Team Canada takes silver in inaugural team figure skating competition
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, February 9, 2014 12:41PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 9, 2014 9:29PM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Scott Moir peered up the point spread and cursed quietly under his breath.
Then somebody reminded him he'd just won an Olympic medal.
Canada captured silver in the new team figure skating event at the Sochi Olympics on Sunday, but it came with mixed feelings.
Elation for Kevin Reynolds, who filled in admirably for Patrick Chan in his first international event this season. Shock for Tessa Virtue and Moir, who lost to American ice dance rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White by their largest margin ever.
"We got smoked today, not even close," said Moir, Canada's team captain. "We just can't be that way . . . it's not fun to be seven points behind in the free program. We don't plan on being there in a week."
Cheered on by an arena filled largely by its countrymen, President Vladimir Putin, and a burly man banging on a huge bass drum, Russia clinched its first gold medal of the Games with a dominant 75 of a possible 80 points. The Canadians had 65, five more than the third-place Americans.
The nine-member Canadian team -- Virtue and Moir, Chan, Reynolds, Kaetlyn Osmond, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch -- grabbed each other in a massive group hug afterward.
They clasped hands in a Broadway style bow in the flower ceremony. Moir, however, didn't get a bouquet -- the presenters were somehow one bouquet short -- so Virtue reached over and clasped his hand and they held her flowers together.
In the post-podium victory lap, Moir sailed a huge Canadian flag over his head.
"We couldn't be happier for our team," Virtue said. "It's been so much fun to cheer on our teammates all week long, they've had a lot of personal bests, a lot of special Olympic moments and it doesn't get any better than that."
But Canada's defending ice dance champions have to hope for much better when their individual event begins next Sunday.
Skating to "The Seasons" by Russian composer Alexander Glasunov -- Virtue in a bold gold-embroidered strapless red dress designed to look like a Faberge egg -- the two had an early bobble on a lift when Virtue's blade hit a rut in the ice. They finished with 107.56 points.
Davis and White, who had never beaten the Canadians in the free dance by more than about a point-and-a-half, scored 114.34, topping them on the technical score and all five component -- what used to be the artistic -- scores.
"I think we've had a really great performance tonight, it felt really complete, and with a score like that it definitely seems like it came across to the judges," White said.
The 26-year-old Moir said he felt "really happy with the skate" before the marks went up.
"A couple of areas we had to fight a little bit," Moir said. "Overall it was a great skate, and no matter what anybody says, ice dance is a demanding sport and we packed that program full of really difficult elements, so we're gassed every time we do it."
Reynolds, a shaggy-haired 23-year-old from Coquitlam, B.C., had Canada's best performance on the night, landing three quad jumps to finish second behind Russian veteran Evgeni Plushenko in his first international competition of the season.
"I'm feeling really good after this performance," said Reynolds. "Considering that I didn't have any experience in the first half of the Grand Prix season and only the national championships as a precursor to this, I'm very very happy that I was able to get a relatively strong performance here, the first time at Olympic Games.
"Handling a different kind of pressure. It's set me up well for the rest of the week."
Reynolds -- who replaced Chan so the three-time world champion could focus on his individual event -- missed the entire Grand Prix series in the fall while he struggled to find skates that fit him properly. He didn't make his season debut until the national championships last month.
"I wouldn't say they're behind me, because I'm still dealing with (skate problems)," Reynolds said. "But it's the Olympic Games, I've got to push through no matter what and I still have the world championships to go after this so I'm going to postpone any boot issues until the end of the season."
Osmond fell once to finish fifth in a women's singles free skate highlighted by 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya.
Lipnitskaya, dressed in a red coat and skating with an elegance well beyond her years in her performance to "Schindler's List," landed seven triples in an easy victory, becoming the youngest gold medallist in Olympic figure skating history. She wore a red baseball cap and wide grin in the kiss and cry afterward.
"She is a genius," Plushenko said of Russia's young star.
Putin, wearing a red Russian team jacket, was rinkside to congratulate Lipnitskaya and her teammates.
The 31-year-old Plushenko was no slouch either in his first major international competition since winning silver at the Vancouver Games. The 2006 Olympic champ, who had surgery a year ago to replace a degenerative disc in his back, attempted and landed just one quad, but won over the crowd with showmanship.
"I'm 31 and I'm happy gold, silver or bronze," Russia's rock star of a skater said afterward. "This games is the hardest for me. All the fans are cheering so hard that you literally cannot do badly because they do everything with you. You get goose bumps."
Plushenko finished second in the short program earlier in the event to Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who was replaced in Sunday's free skate by Tatsuki Machida. Chan was third in the short.
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., are expected to retire after Sochi, capping a 17-year partnership. They said they'd take a bit of time to study the breakdown in Sunday's marking and then move on.
"It's already kind of behind us," said Moir. "We'll take a night here and celebrate with our team, but you can already see the wheels turning in my head, we're already kind of going there.
"That's the nature of the beast, we need the turnaround to be quick, we knew that we had to compete twice for our team, and kind of put the best foot forward and we're proud of ourselves for doing that."
Virtue and Moir admitted it was odd taking the ice with second place already locked up.
"It was a weird feeling," Moir said. "We really tried not to talk about it, because it's so odd going out there in an Olympic venue, with all the pressure.
"We knew we had to have a good skate and set ourselves up for a week from now, but we also wanted to go out properly, we wanted to have 10 points for our team . . . it's nice our teammates took the pressure off us early."