For dance pair, gold is 'our Stanley Cup' 

Scott Moir would have gone to sleep on the Olympic rings in the middle of the Pacific Coliseum ice if they'd let him, clutching his gold medal.

That being slightly unreasonable, even for an Olympic champion, he settled for getting on his knees, kissing the five rings and lingering as long as he could in a nearly deserted arena.

Finally, partner Tessa Virtue joined him for a few pictures with their coaches and even some volunteers. Why not? Their ice dance gold Monday night belonged to all of Canada, too.

"This is our Stanley Cup," said Moir, a huge hockey fan but, at this moment, a bigger hero than Sidney Crosby in his nation.

"We knew it was in us. But to get out there on the Olympic ice and to perform and to execute like that, it's a feeling that I've never had."

Nor was it a feeling any North American couple has had. Since ice dance was introduced in the Olympics in 1976, Russian or Soviet couples had won all but two golds, with the others going to Britain and France.

But there was no arguing that Virtue and Moir were the best in Vancouver.

"It's been 13 years of skating together. What a journey," she said. "It's been so many ups and downs, so many sacrifices. We've grown up together. We're best friends. It's just so amazing to share this together."

And to share the podium with their training partners and friends from Detroit, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Davis and White won the second straight Olympic silver for the United States in the event; Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto were runners-up in Turin, and finished fourth Monday night.

Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, the world champs, took the bronze.

Still, the Russians have been oh-for-gold in pairs, men and dance, events they're used to dominating, and could very well go home without winning at least one skating event for the first time since 1960.

"North America has really come into its own in terms of ice dance," Davis said. "This Olympics is a little bit of a turning point again. It's really exciting to be a part of it."

Davis and White's silver was the 25th medal won by the U.S., matching its record set in 2006 for medals won at a Winter Olympics away from home. The Americans are guaranteed of passing that, because the U.S. women's hockey team can do no worse than a silver medal.

Virtue and Moir's program was tender and sensual, like a married couple stealing away for a romantic evening. They showcased their skating skills with edges so quiet and smooth they appeared to float above the ice.

Yet they had power and speed. Their combination spins were almost dizzying, and their signature move saw Virtue looking almost angelic on one lift. She balanced on his right thigh with her arms outstretched while he stayed in a deep-knee spread-eagle bend. Then she flipped forward and into his arms.

By then, the fans were standing, roaring and waving their maple leaf flags in triumph. Virtue and Moir weren't quite done, but the competition was over.

They won by 5.83 points, a mammoth margin.

Virtue's jaw dropped when she saw their overall score of 221.57 and Moir jumped to his feet, screaming almost as loudly as the crowd. With Davis and White, second after the original dance, already done, Virtue and Moir knew the gold was all but theirs.

Moir couldn't stop moving on the medals podium, and he shook his bouquet so hard during their victory lap flowers went flying across the ice. The couple looked around the arena as the ceremony started and, recognizing that few fans had left, made sure to display their medals to every corner of the coliseum, inviting everyone to share a piece of their victory. With each new wave of applause, their grins widened.

After their victory lap, Moir did his own version of the Lambeau Leap. But he and Virtue weren't ready to call it a night. They sprinted back onto the ice, holding up the Canadian flag.

"Right now, Vancouver is our favorite place to be," Virtue said. "It's been the perfect games."

While Virtue and Moir were all softness and grace, Davis and White's "Phantom of the Opera" was big and bold, as powerful as any Broadway production. They skated perfectly to the music, flying across the ice in the fast parts and oozing romance when it slowed.

Their lifts were akin to stunts, done at breakneck speed yet with perfect control. In one, White flipped Davis over his shoulder so she faced the opposite direction. Then, skating backward on one leg, he picked up the other and crossed it behind him, using it to balance his partner. With her arms stretched out wide, that crossed leg was the only thing keeping her from plunging to the ice.

Their only flaw was a one-point deduction, likely for an extended lift. Not that it would have made a difference.

Domnina and Shabalin's routine was theatrical and highly entertaining. But ice dance has moved beyond the absurd theater it was 10 years ago. The sport now requires good, old-fashioned skating skills, power and innovation, and Domnina and Shabalin didn't quite have it.

Still, an Olympic medal is an Olympic medal, and Domnina and Shabalin celebrated right along with the Canadians and Americans, enthusiastically waving the Russian flag when someone finally gave them one at the end of the victory lap.

Of course, Moir wasn't settling for one or two celebrations on the ice. This party might last until the next Olympics.

"I'll probably wear it in the shower," Moir said of the gold medal. "I'm not going to take it off all week."

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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