Virtue, Moir second after compulsories

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency


Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from Canada during the compulsory dance at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, Feb. 19, 2010. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER — Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir just skated what should be the last compulsory ice dance in Olympic history.

“Dear God, I hope so,” Moir said with mock relief. “We know you can’t win it in the compulsory dance but you can sure lose it there. We don’t care about placement — just to be out here in front of this crowd and lay it down the way we wanted, it’s a great feeling.

“It was great to finally get on Olympic ice. It’s incredible to me, there were millions of people (including TV audiences) watching a Tango Romantica.”

Moir has sat through a full compulsory dance session before.

“It’s painful,” he said.

This isn’t — the ice dancers, who are Canada’s best shot at an Olympic medal, stand second after scoring 42.74 points Friday night at the Pacific Coliseum.

Russian world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, knocked for insensitivity over their aboriginal-themed original dance that goes Sunday, lead with 43.76 points. Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White are third with 41.47 points.

The Canadian and American teams, both coached by Russians Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, had a pre-Olympic cram session with Elena Tchaikovskaya, who created the Tango Romantica back in 1974.

That’s like learning the moonwalk at the feet of Michael Jackson.

Or studying dirty dancing with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

“You spend two minutes with Elena and Scott and I were exhausted,” Virtue said. “She demands so much from you. It’s intense. It was such a positive experience and it helped us so much.”

It kept them within 1.02 points of the Russians, who have strong compulsory scores this year — but the Canadians and Americans have beat them in the original and free dances.

No North American ice dance team has ever won Olympic gold. But few have had the kind of preparation for these Games like Virtue-Moir and Davis-White. None enjoy as many links to dance’s past greats.

Shpilband was trained by Soviet skater Lyudmila Pakhomova, one-half of the first Olympic ice dance gold medal team at the 1976 Games in Innsbruck.

Their other coach, Marina Zoueva, grew up learning from Tchaikovskaya.

But even she’s happy to see compulsories on their way out. She raised her hands in celebration.

“It has been almost 36 years,” Zoueva said, “and that is enough. It is better for fans. They don’t want to hear the same music and see the same steps over and over.”

But will judges be under pressure to put the Russians on top after the anger caused by the result in the men’s competition? Ice dance has a spotty history.

“I think the judges are under pressure to mark fairly,” White said. “We’re looking forward to a great competition.”

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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