Figure skating-Virtue, Moir win battle of North America


Thu, 29 Mar 21:51:00 2012

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Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir brought the magic of Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire to the ice as they became the first Canadian couple to win a second ice dancing title at the world championships on Thursday.

The competition had been billed as the battle of the North American couples and the Olympic champions trumped American rivals and 2011 world gold medallists Meryl Davis and Charlie White with their unique interpretation of the musical Funny Face.

Virtue and Moir had taken a narrow 1.33-point advantage into the free dance and blew away their rivals on Thursday with a total of 182.65 thanks to their dazzling footwork and inventive lifts. Davis and White compiled 178.62

France's Nathalie Pechalat turned up in Nice with a broken nose but that did not stop her from producing a cracking performance as she and Fabian Bourzat picked up their first world medal, a bronze with 173.18.

"We really wanted to embody (the spirit) of Fred and wasn't even our best skate today but it's nice that we get the opportunity to get into character and have some fun expressing ourselves," a beaming Virtue told the crowd after winning back the title they earned for the first time in 2010.

The victory ended a difficult 18 months for the Canadians as their 2010-2011 season was curtailed to a handful of competitive appearances after Virtue underwent surgery on her shins.


While the favourites ruled the roost in the ice dance, the expected front runners in the women's event slipped and stumbled.

Kitted out as a pirate complete with knee-high, brown boots, Russian Alena Leonova slayed the favourites to grab the surprise lead in the women's short programme.

In the absence of Miki Ando and Kim Yuna, the top two from 2011, established skaters such as twice former champion Mao Asada, four-times European gold medallist Carolina Kostner and Four Continents winner Ashley Wagner had been expected to fight it out for the medals.

Leonova, however, hijacked the competition with her swashbuckling performance to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, nailing all her elements, including a soaring triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination, to earn a personal best score of 64.61.

She ended the two minute-50-second exhibition with a menacing glare and a throat slitting gesture with her gloved hand, no doubt striking fear into her rivals.

"It was my best performance of the season and probably of my life," said a breathless Leonova who is well placed to get 2014 Winter Olympic hosts Russia back on the women's podium for the first time since 2005.

Japanese teenager Kanako Murakami trailed by 1.94 points while Italy's Kostner stood third with 61.00 after doubling a scheduled triple loop. Asada was the only woman of the 30 competitors to attempt the triple Axel but her gamble backfired as she fell to the ice and finished fourth with 59.49.


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