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Hometown heroes Virtue & Moir sit second after short dance Weaver & Poje an emotional sixth place

Before a raucous hometown crowd, Tessa Virtue from London and Scott Moir, from just down the road in Ilderton, skated to a second place finish, after the first portion of the ice dance competition at the world figure skating championships. Sitting in sixth place after an emotional comeback are Waterloo’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. Canadian silver medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier made their world championships debut with a 15th place finish.

The Olympic champions Virtue & Moir are 3.25 points behind archrivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S.A. after the short dance. As Scott Moir puts it, they’re in “a bit of a hole.” It’s “a bit tricky” to overcome that, says Moir’s gifted partner Tessa Virtue. But they shall press on with Carmen for the free dance on Saturday.

Davis and White set a world record of 77.12 points in the short dance.

“We felt as though it wasn’t only our season’s best in terms of result, but it was our season’s best skate,” Davis said. “To do that at the world championship is really exciting. Charlie and I both got off the ice and the first thing we said was that it was a lot of fun to perform. The program went smoothly and we enjoyed every minute of it.”

It didn’t go so smoothly for Virtue and Moir. Something went awry with their twizzles, as Virtue veered away from Moir and he put a foot down before she did. It cost them a level of difficulty and the judges weren’t all that generous with their grades of execution.

The Canadians also lost a few points on their midline footwork section. Virtue said the miscues won’t change their job on Saturday. “We’re just going to do the program,” she said. “We have nothing to lose. And we’re confident in Carmen.”

The battle for the top spot was one thing, but the most emotional performance came from Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, skating after only four weeks of training after being off the ice for two months. Weaver had broken a fibula in her left leg, and was on crutches and in a cast while missing the Canadian championships in January. She had surgery to insert a plate and a handful of screws on Dec. 18, and even her doctors believed it would take a miracle for her to be back on ice competing by the middle of March.

“I believe in miracles,” Weaver had told him.

They did their first practice at the championships late during an evening when no other dance teams in their group showed up. They had the ice all to themselves at 10:40 p.m. Many people stayed to watch. And when Weaver and Poje finished their session, the gaggle of die-hards rose and gave them a standing ovation.

They’ve been jerking tears out of eyes ever since. When they finished their short dance on Thursday, coach Anjelika Krylova wiped away tears. So did many others.

With their efforts, they finished sixth, with 67.54 points, a season’s best. It’s also a personal best, breaking their previous mark of 66.47 set at last year’s world championship, when they finished fourth. ‘It just means the sky is the limit in the future,” Weaver said.

Weaver and Poje are only .39 points back of fifth place, held by Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte.

Currently, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev are in third place with 70.05 points, 3.82 points behind Virtue and Moir. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France, back on the ice for only four weeks after he suffered a partial tear of the adductor muscle of his right leg, are in fourth place with 69.65.

“We kind of rose to our challenge,” Poje said. “We made it here and we are so happy and pleased to be in this moment.” The team got a loud standing ovation, from the knowledgeable crowd who knew their story.

“Oh my god, I think we owe so much to the crowd tonight,” Weaver said. “It kept us going. It gave us energy. It calmed our nerves. Everything it can do, it did, and we’re so happy to be here on home ice.”

Weaver said she was emotional before the music even started. “When we skated out when they announced our names, I thought, I can’t even believe we’re here. I can’t believe it. We made our dreams a reality. To skate on top of that, just put me over the top.”

Gilles and Poirier have a much lower world ranking, so they skated nearly two hours earlier than their teammates. Their energetic and charming short dance brought the characters from Mary Poppins alive, and drew the crowd into their program.

All three teams will skate their free dances on Saturday afternoon, starting at 2:30 p.m.