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Davis, White break through for gold

Surprising Canadians snatch silver

Davis and White led from start to finish in convincing fashion, ending the meet with 178.89 points.
Davis and White led from start to finish in convincing fashion, ending the meet with 178.89 points. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(11/02/2008) - This could be a breakthrough season for Meryl Davis and Charlie White, of the U.S., who dominated the ice dance event this week at Skate Canada.

If so, their timing would be impeccable, since there is no better time for establishing your credentials as contenders than in a pre-Olympic season.

Davis and White, sixth in the world at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, led from start to finish in convincing fashion, ending the meet with 178.89 points, 16.76 points ahead of the surprise silver medalists Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, of Canada.

Crone, 18, and Poirier, who turns 17 next week, were the 2008 world junior silver medalists. Skate Canada was their first senior international event. They won two golds on the junior Grand Prix circuit last season and are fourth-ranked in Canada.

Davis and White, both 21, scored 88.24 points for their free dance set to "Bacchanale" and "Samson et Dalila" by Camille Saint-Seans. Their dramatic performance garnered the second standing ovation of the day. The Canadians were rewarded with the first.

"It means a lot," White said of their first Grand Prix win. "It's nice to see all the hard work pay off. Obviously, getting first place is wonderful and we're both really happy."

Davis added, "We were both excited to start the season...Just performing in front of a Canadian audience is a joy for us."

French duo Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who were seventh in the world last season, dropped back to the bronze medal position with 159.06. Their performance, which included an unfortunate spill, was entertaining yet jittery. At times, the couple seemed unsteady on their blades.

"We don't really know what happened, it just happened. When we came on the ice, we were well-prepared," Bourzat said.

Crone and Poirier's free dance, called "The Perfect Day," is a charming, lyrical piece of choreography. It depicts a couple of friends strolling through the park, playing on the swings, taking a boat ride.

Poirier said, "We think winning the silver medal was incredible, being it was our first senior Grand Prix... We think the Canadian audience helped bring our program to life."

"We're very proud of what we did," Crone added.

White and Davis compete next at Cup of Russia in three weeks, while the French head to Japan the week after. The Canadians are slated for Trophée Eric Bompard in two weeks time.

"For sure we need to do some more refinements and get our [difficulty] levels up. We just want to put finishing touches on, polish our edges, polish our speed and flow, and even try for more maturity because we're the youngest dance team here. It's really kind of a big step from last year," said Crone.

Crone is also a junior women's competitor and, before they head to Paris, she will compete in the first of two qualifiers for the Canadian national championships. Poirier will attempt to qualify for the senior men's event in early December. He can execute all triple jumps except for the Axel and has a triple-triple combo in his repertoire. In August, Poirier competed on the junior Grand Prix circuit, finishing 10th in France.

"We both still love both of them [singles and dance] and, until that passion runs out, we're going to keep doing both of them," Crone said.

Americans Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre, 12th-ranked in the world at the 2008 ISU championships, dropped back to fifth (157.54) from third. Their free dance was ranked just fifth-best.

The ice dancers brought the 2008 version of Skate Canada to a close.

The large U.S. team here won the most medals including the ice dance gold, silver in men's, and a bronze in men's women's and pairs. Canada took the men's and women's gold as well as the ice dance and pairs silver. The pairs gold medal went to Russia.

Skate Canada will be held in Kitchener, Ontario, next season. For the first time since the Grand Prix series was created, it will be the last event on the schedule. The order of the six Grand Prixes was rejigged to allow an earlier start and finish of the series in advance of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.