Free Dance

by Alexandra Stevenson

Usually a world title comes before an Olympic gold, but Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir did it backwards. Theyíve never shied from the difficult route, always putting out that little extra. They are only the second Canadians ever to win this title since it was instigaged in 1952. The others were, of course, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz in 2003 in Washington DC.

Virtue and Moirís is an extraordinary story. Who could have believed that Virtue could rebound from extensive surgery on both legs Ė she still has the two scars in each shin Ė to skate so brilliantly? And though she was then in such poor shape, the loyal Moir never gave up on her, even when he was using a sandbag for a partner. "No contest," says the always joking Moir. "The sandbag had no grace, no smile and was far heavier to lift than Tessa."

1.Total Score 224.43; 2.Free Dance 110.03 (53.10+57.93-1.00); Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir performed their landmark Free to the Adagietto from Mahlerís Fifth Symphony. Itís ethereal, timeless music and they made it their own. However, it was not a perfect performance.

How could they get to that moment of "in the zone" perfection they had shown in Vancouver so soon after such a short time? Moir said, "It was a strong skate for Tessa and I. It felt really good from the moment we started. We love skating that program." But he freely admitted, "I had a little stumble in there (on a twizzle). To tell you the truth, it didnít feel as bad as it looked on the replay. It was just a little bobble. We train so that when that happens, Iíve learned what to do to save it and make it the best I can. I guess one mistake in six skates, Iíll take it. But I donít think that really affected our performance tonight. Immediately, I was very back on it. We didnít immediately know what the deduction was for." What IS remarkable is that they didnít implode like Yu-Na Kim.

They were also docked a mark for an extended lift. In this new system not even the sportís newly crowned royalty are exempt from such restrictions. This meant they were only second in the Free Dance. This actually is an interesting development from the fansí point of view. It kept the top two couples extremely close. Only 1.40 points separated them and 0.88 of that was racked up by the Canadians for their Golden Waltz. With compulsories expect to go out for next season, battles between these two are expected to get ever more exciting.

For their Free, Scott and Moir gained 33 +3 GoEs, just two more than Davis and White. None were for Scott and Moirís twizzles, which were "only" Level 3. The rest of their elements were Level 4 and their ending rotational lift gained unanimous +3s.

So, how did they get so good? He said, "I think our secret is Marina Zueva and Igor Shpilband and how hard they train us every day. They are the hardest working coaches Iíve ever seen. They really demand a lot from the four of us. We also have each other to push each other every day. You canít really slack off when Charlie is there, running around like he did today, like crazy! We have a great school. I think that is how we have achieved what we achieved this year. And we have some great junior teams coming up in the future.

"Iím not going to miss the Compulsory Dance. This sport has come so far with this new system, and I think it can go so much further. Without the time spent on the Compulsory Dance we have so much more time to push the Original and Free Dance so much further. I think itís important for the developing, but I donít think that compulsories are important in the senior competition and I donít think that the results are true every time after the Compulsory Dance.

So are they going to take some time off? "Weíre going to Monaco for a couple of days to relax and take at least a week before we start doing some shows. And then we go to Japan for Stars on Ice. Perhaps then we go to some beach, but it might not be together that one." He is dating pair skater Jessica Dube. They start the Canadian Stars on Ice on April 20. Davis and White will do the US Stars on Ice.

Despite their youth, the couples have been sporting rivals practically since they were all children developing as the new system developed so, for them, it is THE system, not something to which they have had to adapt. Both entered the first levels of the sport at the same time and have had advances and retreats. They eventually started training together, first in Detroit and then in Canton, with the same coaches. Amazingly, this seems to work.

Virtue said, "Itís not a hard friendship to keep up. Meryl and Charlie are great people and we really respect them both on and off the ice. Weíve been on that journey for some time together now. Weíre able to go and push each other on the ice and motivate one another and then get off the ice and go grab some coffee, which is great. I think that is what keeps us fresh and keeps us coming to the rink every day. I think we are here because of Meryl and Charlie.

