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Davis & White hold off Virtue & Moir for world ice dance crown

LONDON, Ont. - The world’s top two ice dancing teams from opposite sides of a border have known each other for such a long time. Fourteen years of going toe to toe. Of even sharing the odd hockey brawl (guys only.).

But Saturday at the world figure skating championships, it was advantage Americans. Meryl Davis and Charlie White didn’t put a foot wrong all week, and won back the world championship they lost last year to their archrivals Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont.

Now the Americans have won two world titles. So have Virtue and Moir. And Virtue and Moir have an Olympic title to their credit.

On Saturday, Davis and White won the free-flying Notre Dame de Paris free dance with 112.44 points, just short of their personal record of 112.68 that they set at the Four Continents in Osaka, Japan last month. Virtue and Moir ended their ground breaking Carmen routine with 111.17, only 1.27 points behind.

The Canadians had an unusually large gap to make up after a couple of fumbles in the short dance and the gap widened slightly after the free dance. Davis and White won the gold medal with 189.56, tops for them in this world that doesn’t include compulsory dances.

Virtue and Moir finished with 185.04, their best for this season, too. The Canadians fell short by 4.52 points, a hard loss, considering it came in Virtue and Moir’s hometown that had been abuzz for weeks about the prospects.

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev won the bronze medal, their first world medal, well back of the top two with 169.19.

Some results were unexpected, the sign of healthy judging. Last year’s world bronze medalists Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France dropped with a thud to seventh place in the free, sixth overall. Bourzat was still hurting from a partial tear of his adductor muscle in his right leg that occurred in January. Back only about four weeks, the injury affected spins and a few other things.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy, who had the misfortune of having to perform their Carmen routine immediately after Virtue and Moir’s version, proved giant killers in this event, actually finishing third in the free skate and fourth overall.

But the crowd’s hearts were with Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., back to the wars after she fractured a fibula in a leg during practice last December. They triumphed by just making it to the event, but they finished fifth with 166.20, only one spot behind their effort at last year’s world championship.

“It was incredible, ” Weaver said later. “After the short dance, after such a high, I was a little nervous, wondering if we’d have the same energy and electricity that we had for the short. But I think we had all the right ingredients. It was the world championship free dance and also our fourth runthrough.”

“It was hard to completely shut off our brains and not think but I think it worked for us and we’re so happy that we were able to show that to the crowd, and they were behind us every step of the way,” she said.

The world hadn’t seen this version. After disappointing international results last fall, they had revamped most of their routine. They had little time to perfect it. Imagine what they could have done with more training.

Their lifts were novel, some of them feats of incredible strength. They had developed them throughout the season.

Former world bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani finished eighth.

Canadian’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier dropped from 15th to 18th spot after Poirier stumbled out of a twizzle, putting both hands onto the ice.

Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, who won the free dance at the European championships over Bobrova and Soloviev, finished only 10th in the free dance here and ninth overall Katsalapov fell out of a spin.

But the real battle was at the top. This was a polite brawl, fought by edges and rotational lifts. “We really have grown up together,” White said.
Years ago, White recalled, he was at a hockey tournament in Canada when both benches cleared with a brawl.

“I think there were parents fighting in the stands,” he said. “And I was the only one sitting on my bench.”

While he was telling the story years later, Moir said: “You know what? I actually was in the middle of that fight with the other team.”

“It just shows how far back we go,” White said. “We are similar ages. We’ve had the same partner for our entire career. We are able to train together, which makes for a special rivalry. It’s interesting for us to go back and forth the way we have since the last Olympics. Without them, I definitely wouldn’t be at the point that I am. I think having our rivals at the rink everyday and seeing how great they are has pushed us. And ‘d like to think that sometimes we push them back. It’s a lot of fun.”

Moir said he remembers their very first Lake Placid competition – at the novice level – and he stepped out on the ice and Davis and White were there. Eighteen years later, they are still battling.
‘It’s been quite a ride,” Moir said. “We use each other every day in practice. It’s nice to be able to talk to each other and know exactly what we’re going through.

“And also, you can’t slack off when those guys are out on the ice. It’s going to be awesome.”