“It's bulletin board material for us.”

They probably won't spend much time rooting around the free dance technical element scores, where they achieved Level 4 in everything they did on Sunday. Davis and White were downgraded one level in their midline step sequence.

Coming up short in the 'gut-and-heart' aspect of judging, though, comes as a surprise to the Canadians “especially when we feel like we're the most artistic team over the last five years,” Moir said. “You never want to have a fall like that (on Friday), but I thought the judges were a little sticky with us on some (points in the short dance). We'll need to take a look and get some feedback from them.”

He already knows when redemption will come.

“Wednesday at practice,” Moir vowed. “You think this is bitter? Wait to see us if we're in the same position after worlds.”

The last thing he and Virtue want to get used to is losing. In three trips to the Grand Prix finals, they have two silver medals.

They haven't beaten Davis and White since the 2010 worlds in Turin, Italy (the American's last major defeat, incidentally).

But last year, the Canadian could be excused. When Virtue needed surgery again on her legs, it wiped out almost the entirety of their season and they felt pretty encouraged about silver at the worlds in Moscow.

But it's going to be a while before they see their arch-rivals in this kind of pressurized fish bowl again. Both teams are planning to meet again at Four Continents in Colorado Springs in February ahead of worlds in the spring at Nice, France.

“We have a lot of season left,” Virtue cautioned. “We'll take a look at where we are and what we have to do and go from there.

“The program has room to grow.”

They just have to figure out a way to topple the Davis-White juggernaut, who share their coaches Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband.

The Americans didn't open the door a crack. Virtue and Moir needed a real mess-up from a team on top of their game to climb back into it.

“It felt really good out there,” White said. “We really like this free dance. It suits our skating style and it's just comfortable for us. We don't have to try too hard (to make it look the way they want).”

And they did it on Virtue and Moir's home ice.

The Canadians thought they were skating down the right path, but they will be forced to take an alternate route.

“It was different when we couldn't practise and Tessa was in pain,” Moir said. “but we had what we felt was our best fall and we've been training as smart as hard as we ever have.”

And now, they will have to dig into their bag of tricks and find some more.

It's no longer a laughing matter.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RyanAtLFPress


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