"We definitely need time to catch our breath. Itís been such a whirlwind this season. Weíve been so focused on this season for so long and on achieving our goals. Out of respect for one another we need to give ourselves the opportunity to let it sink in, to let it register and really sit down and talk about some options. Before weíre making any announcements, weíre going to give ourselves a bit of time."

2.TS 223.03; 1. FD 110.49 (53.70+56.79); Meryl Davis and Charlie White performed their incredibly athletic Phantom of the Opera superbly earning 31 +3 GoEs and Level 4 for all but their Diagonal Steps, which were Level 3. They earned their first World Senior medal.

He said, "It was a very emotional performance for us tonight. We also really love the program. I feel we really connected with it and I think that was something the audience and the judges were able to feel tonight. It was a really high Seasonís Best, an amazing performance. We were just dead at the end. We left it all out on the ice.

"I think the performance was similar to the OD. We learned a little bit from the Olympics. That was such a difficult competition, with all the pressure! Tonight, I just had to perform. We were able to step it up for one more night and got another seasonís best. It is really at the end of the season so it ends super. At the end, I really was tired. My body just took over at that point. To do the program to the best my ability, I had to clear my mind.

"Winning our first World (Senior) championship medal feels amazing. I think the most important thing is that we can be happy with how we skated and ended the competition. Taking the silver medal on top of that, thatís just amazing! Itís a complete step up from last year, where we were just off the podium. Last year we were disappointed, but, tonight, we really put out a great performance and we were very pleased with it."

Both couples made their world senior debut in 2007 when they placed sixth (Virtue and Moir) and seventh. That was in Tokyo, The Canadians zoomed up to second in 2008, while Davis and White were an over-looked sixth. However, Virtue then encountered severe leg problems and they barely got third last year with Davis and White just 0.04 behind them in fourth.

Asked about the sportís future, White said, "We obviously learned a lot from compulsories coming up through the ranks and, like Scott, I think that it is important for the younger teams to continue to do it. I think this is an exciting time. There are a lot of changes coming in, and weíre really looking forward to ice dance just really improving.

"I think both of us really still have that competitive fire. Definitely it wasnít extinguished tonight going through that Free Dance. If anything, itís grown. Weíre definitely looking forward to continue competing and being part of the sport as it grows."

Davis said, "We prepared as best as we possibly could in terms of emotional readiness after something like the Olympic Games. We made sure physically we are in a top shape. We felt really good about where we were coming into this competition, and we can be proud of ourselves going home. When we finished, it was such a sense of relief. We worked hard this season, and itís been a really successful season for us. To finish up the World Championships with another round of clean performances is amazing.

"The sport of ice dancing has really changed over the past several years. Itís really a different field that weíre stepping into when we step out onto the ice. In addition to that, Scott and Tessa and Charlie and I have amazing coaches Ė theyíre a tremendous duo.

I think in addition to the hard work and talent of our amazing coaches, their secret is that they are so passionate about what theyíre doing.

"We start our tour on Tuesday (Stars on Ice). So a break isnít really in the near future for us, but after that weíre going to have holiday."

3. 197.85; 4.FD 97.84 (47.10+50.74); Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali performed to Nino Rotaís poignant music, The Immigrants. Afterwards, she was in tears of joy at the massive reception from the home-country crowd. The only other Italians to win a medal at Worlds were Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, who earned the World silver in 2000 in Nice and gold the following year in Vancouver. Although they earned only Level 2 on the combination spin and the twizzles, everything else except for the Level 3 diagonal steps, gained Level 4. They gained two (out of a possible nine) +3s for their straight line lift and one for their long lift.

Scali explained, "It was a very, very hard competition for us, Federica was very sick right after the Olympic Games and a week before the World Championships we actually thought that we must withdraw, because we didnít skate or practise at all. We did get back on the ice the last four days before the Worlds. It was really hard both physically and mentally, and I am just so proud of her.

"It was hard for me, because I was supporting her, but it was really unbelievable what she did, in this competition. Of course, it was important for us to get a medal, but when we saw that we are fourth in the Free Dance, we were happy, anyway. This championship was about never giving up. Just to keep fighting. We proved to ourselves that we are fighters. When we saw that we are still third, of course we were really happy.

