Sochi recap: Figure skating, ice dance free dance

Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir held the world record for a few minutes before handing over the record and their Olympic champion status to American neighbors Charlie Davis and Meryl White.

I have no idea whether the silver medalists were robbed … and neither do you.

What I do know — these athletes were terrific. This was not the carnage on ice from 2006, where Barbara Fusar Poli (now a coach) stared daggers through partner Maurizio Margaglio for an uncomfortable 30 seconds. As my colleague Kelly Whiteside called it at the time, the duo waited in the newly renamed “kiss and cry and I will kill you when we leave this ice” area.

Date: 17-Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Ice dancing, free skate

Medalists: Davis/White (USA), Virtue/Moir (Canada), Ilinykh/Katsalapov (Russia)

SportsMyriad projections: Davis/White (USA), Virtue/Moir (Canada), Bobrova/Soloviev (Russia)

How U.S. fared: The Shib Sibs, Maia and Alex Shibutani, performed to a Michael Jackson medley starting with the apropos choice, Wanna Be Startin’ Something. They may have been born a decade after Thriller was released, but they had a great feel for the music. Johnny Weir noted they were a little slower and safer than they were at the national championships, but it was still engaging. The Thriller titletrack was the final song in the medley, and it was playing when the Shibs did their most dazzling lifts of the sequence. Weir and Tara Lipinski were a little disappointed in the energy, but it was fun to watch.

What? The scores? Oh. They got a one-point deduction for something, apparently an incorrect lift, for a free dance score of 90.70, 1.08 points behind the British duo of Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland in the free dance but first place overall with eight performances left.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates were up a couple of pairs later, skating to music from Les Mis. They were a bit more formal but nice and graceful, finishing with a breathtaking lift, with Chock on Bates’ back and her skates on his thighs as they glided toward center ice for a final flourish.

Bates had time to say hello to most of his family from the kiss and cry. Terry Gannon noted Bates’ Seinfeldian puffy shirt, while Lipinski said her dress was “heaven.” They scored a career-best 99.18, second to Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, the interlopers between the American duos.

Chock and Bates finished eighth. The Shib Sibs were ninth.

Then Davis and White. See below.

What happened: Heading into the final group of five, the Italian duo was in second, followed by Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, then the USA’s Chock/Bates and Shib Sibs.

World Championship bronze medalists Natalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, fourth after the short program, naturally took the lead but were obviously disappointed in their score, with a one-point deduction on a lift.

Then the defending champions, Americans — I mean, Canadians — Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They were perfect. I didn’t notice them being slightly out of sync at one point. I didn’t mind the cloying classical score, which abruptly segued from boring piano music to overblown orchestal flourishes. (I majored in music — I sat through enough of that, thanks very much. Why a Canadian duo doesn’t dance to Rush’s Malignant Narcissism is beyond me.)

OK, seriously — they were fine. How Virtue did a perfect back bend while poised on a skate on Moir’s thigh is beyond me. Lipinski and Weir called it flawless. Their season-best free skate coming in was 112.41. They beat that — a world-record 114.66, for a total of 190.99. Davis and White had scored 114.34 in the team event for the previous record. Game on.

Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, third after the short program, performed to Swan Lake. So did France’s Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones earlier in the evening. Unlike the slightly funkier Carron and Jones, the Russian duo was full of classical grace. And some spectacular acrobatics. They scored 110.44, sealing the bronze medal and poised for silver if Davis and White somehow hit a rut.

Pity Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, the Russians who had medal hopes but were fifth after the short program and had to follow that. As if knowing they couldn’t reach the podium, they were just a little flat.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White went last. And they threw down. Their program will make the casual viewer drop his jaw several times and think, “How the …?” And they’re smiling and graceful and …

Yeah, they won. They reclaimed the world record free dance at 116.63.

Dig into the scores all you want. In other events, you can see technical flaws — jumps that were supposed to be triples but turned into doubles, something that was underrotated, etc. Back in Torino, when everyone hit the ice, you could see those flaws in ice dancing as well. Here? Everyone’s too good.

The New York Times’ Jere Longman did the research to show why the Americans won the short program. Canadian media will surely argue otherwise. A few days ago, some people in the Canadian media trumped up some nonsense about an American-Russian conspiracy to keep the Canadians out of gold in the team event and the ice dance. That’s ridiculous for these reasons:

1. There’s no animosity between the USA and Canada. They all train together.

2. There is animosity between the USA and Russia. Doesn’t anyone read newspapers any more?

3. Judges’ scores are anonymous, with high and low marks tossed out. You’d need to get multiple judges on your side to fix something, and even then, you couldn’t tell whether they did what you asked.

So the conspiracy talk, which died quickly, was ridiculous. What you have instead are mere mortals trying to split hairs between two insane pairs of ice dancers who have progressed their sport like snowboarders unleashing a 1440 McCrippler corkscrew or whatever you call it.

And somehow, amid all the controversy and hubbub, they went out and nailed it on the world’s biggest stage. You may hate the music choices, you may hate most forms of dance, and you may think Team A was a lot more fun than Team B. But you have to give these dancers respect.

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