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For once, the best team was golden

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- TessaVirtue, 20, and ScottMoir, 22, skating with romance, precision, and creativity, gave the Canadians their first-ever ice dancing gold medal Monday night, easily beating their training partners, American champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who took silver.

White and Davis were wonderful, scoring a personal-best 107.19 points while delivering a fast, energetic -- if slightly frenetic -- program to music from Phantom of the Opera.

But it was the Canadians' night.

Skating two slots behind their good friends -- both teams skate out of the Detroit Skating Club and are coached by IgorShpilband and MarinaZoueva --Virtue and Moir changed the tempo. Playing to their attractiveness as a couple, the first minute of their program -- to Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler -- was devoted to setting a romantic mood, almost as if they were skating by candlelight. Then the pace picked up and the elaborate lifts began, all performed with such ease it seemed as if the white-gowned Virtue was weightless. The most eye-popping trick saw Virtue hopping onto Moir's right thigh as he glided sideways, then balancing there on one skate, her arms fully extended. It must have hurt, but Moir is a former hockey player, and hockey players don't show pain. In dismounting, she did a full twist into his arms.

Sensing they might have just witnessed Canada's fifth gold medal of these Games, the crowd --most of whom were in some sort of red jersey with a maple leaf on the chest -- gave the duo the loudest ovation any skaters had received all week, as Moir and Virtue embraced at center ice. Then their scores came up: 110.42, easily a personal best and the highest given to any ice dancing couple this year. Their lead over Davis and White was a comfortable 5.83 points.

Of course, there was still the third-place Russian dancers to come, the defending world champions. You never know in the whacky world of ice dance judging what lies ahead. Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin made quite a contrast from the elegantly attired Canadians. They were dressed in torn gossamer garments, as if their costume designer had had a temper tantrum just before the competition. The huge rips revealed someone had drawn funny marks on their exposed skin with a Sharpie. The music they danced to was from a French film, The Double Life of Veronique, which probably encourages weirdness. Their program actually wasn't much of a dance. It was more like a staged wrestling match, in which Shabalin kept hauling Domnina around by her waist band, sometimes holding her up, sometimes tossing her in circles, sometimes lifting her in the air. It was all very theatrical and slow. But she showed great flexibility.

The judges, fortunately, preferred the dancing the crowd had been treated to over the wrestling, and awarded the Russians a modest 101.04 points, landing them firmly in third, just ahead of the fourth-place U.S. team of Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto.

Virtue and Moir's was a win for ice dancing. A win for Canada. And a win for the team that earned the gold. That doesn't always happen in this sport.

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