"It was a long journey, I know that these guys (Davis/White, Virtue/Moir) keep saying that we look young, but we are not (she 29; he 30). So it was a long journey and it was our dream to arrive here. So we started to think about the future right after the Olympic Games. We were pretty sure that we will be skating for at least one more year. And after this medal, for sure there will be at least one season.

"Probably because we come from the older generation, when compulsories were so much part of the ice dance -- the number of compulsories has gradually been decreased to one and may next season be out of junior and senior competition --I think we will miss compulsories. I mean, itís not like we will miss working on them, especially in the morning when the same music plays over again and again and again. But we like compulsories. Anyway, I think a part of a compulsory dance will be on the program. It wonít disappear completely." [If compulsories are dropped, a sequence of a compulsory will be required at any time during the Original using the coupleís own choice of music.]

He said, "This bronze is like a gold medal for us. Last week we were close to withdrawing but we really wanted this medal for us and for Italy. We are very happy. I had to thank Federica, she has been fantastic." She added, "We passed hard moments but we got stronger and this medal is our reward. Working hard together we got this result we wanted so strongly. Thanks to everybody but especially to Massimo. I wouldnít be here without him, thatís for sure."

4. 194.39; 3.FD 98.09 (48.70+49.39); Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France skate 16th to a Circus Medley from LaNotte di Favola; March of the Gladiators and Gonglage. After being fifth in the last world championships, they were seventh at the Olympic Games and so decided to present a new routine in Torino. They gained Level 4s for their first five elements. The remaining two, the Diagonal Steps and the Combination spin were Level 3. They received one +3GoE for their Straight Line lift.

Pechalat said, "We decided to come back with a program different from the Olympics. We really love it. This is a circus medley based on the movie The Beautiful Life. We hope the public enjoyed it. We completed it perfectly without any mistake and it was brilliant to perform it."

About finishing fourth, which they also did at the 2009 and 2010 European Championships, she said, "I look at it in a positive way. Fourth at Worlds is better than fifth, which we were last year. We progressed with each year and we got the small bronze medal for the Free Dance. We hope to win a medal next year, especially at the Europeans. We want to skate until Sochi, but for sure until the World Championships 2012 in Nice." The last time Worlds were in France was 2000, when they were also in Nice."

Bourzat admitted, "It was difficult to change our program after Vancouver but I guess we feel more confident with this one. We had a good performance involving the crowd. We are happy for this itís a perfect way for ending this long season."

5. 189.11; 5.FD 93.32 (45.70+47.62); Scottish siblings Sinead and John Kerr skated last of the 20 couples allowed into the Free, performing to Linkin Parkís Krwlng. They received one +3 for their first move, the combination spin, and another, from a different judge, for their straight line lift. The combination spin, both short lifts and both parts of their long lift earned Level 4. The diagonal and circular steps were Level 3 but the twizzles were only Level 1.

John Kerr said, "It was tough going after Massimo and Frederica. They got an amazing response from the crowd what you expect from a home audience. Thatís a little hard to follow sometimes. But I think we just went out and did our job."

Sinead Kerr said, "The good thing was we didnít feel pressure. We knew we maybe could pull up to fourth but not third. Federica and Massima skated well and I didnít feel any pressure to beat them because I didnít think that was possible. Our performance was just for ourselves today."

Asked whether they will continue, she explained, "Weíll see. Weíre going to have a holiday and then we have to think about it. Weíve had a good career. Weíve had two Olympics, a European Championships bronze medal, and weíve had a lot of great times, but sometimes itís time to do something else. Weíll talk about it."

6. 181.26; 6.FD 91.34 (46.30+45.04); Alexandra and Roman Zaretski performed to music from the movie Schindlerís List by J. Williams gaining Level 4s for all but their Circular and Diagonal Step Sequences.

He said, "This was our best season. We got a Grand Prix medal, won Zagreb, were seventh in Europeans and ended up in the top ten in the Olympics, and here we are sixth! Today, we skated for everybody who loves and supports us Ė our parents, friends, coaches and our country who supported us really well this season. This country, that recognizes only football, got up at 5am to watch us from the Olympics!!

