March 29, 2012

Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada won the world figure skating title Thursday, reversing last year's result by beating defending champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S.

Virtue and Moir, who captured the worlds and Olympic crown two years ago, took the free dance after finishing first in Wednesday's short dance.

"It's the icing on the cake, it really is a bonus to be world champions," Moir said. "There was a lot of pressure for us to win, because we knew we had done the work to deserve to win. When the marks came up I was a little bit relieved ... I was excited, I screamed something under my breath."

The Canadians defeated the Americans for the second straight event, this time by a score of 182.65 points to 178.62. Virtue and Moir also won at last month's Four Continents against their rivals and close friends.

"What we really did well was completing and executing everything we set out to do," Virtue said. "We didn't get too ahead of ourselves which is sometimes easy to do at this point of the season when everything is so automatic. I'm most impressed with our ability to stay focused and not let the distractions get to us."

The American pair felt it wasn't under the same pressure to perform.

"The feeling is definitely a little bit different than it was last year," Davis said. "Last year, we felt a lot of pressure to make history with the opportunity to become the first American world ice dance champions. This year, coming in, we wanted to put down two really great performances and make a statement, and I think we did that."

Davis and White delivered an inspirational free program to the searing sound of Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" that had the crowd on its feet. But they had to settle for the silver medal, with Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France winning the bronze.

"We feel like we skated our hearts out. We took what we did in the short dance into today and left it all on the ice," White said. "The music is crowd pleasing, so then we get into it and it magnifies it."

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France won the bronze with 173.18.

Pechalat, who broke her nose two weeks ago in a training accident, was relieved that their revised program proved successful.

"Fabian broke my nose in practice, we changed the program to make sure he couldn't hit me on the nose again," she said. "We're stronger together in the rough moments."

Earlier, Alena Leonova of Russia nailed all her jumps to win the women's short program ahead of Japanese teenager Kanako Murakami and European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy.

Leonova, wearing a pirate outfit, also drew a standing ovation from the crowd and received a score of 64.61, with Murakami scoring 62.67 and Kostner 61. The free program is Saturday.

"It was my best performance of the season and probably of my life," Leonova said through a translator.

Two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan was fourth. Asada looked to have executed her triple axel well, but fell on her landing.

After Asada's fall, Leonova immediately followed and roused the crowd with an energetic routine to the punchy rhythm of "Sirens" from the blockbuster film "Pirates of the Caribbean."

She finished with a throat-slitting gesture that would have impressed the most bloodthirsty of pirates, before leaning her head back and taking in the roaring applause as the crowd rose to their feet.

"Today I landed everything and I am very pleased it came across well," said Leonova, who was fourth at last year's worlds. "I did feel the support of the crowd and I heard them screaming and cheering. There were a lot of Russian fans in the crowd and it was nice to have that."

Kostner, the bronze medalist last year, felt she could have done better.

"I had a mistake on a jump that made me quite angry," she said. "A jump I don't normally have problems with."

The American women's six-year medal drought, their longest since the 1960s, will probably extend to another year after Ashley Wagner was eighth and Alissa Czisny was in tears after finishing 16th.

"I don't know what happened out there," said Czisny, who fell on her first two jumps, and then into the arms of her coach afterward. "I'm disappointed. It didn't go quite how I wanted it to. I felt good going into the program."

Wagner tried a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, but stumbled backward and almost fell. She had been excellent heading into the worlds, winning her first national championship and then beating Asada at Four Continents.

"It was a really long waiting period (after the warmup) and that's why I struggled with the triple flip," Wagner said.

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