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Davis, White win third Four Continents title

U.S. champions point toward Tokyo; Virtue, Moir suffer setback

Meryl Davis and Charlie White's Four Continents win gives them momentum as they look towards worlds.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White's Four Continents win gives them momentum as they look towards worlds. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford and Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(02/18/2011) - It's not the kind of win they wanted, but Meryl Davis and Charlie White will accept it.

The three-time U.S. champions easily won their third Four Continents title in Taipei on Friday with a satisfying performance of their intricate Tango free dance, punctuated by fast twizzles and three stunning Level 4 lifts. They earned 103.02 points and ended the event with 172.03, more than 16 points ahead of the field.

But in the press conference after the event, most of the talk swirled around the mid-program withdrawal of Davis and White's training partners, Canadian, Olympic and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

"First off, we would like to say we are sorry that Tessa and Scott had to withdraw," Davis said. "They have been working really hard and looking great, and I'm sure they will overcome like they always do."

Skate Canada high-performance director Michael Slipchuk said Virtue experienced tightness in her left quadricep muscle 30 seconds into their free dance. Although Virtue underwent surgery in October to relieve chronic exertional compartment syndrome in her lower legs, Slipchuk added the injury seems to be unrelated, and the problem should not cause the duo to withdraw from the world championships in Tokyo next month.

"We know how competitive they are," Slipchuk said in a taped message to reporters. "They got some good mileage out of the short program here, and they can take that back with them."

While no doubt disappointed with their friendly rivals' setback, for Davis and White, the pursuit of a first-ever U.S. world ice dance title goes on.

"It's been a very great year for us," White said. "Obviously, we've been lucky to have the success that we've had. I think what we are most proud of are the improvements we've made with our connection [to each other] and our connection to the audience...We are still really looking to the worlds; that's what we've been building toward. That's the one that counts the most in our books."

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who train alongside Davis and White, and Virtue and Moir, in Canton, Mich., continued their phenomenal senior debut season by climbing from fourth after the short dance to win the silver medal.

The siblings' light and elegant free dance to Quick Step and Foxtrot rhythms earned 93.34 points, and they ended with 155.38 overall.

"This is our first year as seniors and our first major championship, so we were very excited with our performances," Maia said. "We had a lot of fun out there and think this will really help us going into Worlds."

"Us being the new kids on the block, it was an interesting experience this year," Alex said. "We've handled it well so far, and each performance has built on to the next one, and we are excited to go to Tokyo in a few weeks.

"We are both satisfied with the progression of our programs this year. From the beginning, we have loved our music and we've loved our choreography."

Canadian champions Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier climbed from fifth place after the short dance to win the bronze metal with their introspective free dance to the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," choreographed by Christopher Dean. They earned six Level 4 elements from the technical panel.

"We had two very solid performances," Poirier said. "They weren't perfect, and I think we definitely can step up before the World Championships, but we are still very excited and happy with our first medal at the Four Continents."

Canadian silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje dropped from third after the short dance to fourth overall after a bobble on a lift.

U.S. bronze medalists Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein claimed fifth place with their entertaining free dance to music from Cabaret. The earned 142.44 points overall.

"It was a good performance," Zuerlein said. "The crowd was great. There was a lot of support. Any of the elements, they would go crazy for them."

"It's nice when there are more people in the stands for sure," Chock said. "We love performing for a crowd."