Olympics Today: Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir take the ice one last time

3 Canadian pairs sitting top 10 after Ice Dance short programs, led by none other than Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, after they broke their own world record.

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Saving their best for last

Canada’s favourite ice dancing duo certainly knows how to go out with a bang.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are in the lead in the ice dancing competition after a record-breaking short dance that ended with an acrobatic rotation lift. The top Canadian pair put up an 83.67 Sunday night, the highest mark ever in a short program.

The skaters led all competitors in both team events they participated in on the way to Canada’s gold medal earlier in the Games. They also earned gold at the 2017 world championship as well as the 2010 Olympics. Now they hope to avenge the silver in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. With defending champions Charlie White and Meryl Davis not competing in 2018, Virtue and Moir are the heavy favourites to win gold. Their French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are close behind them in second place, 1.74 points off the lead. Virtue and Moir took a two-year hiatus and in the interim the French team has risen in the sport winning the worlds in 2015 and 2016. Virtue and Moir have lost just once since their return, and that was at their most recent Grand Prix final to Papadakis and Cizeron who remain in contention thanks to a components score that was even better than Virtue and Moir. If it wasn’t for an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction they might be in the lead ahead of the Canadians.

Both teams share the same coaching staff and train side-by-side in Montreal. One of the two will be crowned as champions Monday night. As Canada says goodbye to the greatest skating duo in the history of the country it’s a treat to see them pushed to leave at their best.

Notable scores after the short program:

1. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (Canada) – 83.67

2. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (France) – 81.93

3. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (United States) – 77.75

8. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (Canada) – 74.33

9. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (Canada) – 69.60

Canada’s depth going for gold again

In women’s hockey Canada was dominant again beating Olympic Athletes from Russia 5-0 to advance to the gold-medal game against the rival Americans.

Canada has now won 24 consecutive games at the Olympics. It’ll try and make history and win its fifth straight gold medal in the competition, something no team or individual has ever done.

Why has women’s hockey been such a two-horse race? Look at the registration numbers in North America relative to the rest of the world.

Women registered in hockey in 2017

Canada – 86,925
United States – 75,832
Finland – 6,527
Sweden – 5,505
Czech Republic – 3,961
Japan – 2,587
Russia – 2,376

Tied for gold in the 2-man

Canada’s Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz tied Germany for a gold medal in two-man bobsleigh winning Canada’s 17th medal. On Day 2 of the competition things were so tight the top six sleds all had a shot at the podium. Kripps was the most consistent pilot in the field and it paid dividends. With a time of 3:16.80, Canada tied Germany on the last run of the competition. The Germans got redemption after they were shut out of the medals in Sochi.

Meldonium Monday

The B sample of Alexander Krushelnytsky, a member of the Russian mixed doubles curling team, will be tested. Krushelnytsky with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalovoy won a bronze medal but tested positive for meldonium in his A sample. This story is a lose-lose situation. If the test comes out positive the testing system works and cheaters are being found. If the test is positive it is also affirmation why the Russian team should have been banned and not given the chance to compete in the first place.

So, what is the drug in question and why is it banned?

The World Anti-Doping Agency added Meldonium to its list of banned substances in 2016. Its main benefit is it is able to increase blood flow. It was developed to treat cardio vascular conditions. For athletes, it helps increase stamina and endurance. It is only distributed in Baltic countries and Russia where it is available over the counter, which is why it is often linked to Russian athletes. Maria Sharapova was banned for 15 months thanks to Meldonium after failing a test at the Australia open. Heavyweight boxer Alexander Povetkin was also caught with the drug in his system. Japanese speed skater Kei Saito is thus far the only athlete banished from the Olympics for a doping incident this year. Shortly we’ll find out if he has company.

Prominent Canadians in action on Day 11:

Here is what’s on tap events-wise for Canadian athletes (all times Eastern):

Curling: Feb. 19, 7:05 p.m. – Feb. 20, 12:05 a.m.

