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Virtue and Moir win to surprise of no one

Canadians continue march to expected showdown with Davis and White at Grand Prix Final

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have yet to face a real challenge this season.
Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have yet to face a real challenge this season. (AFP)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/19/2011) - In a result that was highly predictable, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won both the free dance and the overall dance event at 2011 Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris. Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France finished second, some 12 points behind the victors. Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte finished third.

Virtue and Moir displayed their skating talent throughout their program to the soundtrack of Funny Face.

"It has been my favorite movie for many years," Virtue said. "I proposed it to Scott several years ago, but the time was just not right. This year Marina [Zoueva, their coach] came up with the music, and we found many ideas."

Although well skated, their program lacked the charisma and personal involvement we have grown accustomed to seeing from them in the past. They got 105.75 points for their free dance, with Level 3 for their step sequences and Level 4 for all the other elements.

"We are quite happy with our program," Moir said, "And we are pleased by where we are at this time of the year."

Péchalat exclaimed when disclosing the duo's free dance, "No, Egypt does not mean only belly dancing!"

Bourzat dressed in gold like a pharaoh, she wearing a white outfit with loose bandage to play the part of his mummy. The duo managed to express its theme with much harmony, a specifically important item in any dance creation. Their amazing lifts and the great consistency between their costume, music, choreography and body gestures were visible throughout.

The crowd went wild at the end, although Péchalat tripped in her last steps. They got Level 4 for all their elements except their step sequences, just like Virtue and Moir. The main difference between them and their Canadian counterparts came in the components.

Whereas the one-point difference between the two teams seemed normal for skating skills and transitions, the .75-point gap for choreography and interpretation seemed a bit exaggerated to many experts.

"This is really where we invest a lot," Péchalat said, "And, indeed, it is not as rewarded as it used to be in ice dance a few years ago."

The same could be said for Cappellini and Lanotte, the Italian duo whose free dance to La Strada was expressive and dense, as it went from pure romanticism to miniature theatre.

Cappellini and Lanotte, who got the highest technical score in Friday's short dance, have been lauded for their innovative and almost naïve approach to ice dancing for several years.

They were not completely convinced about their performance, however.

"It was a little shaky tonight," Lanotte said. "Still, we get a bronze medal, and we are happy."

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the new American duo, finished fifth after Chock fell on their synchronized twizzles.

After Alissa Czisny's "La vie en rose" and Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig's "Daphnis et Chloé," it seems that the U.S. team is inclined toward French music this year, as Chock and Bates elected to skate to Frédéric Chopin's "Prelude in E minor."

"It is an ambitious program for a first-year team," Bates conceded. "The music is subtle, and if you want to put it alive, you need to establish a strong connection. That is exactly what we are working at every day at home."

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia held onto their fourth-place standing thanks to their emotional rendering of a modernized arrangement of "Ave Maria." Their skating looked much more reliable and stable than it did last week at NHK, but their program seemed very linear and flat at times.

The next main challenge for Virtue and Moir will be at the Grand Prix Final in Québec City in a little less than a month. Their training mates, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, have won at Skate America and are due to compete in Moscow next week in their last Grand Prix assignment.