North America beats Russia at own game

Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:32pm EST
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By Sonia Oxley

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - North American ice dancers are beating Europeans at their own game thanks to the Russian coaches who are training them and changes to the scoring system which have played into their hands.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won Olympic gold on Monday and their American training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White took silver, with both couples executing a similar brand of daring lifts which are richly rewarded by judges.

Anyone who did not already know that they shared the same coaches, former Soviet skaters Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband, would have wondered whether they did.

"The movement of a lot of really talented Russian coaches to the States has played a gigantic role," Davis told a news conference on Tuesday when asked what had driven North American success after 34 years of European ice dancing golds.

She added that the new open-ended scoring system, introduced after a controversy at the 2002 Games when a French judge admitted to being pressured to award more marks to a Russian couple in the pairs event, played to North American strengths.

"Looking back, North American teams were always a bit more technical and this new judging system rewards that. We're really grateful to be a part of this," Davis said.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union many coaches and ex-skaters moved abroad to make the most of the better salaries.


<p>From L-R, silver medallists Charlie White and Meryl Davis of the United States, bronze medallists Russia's Maxim Shabalin and Oksana Domnina, and gold medallists Canada's Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue stand together after the ice dance figure skating event at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, February 22, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray</p>