Reuters - Tue, 23 Feb 05:15:00 2010
Canadian best friends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had roaring home fans leaping to their feet after ending 34 years of European domination to win the Olympic ice dance gold medal.
Virtue and Moir's stirring performance to Mahler's Symphony No. 5 raised the domed roof at the Pacific Coliseum when they were awarded a combined total of 221.57 points to beat Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White by 5.83.
Russian world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin had been tipped as the favourites but after being bumped down to third place in Sunday's original dance, they could not make up ground and had to settle for bronze with 207.64.
"This is the moment we dreamed of. It's everything we dreamed of. We could not be happier," a grinning Moir said as he caressed the shining piece of metal draped around his neck.
"I am going to wear it in the shower, I'm not taking it off all week long."
As soon as they finished their mesmerising routine with Moir down on his knees tenderly cradling Virtue's smiling face in his hands, the 12,000 strong crowd erupted.
"Wow!" declared one banner while another proclaimed "Virtue(ly) Gold".
The judges certainly agreed. Once their score of 110.42 for the free programme flashed up, Moir thumped his chest with both hands and lifted Virtue up as she dug her nails into his back.
Davis and White, who share two coaches and train with the champions, made it a double celebration for North America when they took silver for their dramatic Phantom of the Opera exhibition.
"I think in the last couple of years North America has really come into its own in the ice dance. The direction ice dance is taking has favoured North American teams ... it's really exciting to be part of it," an elated Davis said.
Virtue turned up on Monday looking as if she was dressed for a celebratory night out in town in a sparkling white outfit. She was not wrong.
Over the next four minutes, she and Moir dazzled the audience with a dance full of intrigue and drama.
It almost seemed as if the crowd had gone into a trance as despite the haunting music floating around the arena, everyone could hear the crunching of the ice beneath their blades.
They showed off perfectly synchronised twizzles, intricate spins in which it seemed as if their bodies had melded into one and jaw-dropping lifts - including one in which as Moir was sliding sideways, Virtue climbed on to his right thigh with one foot and he balanced her weight without any hands.
Moments later they, and 34 million fellow citizens, were celebrating Canada's first ever ice dance gold.
"To have that moment with the home crowd and with each other and to have all that hard work pay off, it's amazing," said Moir, who was waving his hands so wildly following the medal ceremony that flowers from his bouquet went flying on the ice.
Virtue, 20, added: "Right now, Vancouver is our favourite place to be. It's been the perfect Games."
Dressed in a cream and maroon laced-up corset, Davis and White had fancied their chances of gliding to the top of the podium and their fast-paced performance left them breathless with emotion.
So draining was their routine that once the music ended, White, on bended knee, held on to the ice for several seconds with one hand, his face buried under a mop of unruly blond hair but they had not quite done enough.
Since the introduction of ice dancing into the Olympics in 1976, Russian or Soviet couples had captured all but two of the gold medals.
Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean (1984) and French couple Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat (2002) claimed the other two titles.
Women rarely get the chance to wear the trousers in the traditional world of ice dance but Briton Sinead Kerr turned things topsy turvy with an unusual lift in their free dance to Linkin Park's Krwlng.
Sinead held her brother John by his legs while he was upside down as she glided across the ice in a routine that told the story of a recovering drug addict.
Called a "reverse lift", the move drew some of the biggest cheers of the day, including when it was replayed on the big screens at the Pacific Coliseum.
They have been doing the lift for years in exhibitions but not in competitions because the scoring system does not differentiate between who is doing the lifting, simply awarding marks for the difficulty of the position the lifter is in.
"This year a new rule came in where you could have a free lift, which counts towards choreography so we thought that would be perfect as it's always a crowd-pleaser," Sinead Kerr said.
"I've always been pretty strong anyway so I feel like I'm pretty solid on my feet. John does a lot of the work anyway - he jumps and I catch, it just kind of looks like I'm lifting but I'm not physically lifting him and he is doing nothing."
John added: "It's only really open to the teams where there isn't such a huge size difference, if it's like a little girl and a big man."
They finished eighth, three places behind Italians Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali who ended their routine with a reverse cantilever, where she carried him on her knees, but it did not provoke the same applause as the Britons.
Place of birth: London, Canada
Residence: London, Canada
Place of birth: London, Canada
Residence: Ilderton, Canada
No previous Olympic results:
Silver, 2008 world championships
Bronze, 2009 world championships
Runner-up, 2009-10 Grand Prix, Overall
Third, 2007-08 Grand Prix, Overall
Virtue and Moir teamed up in 1997 when Virtue was seven and Moir was aged nine. The two were individually coached by Moir's aunt who paired them together.
They had an impressive 2007-08 season, claiming their first senior Canadian title and a silver medal at the 2008 World Championships, among others victories.
The following season Virtue had surgery on her shins meaning the couple missed the 2008 Grand Prix series. They returned in time to claim bronze at the 2009 world championships.
They train up to 38 hours a week in Canton, Michigan.
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