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WINTER OLYMPICS

Canada's Scott Moir, Tessa Virtue take lead in ice dancing

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White are in second place going into the free dance Monday.

February 22, 2010|By Philip Hersh

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada — Scott Moir of Canada is a big hockey fan.

He trains every day at the same rink outside Detroit as Charlie White of the United States, who also is a big hockey fan.

Both had to avoid paying more attention to the U.S.-Canada men's hockey game than their own skating in the ice-dancing competition Sunday night.

"Are we going to talk about that?" Moir said, groaning.

He had a hard time pulling himself away from a television showing the game.

"I finally stopped because I had to focus," Moir said.

The score was 2-2 as Moir began warming up for the original dance that he and partner Tessa Virtue were about to skate.

Then he heard cheering from one of the NBC crew members backstage at Pacific Coliseum.

"That was like hearing Charlie White's score right before you go out to do your original dance," Moir said.

White and his partner, Meryl Davis, got a stunning score for their original dance, which they skated just after the U.S. finished its 5-3 hockey triumph.

Neither White's score nor the hockey score was ringing in Moir's ears because there were two more couples before he and Virtue skated. They moved into first place going into Monday's free dance, after which the medals will be awarded.

"America hasn't had the last laugh yet," Moir said, referring to the hockey tournament. "I'm confident in Canada's chances."

The way he and Virtue skated Sunday, Canada can be very confident about its chances for its first Olympic gold in ice dancing.

Virtue and Moir have 111.15 points. Davis and White moved from third place after the compulsories to second with 108.55.

Reigning world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia, who had the top score in the compulsories, are third at 106.60, almost certainly too far behind to catch the Canadians.

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the U.S., the 2006 Olympic silver medalists, are fourth (103.33).

Davis and White were impressive in a taxing, powerful program set to Indian music, with striking positions, high-speed pirouettes and exceptional unison.

As good as they were, Virtue and Moir were even more dazzling in interpreting a flamenco.

The International Skating Union decreed that the original dance would be performed to folk music this season.

Domnina and Shabalin created a program based on an Australian Aboriginal theme that left them mired in controversy after Aboriginal elders called it exploitative and offensive.

Sunday, it was mainly artistically offensive by being thoroughly boring. The program left the crowd in indifferent silence until polite applause at the end.

The Russians previously had performed the program in costumes and makeup that included faux foliage, tribal paint and brown face.

This time, they removed all of the paint and some of the striping on his bodysuit, making the skaters look mainly like elves who had rolled in wet leaves. Domnina also had a silly grin plastered on her face for stretches of their 2 minutes 39 seconds on the ice.

"It [the old costume] was too much," Shabalin said.

Their skating wasn't.

phersh@tribune.com

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