"It is sad that this is the last performance of this routine. Itís been a great, wonderful season but very long and now we donít want to think about skating for at least a week!! Nothing!! We are staying for an extra week in Italy with friends."

7. 180.30; 7.FD 91.22 (47.90+43.32); Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier performed in lilac to Nocturne and Bohemian Rhapsody earning Level 4 for all their moves except for two Level 3s, for the Circular Steps and the Combination Spin.

Poirier: It feels fantastic. We learned a lot from the Olympic Games and we are happy that just in the three weeks of training between the Olympic Games and now we were able to improve so much. We got a seasons best in all three portions. Itís very satisfying for us to show that our hard work has paid off and has brought us to that next level. Hopefully weíll keep building on that for the next seasons."

Crone: (on their improvements) There were some technical aspects of levels that we wanted to upgrade, but mostly weíve worked on presentation which we kind of lacked at the Olympics. We definitely came here trying to stand out, looking like we belong here and I think we did a pretty good job with that."

8.177.23; 8.FD 89.76 (47.60+42.16); Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev performed to Tomaso Albinoniís Adagio played by Il Divo. They received all Level 4s.

Bobrova said, "This was our best performance this season." She touched the ice after the performance. I just wanted to say thank you. This was a lucky ice for us. So I thanked it, so in future it would help us to skate all three dances clean."

Soloviev said he knew about the withdrawal of Khokhlova/Novitski. "I feel really sorry as their season didnít go so well, and they didnít get the places they really deserved. Of course, we felt, now, a certain pressure of being Russiaís number one couple. So we are really pleased that this performance went without any mistake. We need to perform more. With every competition comes experience, which we really need. In the beginning of the season we were very nervous before competitions, but with each start it grew less, and we learned how to cover it with our emotions on the ice. This was a successful season for us, as we went to Europeans, Olympics and Worlds, thatís what everybody would like."

9.168.77; 10.FD 83.37 (42.40+40.97); Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates performed to Canto della Terra first after the unpopular "break" between the first five competitors and the rest of the qualifiers for the Final. They gained Level 4s for most of their elements. There was a Level 1 for the second part (rotational) of their long lift, a Level 2 for the circular steps and a Level 3 for their Midline Steps. These Levels are definitely off their norm but they still managed to climb two places up from last yearís debut Worlds.

Bates said, "I think in terms of the big picture of the season, I think our best performances came during the Olympics. But, that was our goal Ė we wanted to peak at the Olympic Games. Here, we did really well. Not quite as well as we were skating about a month ago but, at the same time, I think considering weíre coming down off that Olympic high, I think weíre pretty pleased with our performance here."

Samuelson said, "We had the Olympics in mind when we chose the music for this program. We played a bunch of different styles of music while we were on the ice, and this one just seemed to fill up the entire rink and we thought, ĎWow, that could be a really amazing Olympic performanceí. It worked out well that itís an Italian opera piece and that Worlds are here in Italy. We hope the audience enjoyed the program. Overall, we are happy."

10.166.90; 9.FD 83.52 (42.60+40.92); Nora Hoffmann and Max Zavozin, Hungary, did a modern number to So Excited by Janet Jackson; Hush Hush by Pussycat Dolls; and Rock This Party. Their Lifts and the spin were Level 4. The circular steps were Level 3 and the Diagonal Steps and Twizzles Level 2.

Zavozin said, "Considering the circumstances, we had a good performance. I was very sick this night with stomach flu. I couldnít skate this morning and when I entered the rink for the warm-up, I wasnít sure I would be able to compete. We didnít skate as well as we wanted to but this is all we could do."

Hoffmann said, "We are quite happy with the performance even if we made some little mistakes. Our goal was to involve the crowd. We tried to do that by doing something unusual and please them. But thatís a bit dangerous because we didnít know if the judges would like it."

