Figure Skating

Malcolm Kelly - Sunday Feb. 16, 2014 22:39

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir head for ice dance final as the calm in a storm

Fix accusations, suggested funny business swirl around event

tessa-virtue-scott-moir-together
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have become focussed on their skates rather than the storm swirling around the ice dance competition at Sochi. They present the long program on Monday. (Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images)
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Sometime after 9 p.m. local time on Monday night in the Sochi suburb of Adler, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will step on the ice for what will be their final Olympic skate of a memorable career.

What the two spoke about the day before, after a near perfect rendering of their short program, will come back into play at this moment – their moment.

“We sat in the kiss and cry and looked at each other and said, 'It doesn’t matter,' because that [short program skate] was the moment we wanted to have,” said Moir.

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter that the fix might have been in to give the gold medal to Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the talented and equally wonderful American world champions, long-time rivals and training partners with the Canadians in Detroit.

It doesn’t matter that many in the media have been asking about a fix for more than a week, after the first story came out in France’s famous L’Equipe sport magazine alleging that there might be a deal in the works between Russian and American judges to trade team event marks for those in ice dance.

It doesn’t matter that the focus has turned away from the skaters to something more sordid.

It doesn’t matter that Virtue and Moir trail Davis and White by 2.56 points, a large margin for this discipline.

What matters is that they skate the best long program of their lives and head out the door with heads held high, a 2010 gold medal from Vancouver and a 2014 gold or silver from Sochi around their necks, and the knowledge that they are among Canada’s greatest-ever Olympians.

Ice dance has always been figure skating’s shadiest son in an often questionable four-child family (see the pairs competition, 2002, Salt Lake City) – hanging out with the wrong crowd and bringing unwanted embarrassment to everyone else.

He was at it again on Sunday after both couples skated superbly, with no errors the naked eye could see.

Skaters being eclipsed

While coach Marina Zueva, who handles both pairs, was playing down any significant differences between her charges or any thought of collusion, a lot of others were playing up the angle that the bad son was tossing craps in a dark alley and messing with the numbers.

You could see it in the media:

“If the fix is not in against Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, then I’m the Princess of Wales,” wrote Rosie DiManno, a long-time columnist for the Toronto Star who has been covering the sport for more than 25 years.

“The day that ice dance can be taken seriously, the judging as credible, pigs will also fly,” said Christie Blatchford, the legendary column writer for Post Media. (She was referencing Zueva’s comment that the Americans were “flying” across the ice.)

You could see it in social media:

“I don’t understand the judging in #icedancing. @Virtue_Moir should be leading in my honest opinion.” That tweet from Petri Kokko, who with his partner Susanna Rahkamo invented the Finn step sequence that the Canadians were judged to have done only at a Level 3 mark, rather than the top Level 4 the Americans received.

You could hear it in your own home, at work, on public transit. People were shaking their heads. Speaking ill of skating in general and judges in particular.

Canadian people, that is. South of the border, all seems right with the world. And really, who is to say it isn’t without positive proof?

A real shame (and to repeat, this is a sport that seems to bring shame upon itself) is that the skaters are once again eclipsed.

Davis and White, Virtue and Moir, are all superb, and won’t be caught for either medal by anyone else.

Behind them, Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsvalapov seem to have found a way to move from ninth in the 2013 world championships to third here. That’s raised some eyebrows.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, of Canada, are in seventh despite putting in a strong program of their own. They had been tabbed for a possible bronze.

People are confused, and with the actual marks given by individual judges hidden behind the curtain in the corner, there’s no way to tell what wizardry is making them up.

Virtue and Moir, however, are not confused. They seem to have reached a level of calm amid the storm by understanding what does matter, and what no longer does.

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