Virtue, Moir capture 8th Canadian ice dance title with immaculate performance

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir captured their eighth Canadian figure skating title on Saturday, in their final appearance in the event.

Gabrielle Daleman won the women’s singles title on her 20th birthday.

Virtue and Moir brought the crowd to its feet with their sensual skate to music from “Moulin Rouge,” scoring 209.82 for the victory.

Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., came back from a two-year hiatus with the goal of winning gold in Pyeongchang. They’ll retire after the Olympics.

Virtue, Moir make statement with ‘edgy’ program

In one particularly steamy lift that prompted questions from reporters, Virtue sticks a toe pick in the ice to propel herself up backwards so that she’s straddling Moir’s shoulders, her hands clasping the back of his head.

Moir called it “suggestive.”

The pair won their 8th Canadian ice dance title after posting a near perfect score of 209.82 at the National Skating Championships in Vancouver, B.C.0:30

“I think ‘edgy’ would probably summarize most of the program quite well, and that’s what we were going for,” Virtue said. “We knew taking the ice at the Olympic Games again meant that we had to have a different style, and we wanted to make a bit of a different statement, and if that was bringing a certain edge or sexuality or darkness or a contemporary feeling to it, mission accomplished I guess.”

Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 musical movie “Moulin Rouge!” tells the story of Christian, played by Ewan McGregor, who falls in love with cabaret actress and courtesan Satine Nicole Kidman).

Moir, dressed in black, and Virtue, in a sleek red backless dress, scored 209.82 points, breaking their Canadian record by about six points. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto claimed silver with 192.08, while Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., climbed into third with 191.09, after finishing fourth in Friday’s short dance.

‘A big moment’ 

When they struck their final pose, Moir covered his mouth a hand, the way a baseball player secretively does with a glove, and spoke to Virtue.

“It was just about taking in the moment,” Moir said. “We were really proud of that.”

Then Moir promptly tripped on a toe pick to laughter from the crowd.

“That wasn’t on purpose,” Moir said. “This was a big moment for Tessa and I, we were really excited … we don’t feel like we’ll be back on this stage again, and so we wanted to make sure we had good performances, and what a great practice for the Olympic Games because it’s a very similar feeling when you have so much pressure. Sometimes after you bow, you kind of forget how to skate to get to the kiss and cry.”

Weaver, Poje bounce back

Virtue said the two didn’t overthink the program, but rather let their training carry them.

“This is the moment we’ve been training for and we have to get out of heads a little bit and allow the program the freedom to simply just enjoy,” she said.

Weaver and Poje bounced back from their mishap Friday — Poje fell on the twizzles, which are side-by-side spins that travel across the ice, and are worth huge marks in dance. Skating to their popular “Je Suis Malade” from 2012 that they resurrected for this Olympic season, the duo also earned a standing ovation.

“I think we had nothing to lose,” Weaver said. “We just wanted to show people what we train. That was where the pressure was, it was totally intrinsic. And we had to go back to what this program represents for us, and that’s an emotional journey, and when we do that, everything falls into place.”

Daleman wins title on 20th birthday

Daleman, from Richmond Hill, Ont., had the crowd roaring with her skate to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” landing seven triple jumps despite battling pneumonia. Kaetlyn Osmond, who won silver at last year’s world championships, fell twice to finish with 218.73. Larkyn Austman of Vancouver won bronze with 169.62. 

Daleman, despite battling pneumonia, turned in a beautiful performance to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” to capture the Canadian women’s skating title on her 20th birthday0:29

Daleman missed the ice dearly in the three months she spent rehabilitating after abdominal surgery.

So when Daleman captured the women’s singles title at the Canadian figure skating championships — on her 20th birthday — she paused to appreciate the rocky road she’d travelled to get there.

“You become way more grateful for what you’re able to do and how lucky you are when you can’t do it, and that’s what’s really changed me this past year,” said Daleman.

“I said [Friday] that was the way to end 19 … this is the way to start 20. It is the absolute best birthday present I could ever ask for.”

Daleman underwent emergency surgery for an abdominal cyst last May that she said saved her life.

Daleman battles through illness to win

Osmond and Daleman roared to an historic silver and bronze medal performance, respectively, at last year’s world championships in Finland, setting up a fierce rivalry on the virtual eve of the Pyeongchang Olympics, where they’re both within striking distance of the medal podium.

“This [national title] means so much more to me,” said Daleman, who won the gold in 2015. “You’re competing against No. 2 in the world, she’s a very tough competitor, she pushes me, when I’m home training I make sure I picture in my mind what would she be doing, and I try to push harder, I do that with [Russian world champion Evgenia] Medvedeva too.”

Daleman had been battling chest congestion for a couple of weeks and was diagnosed with pneumonia on Thursday. Unable to sleep Friday, she called her boyfriend back in Toronto at midnight, finally falling asleep around 1:30 a.m., and then had a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call for a hair and makeup session and a morning practice.

The illness and fatigue certainly wasn’t noticeable in her powerful skating and huge jumps, and her score that topped Osmond’s previous Canadian record by about 10 points.

“I didn’t even care that I couldn’t breathe, I just skated from my heart,” she said.

Osmond plagued by ‘silly mistakes’

Osmond, meanwhile, was disappointed with her two mishaps. The 22-year-old fell on her triple loop in the short program the previous night. She got off to a strong start in Saturday’s long program to music from “Black Swan,” but fell on her triple loop and triple flip.

“Silly mistakes are what’s getting me,” Osmond said. “I don’t know the last time I did miss that flip. My loop, it was just the confidence, I lost a bit of confidence on the landing. So they’re silly mistakes, ones that I don’t usually make, I’ve been working on them so hard at home, and I’ve done them numerous times in a row. So I am frustrated that I can’t bring that into my competition side.”

Patrick Chan competes for a record 10th Canadian title later Saturday, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford go for their seventh consecutive pairs title.

The Olympic team will be named Sunday.

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