Virtue, Moir first after original dance

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency


Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their original dance routine at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010. The Canadian duo are in first place. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER — Tessa Virtue is on track to add something big — Canada’s first figure-skating medal at the Vancouver Olympics.

But she has lost something special, too.

Her Olympic roommate Joannie Rochette.

Virtue and ice-dance partner Scott Moir nailed their original dance Sunday night at the Pacific Coliseum and have the lead on a day that rocked Team Canada, the figure skating world and the entire Olympics — Rochette’s mother Therese had passed away after a suspected heart attack.

Rochette, who practised Sunday and intends to compete in the ladies’ short program Tuesday night, has taken her own room in the Athletes Village.

Most of that is so she gets her privacy and a chance to grieve.

But another part is to give Virtue and Moir, who will go for gold by springing their stunning Goose lift loose in Monday’s free dance, a chance to perform at their top form.

Virtue and Moir set the stage for the podium with their Spanish Flamenco to the strains of Farrucas, the same music their coach Marina Zoueva’s most famous students — Ekaternina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov — skated their long program to for their second straight Olympic gold-medal win at Lillehammer in 1994.

Virtue and Moir picked the song before the season without knowing its history.

A Virtue-Moir medal would help Canada make history with just its second ice-dance podium finish. Tracy Wilson and the late Rob McCall took bronze in 1988 at Calgary.

No North American ice-dance team has won gold since the discipline was introduced in 1976.

Skate Canada, shut out by the pairs and Patrick Chan, is still looking to extend its Olympic medal streak to an eighth straight game.

Virtue and Moir still have work to do.

Training mates and friends Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who skated to their Indian Bollywood-themed dance, are right in the mix. So is the Russian team of Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, under fire all season for their aboriginal original dance.

They made some changes to the music in the face of controversy.

Coach Natalia Linichuk pointed to photographs of aboriginal dancers and the similarities to the skaters’ costumes.

“We didn’t make this up,” she said. “They will wear the same, but a little less.

“We cannot do a Flamenco (like Virtue-Moir) without touching because we are doing ice dance. Or have you seen that an Indian dancer (like Davis and White) would show her bare leg? But we cannot wear a long dress as it is dangerous for the skaters.”

Former French world champs Olivier Schoenfelder and Isabelle Delobel, who are back competing after she had shoulder surgery and gave birth to a son in October, weren’t happy with their compulsory scores. They had fallen well behind the leaders.

But they climbed back into it with their French can-can, scoring 58.68 points for 96.67 overall heading into the free dance.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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