Virtue, Moir claim ice dance gold in thrilling finale

Canadians break overall world record set by French rivals earlier in event

By Benjamin Blum, CBC Sports 

If this is it for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, they certainly gave their fans an incredible send-off.

The venerated duo won ice dance gold after an overall record-breaking performance at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It's their second-career Olympic ice dance title and their third overall including their team gold from earlier at these Games.

Virtue and Moir finished with a world-record overall score of 206.07 points to edge France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron by 0.79 points. American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani earned bronze.

Virtue and Moir's 122.40-point Moulin Rouge free skate beat their personal best of 118.33 set at December's Grand Prix final.

"I think it's a nice end to our Olympic career," Virtue told CBC Sports. "I can't help but think about the 20 years we've spent working for this moment."

The French duo scored a free-skate record 123.35 for their routine set to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata to bring their total to a brief world record of 205.28, one night after a costume malfunction in the short skate.

"We did the best we could, an amazing performance," Papadakis said. "So then there's nothing else you can do. You sit back and enjoy."

Virtue and Moir, originally from London and Ilderton, Ont., respectively, join Russia's Pasha Grishuk and Evgeniy Platov as the only ice dancers to win two golds in the event. Their three Olympic figure skating golds also move into a tie with Sweden's Gillis Grafstrom, Soviet skater Irina Rodnina and Norway's Sonja Henie, who each won three individual titles.

"I can tell you that these are moments we'll never forget here in Pyeongchang. We felt the support from back home and from our teammates and it's just such an honour and a privilege to be part of a Canadian Olympic team," Moir said.

"These are special moments in our life so we hold that close and dear to our hearts."

Virtue and Moir, who won the event in 2010 in Vancouver, also have two silver medals (ice dance, team event) in their Olympic collection from the 2014 Sochi Games. They have said they will retire after the Games, and would do so as the most decorated Olympic figure skaters after passing Grafstrom and Rodnina with five medals.

Their victory was the eighth gold medal in Pyeongchang for Canada and 19th overall.

American-born Canadian Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., finished seventh with 181.98 after earning 107.65 while skating to Je Suis Malade by Lara Fabian.

The Toronto-based tandem of Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier placed eighth with 176.91 after earning 107.31 for their James Bond medley. Gilles and Poirier are skating in their first Olympics.

Going out on a golden note

Gold was far from a sure thing for the three-time world champions heading into Tuesday's free dance.

They roared to a world record in Monday's short dance, but still took a tiny 1.74 lead over Papadakis and Cizeron into the free dance, despite Papadakis skating with a nipple exposed after the hooks on her dress came undone.

Virtue and Moir, who carried Canada's flag into the opening ceremonies, came out of retirement last season, gunning to reclaim the gold they lost to Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2014. They made a spectacular return, rewriting the record books and racking up wins until the Grand Prix Final in December, where they lost to Papadakis and Cizeron by less than two points.

The world's top two teams train together in Montreal and share coaches in Canada's Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrick Lauzon, but they have very different styles. The French skate a simpler style favouring elegance and long lines. Virtue and Moir have pushed the ice dance envelope with their athleticism and intricate spins and footwork.

And of course, their palpable chemistry is unparalleled.

The 28-year-old Virtue and Moir, 30, are two of Canada's most recognizable Olympians, and have been melting hearts since they won gold in Vancouver.

"They are the greatest ice dancers of their generation, maybe of all time, no matter what the colour of the medal tonight," CBC broadcaster Brenda Irving said immediately after their routine concluded.

Canada's favourite couple that isn't a couple, maintain they're friends and "business partners" despite fans' best wishes. They have captivated viewers with their chemistry and storytelling on skates, a byproduct of a partnership that spans 20 years.

Virtue and Moir are among a group of Canadian veterans in the sport who are calling it a career after Pyeongchang. Three-time world champion Patrick Chan retired right after finished ninth here, while Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, two-time world champs in pairs, won Olympic bronze in their career finale.

As for their immediate future?

"We're going to celebrate hard tonight and then we're going to go watch our teammates," Moir said.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press