Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir earn Canada's first gold medal in ice dancing; Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. claim silver
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- A mere decade ago, it would have been inconceivable for the elegant sport of ice dancing to be a hot ticket at a Winter Games in these parts, yet fans packed Pacific Coliseum to the rafters Monday night. Heck, they showed up even for ice dancing practices this week, filling the lower bowl.
Whether they understood all of what they were seeing is another matter entirely -- Canadian children are raised to be hockey players, after all. In any case, Canadian flags shook, red-sweatered fans chanted "Canada! Canada!" and the excitement grew throughout the night.
By the time the last twizzling team had finished, the red-clad faithful had plenty to cheer about. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir earned Canada its first gold medal in the sport's history with a romantic, soulful program that, quite clearly, swept the judging panel off its feet. They earned 221.57 points for the three-day competition, topping Americans and training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who scored 215.74 to win the silver.
"This is our Stanley Cup," Moir said, holding up his gold medal. "What a night. What a week for us. . . . To get up there on the ice and execute like that, I've never had a feeling like that before . . . It's a little bit more fun when you're out there in front of 11,000 crazy Canadian fans."
Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin scored 207.64 for the bronze, and Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, the 2006 Olympic silver medal winners, got fourth with 203.07.
Though it was Canada's gold medal, it was really a victory for North America, which established itself as the new ice dancing power with the unprecedented dominance of U.S. and Canadian teams in these Games.
Russians had won seven of the nine ice dancing gold medals awarded since the sport was added to the Olympics in 1976, and 16 of the 27 medals overall. Teams from North America had won just three medals, two from the United States and one from Canada.
"North America has really been on the verge of something big for several years," Davis said. "To have this experience and be a part of it, we're really so grateful. With the [seven-year-old] international judging system, it allowed a lot of North American teams to thrive . . . and get rewarded it."
After a Russian and French judge conspired to fix the results of the Olympic pairs competition in 2002, the largely subjective 6.0 system of the past was tossed out in favor of the international system in which skaters accrue a running total of points as they compete.
Davis and White skated first in the last group and put forth a high-speed, thrilling performance to "Phantom of the Opera" that featured complex lifts that seemed to defy physics. They laid down perfectly synchronized spins and steps, but received a one-point deduction for an extended lift. They earned a score in the free skate that demolished their personal best of 103.66; the judges gave them 107.19.
When they finished, White put his hand on the ice to catch his breath, his head hanging and his back heaving as he sucked in air. He and Davis embraced, looking pleased -- but also exhausted.
"We're so proud we were able to do that out there," White said.