Virtue and Moir lead ice dancing in Moscow

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their Short Dance at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada came back strong from their disappointment at the Four Continents Championships (where they had to withdraw during the free dance due to injury) to grab the lead in the Short Dance. Arch rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA) are in second place, separated by less than one point. European Champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (FRA) finished third and have their eyes set on their first World’s medal.

Virtue and Moir performed to a nostalgic tango and waltz to Schenkst beim Tango du mir mein Herz and  Nights and Days, using a version that sounded as though it was played from an ancient record player. The Canadians captured the mood of the dance perfectly and their elements were executed with confidence and style. They earned a level four for the  first sequence of the Golden Waltz, the footwork, twizzles, and straight line lift. The team earned a  season’s best of 74.29 points.

“It felt great,” said Moir. “We are very pleased with our skate tonight. It’s been a couple of months since Four Continents, but we did exactly what we wanted to do- go out there, do a strong Waltz, and keep the flow. It felt like we got all the key points that we wanted.”

“It didn’t take us long to recover from the shock (at Four Continents),” he continued. “Our first priority was to get Tessa healthy. “We scrapped the lift that was giving us problems, and once that was gone, it was kind of clear sailing from there.”

“We sort of decided coming into this that all our technical elements and preparation are sound,” Virtue added. “So we just needed to do our thing and get back to the Tessa and Scott that love to skate and love to compete. That’s really working for us here and we feel like we are really well prepared.”

Davis and White showed a completely different character with their classical yet powerful  waltz to La Boheme and La Traviata. The Olympic silver medalists had a level three on the twizzles as White missed a rotation, however, all the other elements were graded a level four. The U.S. Champions set a new season’s best for themselves with 73.76 points.

“We were very pleased with that performance,” said Davis. “It was exactly what we wanted to come in here and do. We were really confident going in and have already moved on to tomorrow. We are really comfortable at this point in the season and we are just happy to be here competing,” Davis said. 

“I think if we skate like we’ve been skating, that’s the key,” White answered when asked about what it takes to win. “We’ve been putting our best out there. We’ve been trained and we’re ready to go. Now we just have to do it, that’s it. We need to skate our best. We’ve been doing it all season,we have all the material, and we know how to do it. We have to perform like we know how.”

Pechalat and Bourzat performed to Dr. Zhivago, and their soft and flowing style ideally suited the music. The European Champions earned a level four for all elements but for one sequence of the Golden Waltz, and scored a season’s best of 70.97 points.

“We have been training in this ice rink the past two years everyday and we use music from Dr. Zhivago which is the true Russian soul for us,” Pechalat noted. “Right now I feel liberated and content. I did my job. Tomorrow we can give everything. We have nothing to lose. I am focused for the free dance that hopefully will bring us a medal.” “I was focused but not tight,” added Bourzat. “I felt like at the European Championships. I’m excited for the free dance and we are aiming at a podium finish.”

The brother-and-sister team of Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA) led the group of young challengers. Dancing to The Carousel Waltz, the Four Continents silver medalists impressed with excellent twizzles. Their elements were done very well and they earned a level four for everything except the second Golden Waltz sequence.

“It felt great to get the first program out there,” Maia Shibutani said. “We have been looking forward to our first worlds and so I think that is the best way to start it off for us. That program was a lot of hard work that we were able to put together throughout the year with Marina (Zueva) and Igor (Shpilband), and that was the best short dance that I was hoping for.”

The two Russian teams finished fifth and sixth. European silver medalists Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev edged out Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov with 65.88 to 65.51 points. Bobrova and Soloviev gave a dramatic performance to Chess while the 2010 World Junior Champions Ilinykh and Katsalapov produced an unusual dark waltz to the movie soundtrack Agony by Alfred Schnittke. Both teams had a little glitch. Bobrova and Soloviev received only a level two for their lift as Bobrova grabbed her blade too late, and Ilinykh and Katsalapov were out of unison in the twizzles.

“We were pretty calm and skated without overwhelming emotions which could have cramped the performance,” Soloviev said. “It is quite difficult to skate at home because this is a big responsibility. You have to be very good. But the support from the audience and even people on the streets is amazing.”

“In general we are very happy about our result,” shared Ilinykh. “We got very high points. Of course we had some small mistakes, but the ice was fabulous and it was very easy to skate.”

“We are so happy, that Tessa and Scott (Virtue and Moir) managed to come,” she continued, “because even to watch them train is something unreal! You just see where you should aim because they are brilliant – a true couple.”

Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje sparkled in their routine to At Last and Cheek to Cheek to finish seventh.

“It was probably the best we performed this season even though our season’s best score was at Four Continents,” Weaver explained. “At the Four Continents the technical content was all right but we were not quite relaxed there, whereas here we were really relaxed at the end of the season.”

Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte had missed all competitions this season since October to overcome Lanotte’s knee injuries and adjust to new coaches.

“It was strange that we couldn’t compete for such a long period of time and we watched other skaters competing,” noted Cappellini. “We were trying to go to the Europeans but Luca’s situation was not ready and we didn’t rush it because we wanted to make sure that the same problems never return to Luca. It has been a tough season with lots of changes and lots of things going on, but we focused well and we skated well today.”

USA’s Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein came in ninth with a solid skate. They earned a level four for both waltz sequences as did Canada’s Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, who came in 10th.

“I felt so great (in our World Championships debut),” said Chock. “This was our first clean performance of the year in the short dance. We’re happy with the performance and it was very fun.”

Crone and Poirier were less  happy as she wobbled on a twizzle.

“It was a costly mistake,” admitted Poirier. “We were trying to get into the final flight, but now we know it’s not going to happen. We’ll fight back and we’re aiming at finishing in the top five.”

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