Men’s Curling Round-Robin – Japan vs. Canada (7:05 p.m.)
Canada lost on the last rock in the 11th end losing to the U.S., ending its nine-game win streak over the Americans. Canada’s record drops to 4-3. This is the first time it has ever lost three games at the Olympics. It looks to get back to winning ways against Japan.

Women’s Curling Round-Robin – Canada vs. China (12:05 a.m.)

The Canadian women have won three straight after starting off with three losses. Their latest win put Canada into a tie for fourth with China and Great Britain at 3-3. Canada plays China next and then Great Britain to finish up the round-robin. The top four teams after the round robin advance to the semifinals.

Figure Skating: Feb. 19, 8:00 p.m.

Ice Dancing – Free Skating (8:00 p.m.)
With Canada’s Virtue and Moir in the lead and two other Canadian parings in striking distance of the podium, this is a must-watch. All 20 competitors will take the ice Monday night for the free dance, with a medal on the line. Virtue and Moir already have four Olympic medals and only two other skaters in the history of the sport have that many.

Bobsleigh: Feb. 20, 6:15 a.m.

Women’s – Run 1 of 4 (6:50 a.m.)

Women’s – Run 2 of 4 (8:01 a.m.)

Canada’s best shot at a medal is with Kaillie Humphries who has won gold medals with multiple brakemen. She’ll be paired with Phylicia George, who has put her Olympic hurdling career on hold in search of an Olympic medal in bobsleigh. The other Canadian sleds are Heather Moyse pushing Alysia Rissling’s sled and Melissa Lotholz in with Christine de Bruin. The Germans have the most talent and depth so winning a third straight Olympic gold medal for Humphries will be tough.

Sportsnet dispatches from Korea:

• Kristina Rutherford details how the world record puts Virtue and Moir in prime position for gold.

• Rutherford writes how Papadakis persevered through her wardrobe malfunction with a strong performance.

The Interview with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will get you in the mood to watch Olympic figure skating. Rutherford will be covering the skate program throughout the Games and she’s quite hilarious so give her a follow on Twitter for updates from Korea.

• Rutherford also has a Big Read on Kaetlyn Osmond’s figure-skating career now that the Canadian star is a threat to win individual Olympic gold in Pyeongchang.

• Shi Davidi is also skiing and detailed how chasing performance, not results, lifted Beaulieu-Marchand to the podium.

• This is the first Canadian Olympic team without NHL players since the 1994 group won silver in Lillehammer. For more on how the men’s hockey team came together, check out this Big Read from Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Redefining Team Canada.

• And of course, follow Davidi (@shidavidi), who will be covering the men’s tournament. He wrote this oral history on the 1994 men’s Olympic hockey tournament.

Proud to be Canadian

The female hockey players were not the only women that took a step closer to the podium in the last 24 hours. The ladies across disciplines set themselves up for medals on Day 10.

Canada’s Cassie Sharpe qualified for the ski Olympic halfpipe final with the top run in qualifying, while Laurie Blouin and Spencer O’Brien secured their spots in the big air final.

Women’s snowboard big air made its Olympic debut. Blouin scored 92.25 after qualification run two. Blouin won a silver medal last week in slopestyle. Spencer O’Brien just made the cut in 11th with 76.75.

Early in the morning the Canadian women’s team pursuit speed skaters advanced to the semis. The Canadian trio will now skate for a medal on Wednesday. Canada’s pursuit team out up the third-fastest time in the quarter-finals. The trio of Ivanie Blondin, Josie Morrison and Isabelle Weidemann finished with a time of two minutes, 59.02 seconds after six laps of the course.

Elsewhere on the web:

• In the New York Times, a Canadian skater says Russia cost him a spot.

• Our friends at Maclean’s detail why for the first time, singles and pairs figure skaters are allowed to set programs to music with lyrics at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The reason? The sport needs new fans.

• And this as Sally Field tries to set up her son with Olympian Adam Rippon.

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