Virtue, Moir capture 8th Canadian title in last national appearance

Tessa Virtue, left, and Scott Moir perform their free dance during the senior ice dance competition at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

VANCOUVER — Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are big believers in pushing boundaries.

So when they returned to the competitive arena last season after a two-year hiatus, the three-time world champions weren’t content with being the same skaters that left the sport after their silver medal performance at the Sochi Olympics.

Virtue and Moir won their eighth Canadian ice dance title Saturday, with a program to music from "Moulin Rouge!" that was both passionate and provocative.

In one particularly steamy lift that prompted questions from reporters, Virtue sticks a toe pick in the ice to propel herself up backwards so that she’s straddling Moir’s shoulders, her hands clasping the back of his head.

Moir called it "suggestive."

"I think ‘edgy’ would probably summarize most of the program quite well, and that’s what we were going for," Virtue said. "We knew taking the ice at the Olympic Games again meant that we had to have a different style, and we wanted to make a bit of a different statement, and if that was bringing a certain edge or sexuality or darkness or a contemporary feeling to it, mission accomplished I guess."

Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 musical movie "Moulin Rouge!" tells the story of Christian, played by Ewan McGregor, who falls in love with cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman).

Moir, dressed in black, and Virtue, in a sleek red backless dress, scored 209.82 points, breaking their Canadian record by about six points. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto claimed silver with 192.08, while Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., climbed into third with 191.09, after finishing fourth in Friday’s short dance.

When they struck their final pose, Moir covered his mouth a hand, the way a baseball player secretively does with a glove, and spoke to Virtue.

"It was just about taking in the moment," Moir said. "We were really proud of that."

Then Moir promptly tripped on a toe pick to laughter from the crowd.

"That wasn’t on purpose," Moir said. "This was a big moment for Tessa and I, we were really excited … we don’t feel like we’ll be back on this stage again, and so we wanted to make sure we had good performances, and what a great practice for the Olympic Games because it’s a very similar feeling when you have so much pressure. Sometimes after you bow, you kind of forget how to skate to get to the kiss and cry."

Virtue said the two didn’t overthink the program, but rather let their training carry them.

"This is the moment we’ve been training for and we have to get out of heads a little bit and allow the program the freedom to simply just enjoy," she said.

Weaver and Poje bounced back from their mishap Friday — Poje fell on the twizzles, which are side-by-side spins that travel across the ice, and are worth huge marks in dance. Skating to their popular "Je Suis Malade" from 2012 that they resurrected for this Olympic season, the duo also earned a standing ovation.

"I think we had nothing to lose," Weaver said. "We just wanted to show people what we train. That was where the pressure was, it was totally intrinsic. And we had to go back to what this program represents for us, and that’s an emotional journey, and when we do that, everything falls into place."

Canada’s Olympic figure skating team will be named Sunday. The Games appearance will be a first for Gilles, an American who received her Canadian citizenship just in time for Sochi, only to finish fourth at the trials with Poirier and miss qualifying.

"It hasn’t sunk in yet," Gilles said. "I have no words really. It feels … I don’t know, I can’t process it yet."

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