March 21, 2008 / 6:10 PM / in 9 years

French win ice dance, Canada's Buttle leads men's

<p>France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder pose with their gold medals after winning the ice dancing free dance programme at the World Figure Skating Championships in Gothenburg March 21, 2008.Bob Strong</p>

GOTHENBURG, Sweden (Reuters) - French favorites Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder won the ice dancing gold and Canada's Jeffrey Buttle took a surprise lead in the men's event at the world championships on Friday.

Delobel and Schoenfelder turned in a romantic performance to The Piano soundtrack by Michael Nyman, finishing well ahead of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada in the three-leg event.

The French pair triumphed overall even though Four Continents champions Virtue and Moir produced the evening's highest score in the free dance.

"We really gave our best," said Delobel. "We were under a lot of pressure so it was not easy but I think we performed well. We are happy now."

"It was a very emotional performance and later we felt a lot of stress waiting for the result."

"It's a great night to win the title, and we've never been on the (world championship) podium before," said Delobel. "It's a nice story with a happy ending."

Virtue and Moir trailed in third place going into the final leg but produced a pitch-perfect performance to the soundtrack of the musical Umbrellas of Cherbourg to clinch the silver.

"We are just thrilled, we couldn't be more excited," said Virtue, who has skated with Moir for the last 11 years. "It has been a great journey. We are so fortunate to have each other."

Russians Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski took bronze with a dramatic performance to Rimsky Korsakov's Night on Bald Mountain.

CONFIDENT BUTTLE

In a confident performance to Astor Piazzolla's Adios Nonino, Buttle was the surprise winner of the men's short program to lead ahead of Saturday's final.

While French title holder Brian Joubert and several other favorites made crucial mistakes, Buttle gave a faultless performance and scored the highest technical mark to end on 82.10 points.

That was well ahead of American Johnny Weir, who was second on 80.79 points, with Four Continents champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan in third on 80.40 points.

"I felt very comfortable today on the ice," said Buttle, who was runner-up to Takahashi at last month's Four Continents championships held for non-European countries.

Buttle said he felt "comfortable and confident" on the ice as he executed a clean short program.

At last year's worlds in Tokyo, Buttle finished the short program in second place but fell to sixth in the final.

"I feel like I am in the same position as last year except that I am way more prepared and I am way more consistent," added the Turin Olympics bronze medalist.

"I am going to go out there tomorrow more positive, more confident than last year."

Frenchman Joubert had a less than inspiring day as he fell on his triple lutz and eked out 77.75 points to stand sixth after a two-point deduction.

France have lodged an official protest over one of the deducted points, which was for the use of music with vocals.

Joubert skated to Sebastien Damiani's All for You and told Reuters he used the same music at the last Skate Canada competition and the European championships with no referees objecting then.

Former twice world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland was not at his best as he faltered on more than one jump to finish fifth behind European champion Czech Tomas Verner.

(Additional reporting by Sarah Edmonds)

Editing by Ken Ferris

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