11. 164.52; FD 79.07 (39.90+41.17 -2.0); Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, Italy, who performed to Requiem for a Dream by C. Mansell, had five Level 4s. However, the second part of their long lift received only Level 1 and the Circular and Diagonal step sequences were Level 2. She looked as if she was crying at the end when she shielded her face and her partner hugged her. She fell on her twizzles and they were penalized another point because of an extended lift.

He explained, "Tonight, it was very hard to skate. We felt under pressure and we wanted to have a good performance but we made an enormous mistake. No problem! Sometimes also champions make that kind of mistake. We recovered strongly as well as we can do. It wasnít an easy four minutes, but we did it. But errors teach us something as well. We learned a lot during this World Championships. We learned we have to skate focused on elements execution while also giving the public all those emotions we feel everyday dancing together. The crowd in Turin is amazing. Iíll keep this public in my heart for the rest of my career."

12. 161.86; 12.FD 80.79 (43.20+38.59-1.0); Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones, France, Adagio by Divo. Although this was lower than her ninth place last year in Worlds, this is her new partnerís first season at Senior level, so it was an impressive finish. Their circular steps were Level 2; their Diagonal steps and the spin were Level 3 and the rest Level 4. They had a point deduction for an extended lift.

She said, "We are very pleased with our first season as a team! We did a great competition here, especially in the Free Dance today. I think we had a seasonís best in all three parts of the competition which shows that we are progressing. We have big goals for the next Olympic cycle and we want to realize them with our coaches Muriel Zazoui and Romain Haguenauer. There are many couples training in Lyon and we benefit from training with them, like with Anna (Cappellini) and Luca (Lanotte) and the Germans (Carolina Hermann/Daniel Hermann)."

Jones, who is Welsh, said, "This was the biggest competition Iíve ever done. I was a little disappointed at the Europeans because of my fall in the Free Dance. So we wanted to be better this time. For sure we have a lot of work ahead of us."

13. 161.20; 11.FD 81.90 (43.50+38.40); Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer had placed 16th in the earlier sections but made a significant step forward with this performance to A Life of Love sung by Charles Aznavour and Mireille Mathieu, which earned Level 4 for all but their Circular and Diagonal Steps.

She said, "Today, we are satisfied with our performance. We did all the elements properly." On their teammatesí Khokhlova/Novitskiís withdrawal, she said, "It didnít change anything for us. You shouldnít never think about these things." As to whether theyíll continue to compete next season, she said, "This question is not decided yet."

14.159.68; 15.FD 77.99 (41.50+37.49-1.0); Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre, USA, performed 10th, last in the second group of five of the 20 who progressed into the Free Skate. In black with white and silver, they gave a peppy performance to One by U2 and Mary J Blige, one they expect will be their swansong. They earned Level 4 for their opening twizzles and all three lifts including both parts of the long one. The combination spin was Level 3 and they got 2 for both steps, the Serpentine and the Diagonal. The point deduction was for an extended lift.

Navarro said, "The program has always had special meaning for us. Itís about our partnership and how special that is, and how you have to become one to get through it. Since Brent injured his hand, we were less worried about whether or not we were getting the levels than in whether or not he would be actually able to perform the lifts. Not making the Olympics but having to stand by as first reserve was tough. Really tough!"

Bommentre said, "It really was a struggle, but that performance, Iím incredibly happy with. I think that is something we will remember for a long time and itís special for us, skating here. In the immediate future, weíre going to go out and enjoy everything that Italy has to offer, wine, cheese, pasta, culture and art. Weíre taking a week here to enjoy ourselves, and then weíll head back home and regroup.

"It was tough after not qualifying for the Olympics. It was a challenge. It was hard to motivate ourselves to train and to prepare for this. At Nationals we had such an emotional performance and we left all on the table. So we tried to come back and perform this program again in a way that we could be proud of it.

"Iím not sure what Iíve expected to happen. The moment kind of took over when we got out there on the ice by ourselves. We do such a good job in relying onto each other and skating with each other that that part came on naturally. That is the most impressive about our partnership and each other. The main emotion now, after, is excitement, to see whatís next. Some people donít know if they are done or not, but for us it feels right."

2010 Dance Medalists

 

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