Ice Network

Love story: Virtue, Moir find romance, win dance

'Swan Lake' free propels Russians to silver; Péchalat, Bourzat fall to third
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Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada captured the gold medal thanks to a seamless performance of their classical-themed free dance. They received 180.96 points for the event. -Getty Images

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada won the gold at Trophée Eric Bompard, finishing about eight points ahead of their closest followers, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia and France's Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat. The Russian duo, who had finished third in the short dance, managed to win silver in front of the French thanks to not only a great skate but also a one-point deduction incurred by the latter for the duration of their last lift. The Canadians hit 105.65 points for their free program and 180.96 overall, while the Russians garnered 102.82 (and 171.89 overall) and the French 100.49 (and 171.08 overall, 0.81 behind the Russians).

Virtue and Moir seem to have come back this season to their most exquisite form of skating: that of a man and a woman united in their romance and trying to find a balance in the sometimes consistent -- and sometimes not -- scores of life. They managed to embody Russian composer Glazounov's Seasons melody with class and elegance. Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto and Scriabin's "Piano Concerto in F sharp minor" completed (and balanced) their dance.

The Canadians' lifts were consistent with their theme, too, especially the straight line one, that intricate pyramid as an impossible quest of a pure balance between the two. Either would collapse without the other's speed and bend over the ice.

"This is a special free dance for Tessa and I," Moir said. "It was hard for us to find the music that would suit us best. We wanted to show our love for skating, our love for one another, our love of skating together, in a performance that would tell the seasons of a man and a woman. I think it should read to a 60-year-old couple as well as to a 20-year-old couple."

Many thought that Péchalat and Bourzat's dance to "Le Petit Prince et Ma Rose" would win them another silver medal. That was not to be the case.

Ilinykh and Katsapalov's Swan Lake was very well skated and well received by the audience and judges alike, so innovative and crystal clear it had been interpreted. The team's third-place finish in the short dance seemed to have revitalized their flame. Their diagonal opening "freedom" lift, when he holds her straight on his lap, was a thrill. They got Level 4's for all their elements, except the two step sequences (Level 3). The Russian team even achieved the highest technical score of the evening, in front of Virtue and Moir (50.51 to 49.78). Their components were, however, significantly lower (52.31, compared to 53.34 for the French and 57.87 for the Canadians), ranging from 8.39 (for transitions) to a deserved 9.07 (for interpretation).

What made the difference, eventually, was the fact that they did not get any deductions, unlike Virtue and Moir, and Péchalat and Bourzat.

"We do not want to tell a story," a radiating Ilinykh said afterward. "It is just two strong characters showing love and passion. We worked so much on our elements this year. And we still have a lot to show, actually!"

Péchalat and Bourzat did have a story to tell, and they did skate quite well Saturday night.

"We felt like in Nice, back at worlds in 2012," Bourzat emphasized. "The audience was so supportive. We skated good edges, with good quality of skating. Then we lost a few points here and there…"

Some further analysis suggested that they had lost contact during their spin, which cost them one level (Level 3) on that element. All their other elements reached Level 4, except their step sequences (Level 3).

The team disclosed a bit more of their storyboard.

"At first, the little prince meets the rose," Péchalat explained. "Then, she tames him. In the third tableau, she wishes him farewell, to conclude with their reunion."

What does it take for a candid rose to accept dancing with a little prince and put her feet in his? What does it take for her to accept relying solely on him, as she does in all those lifts? The rose tamed the little prince and, yet, the little prince took the rose along throughout his journey around the universe. Hopefully, the French team will push their program further, so interesting is their creative process.

Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi, the German team, have kept following the tracks they have opened toward fantasy ice dancing. They presented a somewhat awkward, yet creative and appealing, free dance, one that is quite spectacular and eye catching. They kept the very same unconventional costumes they wore for the short dance. Same team, same life, just follow the story.

Which story?

"She is rich, famous and comes from the upper class," Gaszi explained. "I am an old professor, with my thick glasses. In the short program, they start playing together, and they will spend their first night together. Then in the free dance, they wake up amongst the birds of a public park and she wonders what she did. Then he wants too much of her, and she very abruptly leaves her. Actually, I must say that this part is the easiest for her!"

It is the first time in ice dance history that the short and free skate programs followed the same storyline.

"Yes, Ilya [Averbukh] (their choreographer) did yet another great job," Gaszi concluded.

They proved two things. One: It is possible to be different even with the IJS constraints. And two: When you are different, you do not remain unnoticed. They got a huge applause from the audience.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the 2013 world junior silver medalists, proved that they are at ease in the senior ranks. They delivered a very dramatic and emotional free dance to "Iron" and "Run, Boy, Run." Those two are a mixture of strength and looseness, mastering fully both of these dimensions as they skate. Their fast and tricky lifts reached Level 4's, while their step sequences were rated only Level 1 and 2. They ended fifth at their first senior Grand Prix with 85.16 points for their free dance and 143.26 overall.

Ice dance may give the world a unique competition in Sochi, especially as the American teams will bring their incredible speed and dare-devil lifts and twizzles. Yet ice dance still has a lot in store for the years to come!