February 23, 2010 / 5:03 AM / 8 years ago

Virtue, Moir delight home fans

<p>Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform in the ice dance free dance figure skating event at the Vancouver Winter Olympics February 22, 2010. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn</p>

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian best friends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had roaring home fans leaping to their feet after ending 34 years of European domination to win the Olympic ice dance gold medal on Monday.

Virtue and Moir’s stirring performance to Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 raised the domed roof at the Pacific Coliseum when they were awarded a combined total of 221.57 points to beat Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White by 5.83.

Russian world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin had been tipped as the favourites but after being bumped down to third place in Sunday’s original dance, they could not make up ground and had to settle for bronze with 207.64.

“This is the moment we dreamed of. It’s everything we dreamed of. We could not be happier,” a grinning Moir said as he caressed the shining piece of metal draped around his neck.

“I am going to wear it in the shower, I‘m not taking it off all week long.”

As soon as they finished their mesmerizing routine with Moir down on his knees tenderly cradling Virtue’s smiling face in his hands, the 12,000 strong crowd erupted.

“Wow!” declared one banner while another proclaimed “Virtue(ly) Gold.”

The judges certainly agreed. Once their score of 110.42 for the free programme flashed up, Moir thumped his chest with both hands and lifted Virtue up as she dug her nails into his back.

DOUBLE CELEBRATION

Davis and White, who share two coaches and train with the champions, made it a double celebration for North America when they took silver for their dramatic Phantom of the Opera exhibition.

“I think in the last couple of years North America has really come into its own in the ice dance. The direction ice dance is taking has favored North American teams ... it’s really exciting to be part of it,” an elated Davis said.

Virtue turned up on Monday looking as if she was dressed for a celebratory night out in town in a sparkling white outfit. She was not wrong.

Over the next four minutes, she and Moir dazzled the audience with a dance full of intrigue and drama.

It almost seemed as if the crowd had gone into a trance as despite the haunting music floating around the arena, everyone could hear the crunching of the ice beneath their blades.

They showed off perfectly synchronized twizzles, intricate spins in which it seemed as if their bodies had melded into one and jaw-dropping lifts -- including one in which as Moir was sliding sideways, Virtue climbed on to his right thigh with one foot and he balanced her weight without any hands.

Moments later they, and 34 million fellow citizens, were celebrating Canada’s first ever ice dance gold.

“To have that moment with the home crowd and with each other and to have all that hard work pay off, it’s amazing,” said Moir, who was waving his hands so wildly following the medal ceremony that flowers from his bouquet went flying on the ice.

Virtue, 20, added: “Right now, Vancouver is our favorite place to be. It’s been the perfect Games.”

Dressed in a cream and maroon laced-up corset, Davis and White had fancied their chances of gliding to the top of the podium and their fast-paced performance left them breathless with emotion.

So draining was their routine that once the music ended, White, on bended knee, held on to the ice for several seconds with one hand, his face buried under a mop of unruly blond hair but they had not quite done enough.

Since the introduction of ice dancing into the Olympics in 1976, Russian or Soviet couples had captured all but two of the gold medals. Britain’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean (1984) and French couple Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat (2002) claimed the other two titles.

Additional reporting by Sonia Oxley and Janet Guttsman, editing by Ed Osmond

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