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Canadian ice dancers take gold, U.S. silver

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were greeted as if they already were gold medalists the minute they took the ice here Monday at the Pacific Coliseum.

And unlike a number of their countrymen earlier in the games, the duo didn't disappoint, unveiling a flawless routine to win the ice dancing gold medal — Canada's fifth gold medal of the Games and 10th overall.

"It's just perfect," said the 22-year-old Moir, who with Virtue finished with a score of 221.57 after the competition concluded with the free dance Monday night. "You couldn't write up a better story for the two of us."

The American duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White finished second at 215.74, even if some observers had trouble figuring out what the Canadians had done better, other than garner louder applause.

"Obviously this is their home ice and they are going to get a little louder reception, and that's expected," said White. "I'm sure it helped them. They've got a lot of experience and a lot of emotion going into this. But I wouldn't say it (the crowd) played a huge factor."

Maybe White seemed accepting of it because the four skaters have become good friends, training together in Detroit with Russian-born coach Marina Zueva.

"We knew it would come down to the two of us here at the Olympics," White said.

The Russian team of Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin won the bronze, staving off the American duo of Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, who had won silver at the 2006 Olympics.

Belbin said afterward the team might retire.

One of the longer-term implications of the night was the turning of the guard in the sport to the West.

The Soviet Union/Russia had won seven of the nine gold medals in ice dancing since its debut in the Olympics in 1976 — Great Britain and France had each won one.

Americans had won just two previous medals since ice dancing debuted and Canada had won just one previous medal, a bronze in 1988.

Asked later what Russia needs to do to get back on top, Shabalin said "take all the Russian coaches back to Russia."

Moir-Virtue and Davis-White entered the night 1-2 and held on to their spots.

Davis and White went first of the final group of five, and dancing to "The Phantom of the Opera" earned a score of 107.19, a season's best.

Davis skated despite having cut his head on a sink Monday morning when he tried to retrieve a dropped contact lens case.

"It looks worse than it is," he said.

Moir, who is 20, and Virtue skated third in the final group, the crowd roaring loudly as they took the ice. They did a serious routine to "Symphony No. 5" by Mahler, earning a score of 110.42, and the crowd of 11,667 ate up every second. The duo earned its highest segment score for interpretation/timing.

"To have that moment with the home crowd and each other, it's amazing," said Moir.

"We were so ready. But to go out there and actually do it, it feels amazing."

Domnina and Shabalin, the 2009 World Champions, garnered controversy with their original dance performance Sunday, featuring an Aboriginal theme that some found offensive. Their free dance Monday night didn't cause any waves, but the two couldn't make up any ground on the top two pairs.

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