Virtue and Moir win ice dancing gold, a first for Canada

Russian domination atop the ice dance podium has come to a close, and it’s a Canadian duo that ended it.

Tessa Virtue, of London, Ont., and Scott Moir, of Ilderton, Ont., became the first North Americans to win the Olympic gold medal in ice dancing with a flawless performance at the Pacific Coliseum on Monday.

Heading into the night in first place after the original dance on Sunday, Virtue and Moir executed their free program to perfection, scoring 110.42 for a total of 221.57 points, handily winning the gold.

“We’ve dreamed of this for so long and imagined it in our heads, and it’s so much better to actually live it,” Virtue told CTV after the medal presentation. “This has been such a journey and so many people have been with us, so thank you.”

Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States won the silver medal with a score of 215.74, while reigning world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia settled for bronze.

Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, silver medallists at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, finished in fourth.

It was an evening of creative skating and innovative lifts, with nearly each team performing different, awe-inspiring twists, turns, and tricks.

But after Sunday’s original dance where the Russians dropped back to third, the competition really became a race to gold between the Canadian and American pairs, who are friends and training partners.

Davis and White skated first, and lead off the final group with a bang, performing a very entertaining and expressive routine set to The Phantom of the Opera. Their free dance score of 107.19 moved them into first position with four teams remaining.

Skating two pairs later to Symphony No. 5 by G. Mahler, the Canadians matched and surpassed their friends’ program with an elegant and emotional showing.

With the victory, 20-year-old Virtue and 22-year-old Moir also became the youngest Olympic ice dance champions. They have skated together since the ages of seven and nine.

Since ice dancing became an Olympic sport in 1976, Russian pairs have dominated, winning a total of seven gold medals, six silvers, and now four bronzes. All three previous bronze medals also came with a second Russian pair winning gold or silver.

Before Virtue and Moir’s win, Canada had just one podium finish in the ice dance. Robert McCall and Tracy Wilson won the bronze medal the last time the Olympics were in this country, in 1988 at Calgary.

Canada’s Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier finished the competition in 14th place. They came into the night sitting 17th, but were able to deliver a strong free dance and move up three spots.

“We’re really happy and we’re so proud to represent Canada, and we look forward to the next four years now, building up to the next Olympics,” Poirier told CTV.