Golden moment for Virtue, Moir

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency


Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir show off their gold medals after talking to the media on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010 in Vancouver. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER — There are figure-skating lifers who never thought they’d see the day.

An ice dance gold medal for Canada — heck, anywhere from North America, for that matter — at the Olympics.

But when they dance on ice, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir transcend border wars and old-time judging blocs.

Together on skates, they are brash, bold, beautiful — and now, golden.

Monday night, they blew the roof off medal-starved Pacific Coliseum with a season-high 110.42 points and 221.57 overall. Until this point, the rink had produced one Canadian silver in women’s short track.

And they did it in a way that has been, so far, so un-Canadian.

They grabbed the lead early with their original dance. Then, they never let go, answering American training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s 107.19-point and 215.74 total challenge — and raising the bar even higher.

There was no disastrous fall or crash. No fifth-place finish like so many other Canadian athletes at these Vancouver Games.

They simply turned loose their signature Goose lift, this time Golden, and skated their free dance to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony like the music was written for them (instead of arranged that way by musician Ryner Stoetzer).

They fended off training mates and best buddies in Canton, Mich. — Americans Davis and White — and knocked off controversial Russian world champions Oksana Domnina and Max Shabalin, who fell too far behind the Canadians despite toning down their aboriginal original dance costumes, which had caused such a flap.

The Russians, the Soviets before them, French and Italians — other than Torvill and Dean’s days in the sun — had owned this discipline with an iron fist.

Not anymore.

Now, it belongs to Moir, a small-town boy from a figure skating family in Ilderton, Ont., and Virtue, the big-city girl from London, Ont., another athlete from a strong sports-minded clan. Moir’s mom Alma thought they’d make a good match.

He was nine. She was seven.

They were too shy to speak to each other at first. Boisterous Moir has clearly recovered.

At first, they were the cute kids, the crowd favourites, so small that Virtue could lift Moir during performances.

There were the sleepy-eyed, often snowy, early-morning commutes to Waterloo to train with Paul MacIntosh.

When the travel became too inconvenient, they left their families and switched high schools to be closer to the rink.

And from there, they landed in Canton to train under Russians Marina Zoueva, former coach of two-time Olympic pairs Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, and Igor Shpilband, who learned ice dance from the late Liudmila Pakhomova, the discipline’s first Olympic champ in 1976 with partner Alex Gorshkov.

It’s a victory for finding a best friend, the perfect business partner, early on in life.

“You see a lot of partner-switching in Canadian and U.S. pairs and ice dance,” Skate Canada team leader Mike Slipchuk said, “but there’s something to be said for two great skaters who are with each other from a very young age and they stick together and find a a way to make it work.

“They learn each other’s nuances. They develop chemistry over time. Sometimes, it can happen quickly but not all the time. You look at the top couples in the world right now and most of them have been together at least 10 years.”

It was a victory for Skate Canada, which kept its streak of eight straight Games with a medal alive.

A victory for the new scoring system, which is allowing younger teams to break through.

These are not a normal Olympics for figure skating.

An ancient Chinese pair — Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao — came out of retirement to win their nation’s first figure skating gold.

An American man without a quad jump beat the Russian defending Olympic champ who has — and landed — his four-revolution specials.

And now this.

They performed their original dance — the Spanish Flamenco — about as perfectly as two people can.

“We’ve seen where the bar has been placed for that now,” Slipchuk said.

It is the gold standard.

Made in Canada.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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