By GRANT ROBERTSON
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA -- Scott Moir described it last week as going "into hiding." He was referring to the break he and ice-dance partner Tessa Virtue took from skating after the last Olympics.
It was supposed to be a retirement, but Virtue and Moir could not resist taking another shot at an Olympic gold medal.
The three-time world champions, who won the ice-dance gold in Vancouver in 2010 but were forced to settle for silver four years ago in Sochi, did exactly what they set out to do in Pyeongchang Tuesday, taking the gold medal in an electrifying performance.
Virtue and Moir won with a combined score of 206.07, narrowly edging out France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who had a combined score of 205.28.
When the marks for their long program were announced, a score of 122.40, Moir and Virtue stared up at the screen not reacting, unsure if it was enough for the win. The finish was one of the closest icedance competitions in recent memory.
The French pair, skating ahead of the Canadians, scored 123.35 in the long program, a strong score that drew gasps from the audience.
Minutes later, skating to Roxanne and Moulin Rouge, Virtue and Moir elicited roars from the crowd for a near-flawless routine that involved a complex lift where Moir raised a spinning Virtue over his head while she wrapped her legs around his neck, balanced precariously on his shoulders At the end of the program, the two embraced and, rather than shed any tears at what is expected to be their last Olympic skate, Virtue smiled broadly and covered her mouth with her hands, while Moir pumped his fists exuberantly.
Maia and Alex Shibutani of the United States claimed the bronze medal with a combined score of 192.59.
Heading into the long program, just 1.74 points separated the world's two best icedance teams.
A day earlier, Virtue and Moir surpassed their own world record in the short program, with a score of 83.67. That performance was answered by the French skaters who garnered a score of 81.93. With such a thin margin separating the two, the gold medal was there for the taking for either team in the long program.
While the Canadians wowed the judges, and the audience, with a new record in the short program, the score achieved by the French skaters was also remarkable given that the French skaters suffered a costume malfunction that threw off their concentration. A clasp holding the dress worn by Papadakis broke near the beginning of their short program, and her costume slipped down, briefly exposing part of her breast to the television cameras.
Papadakis called it her "worst nightmare coming true at the Olympics," and other skaters expressed sympathy for the gaffe, which is a risk all skaters face. But remarkably, she managed to put her costume quickly back in place and continue on with the program. Cizeron said later it was difficult to concentrate on the program after the mishap. However, without the dress problem, it's entirely possible the French could have been in first place heading into the long program, or the margin between the two teams even thinner.
Virtue and Moir won the ice-dance gold medal eight years ago in Vancouver, making them the first North American ice dancers to top the podium in the event, and had planned to retire after the 2014 Games.
But after watching their American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White claim gold, they decided to return in Pyeongchang for another attempt at a gold medal.
Earlier in the Olympics, Virtue and Moir were part of Canada's gold-medal win in the team event, winning the ice-dance portion of that competition, an event they won silver in at the Sochi Games. The French team opted not to compete in the team event, instead deciding to focus on training for the individual ice dance.
Tuesday's medal was the fifth at the Olympics for Virtue and Moir, making them the most decorated figure skaters in the sport. When asked recently about the prospect of being able to win five medals, Moir gave credit to the fact that the team event, introduced in 2014, has allowed them to win two medals that figure skaters coming before them didn't have the ability to pursue.
Before the long program, Moir and Virtue talked about being nervous and having "the butterflies flying again" as their competitive careers drew to a close. With a second Olympic gold medal in ice dance, it ended exactly the way they wanted.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada compete in the free dance at the Pyeongchang Games on Tuesday. They finished first, to claim the third Olympic gold medal of their careers, to go along with two silvers.
JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IMAGES