GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were the last couple to leave the ice after their warmup early Tuesday, the Canadian ice dancers soaking in every second before their final Olympic performance.
They sure made it a memorable one.
After watching their training partners Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron break the world record with a flawless free skate, Virtue and Moir took the ice one last time with a dazzling, dramatic interpretation of “Moulin Rouge.” Every movement was synchronized, every element raw and emotional, and the only question left at the end was whether it would be enough.
They wound up with a personal-best 122.40 points for a record 206.07 total, pushing them past their French rivals’ score of 205.28 and making them the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history.
It was the second gold medal of the Pyeongchang Games for Virtue and Moir, who were instrumental in helping Canada win the team event . It was also their third gold overall after winning their home Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, and their fifth medal overall after two silvers at the Sochi Games four years ago.
They retired for two years after that disappointment, content with their place in history, only to decide a couple years ago to make one more run at Olympic glory.
They finished it off exactly how they had imagined.
Their medal total broke a tie with Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko and Sweden’s Gillis Grafstrom for the most in Olympic figure skating, and their golden haul matched the record shared by Grafstrom, Sonja Henie of Norway and Irina Rodnina of the Soviet Union.
American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani won the bronze medal with a near-flawless free skate that totaled 192.59 points, edging teammates Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue by just under five points.
Still, the race for the gold medal came down to two teams a cut above the rest.
Vitue and Moir have been the standard bearers for the better part of a decade, the longest-tenured ice dance team in Canadian history. They carried the Maple Leaf flag into the opening ceremony, and their rock-inspired Latin short dance broke their own world record the previous day.
Papadakis and Cizeron were the new rivals on the scene, bringing a fresh, contemporary style that had won the judges over. They upset the Canadians at the Grand Prix Final in December, then set the world record with their elegant, mesmerizing performance at last month’s European championships.
The French couple, whose wardrobe malfunction in the short dance made them a trending topic worldwide, drew the penultimate starting number for Tuesday’s free dance. They put on a program that former ice dancer Meryl Davis described as “art in motion” — their lifts were effortless, choreographed elements smooth and synchronized twizzles as if they were tied together.
Their score of 123.35 points was exactly what they needed to make a case for gold.
The unflappable Virtue and Moir answered the challenge with 4 minutes to last a lifetime, a program certain to go down in Olympic history. The throaty, gritty portion of “El Tango de Roxanne” had the crowd roaring, and the finishing lift was a fitting conclusion to an exemplary performance.
Not to mention their exemplary careers.
The Americans had assured themselves a medal when the “Shib Sibs,” who helped the U.S. win the team bronze, put on their best performance of the season. Their sharply choreographed show to “Paradise” by Coldplay made up the two-hundredths of a point they trailed Hubbell and Donohue after the short dance.
The third American team, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, were also within sight of the podium after their short dance. But a rare and stunning fall entering their combination spin was enough to damage an otherwise beautiful performance to “Imagine” that still drew an emotional applause.
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