Angry fans, Canadian press fired up over ice dance judging

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Angry fans, Canadian press fired up over ice dance judging
Angry fans, Canadian press fired up over ice dance judging

SOCHI, Russia – Meryl Davis and Charlie White's triumph in the Winter Olympics ice dance competition on Monday has sparked outrage over the treatment of silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and divided the figure skating community.

Accusations on social media and in the Canadian press that Virtue and Moir had been "robbed" started appearing as soon as their final scores flashed up at the Iceberg Skating Palace and quickly gathered steam.

"I personally do," said Canadian ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver when asked if she believed that Virtue and Moir were better overall than Davis and White. "For me Tessa and Scott have rewritten the rules of ice dance. They are the best team since [Jayne] Torvill and [Christopher] Dean."

[Related: U.S., Canada ice dance duos end career rivalry with touching moment]

Canadian writer Rosie DiManno raised the murky subject of a possible "fix" that was suggested in French newspaper L'Equipe early in the competition. According to the story, judges at the Games were planning to conspire to give Russia gold in the team competition, with Davis and White securing victory for the United States in return.

"The villainy of ice dancing knows no bounds," wrote DiManno in the Toronto Star. "If the fix is not in against Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, then I'm the Princess of Wales."

Virtue and Moir's coach Marina Zoueva, who also trains Davis and White, felt the Canadians had skated close to flawlessly. However, they were surprisingly marked down on a number of elements in both the short dance and free dance.

After the short program, Petri Kokko, a two-time Olympian for Finland and the inventor of one required move, the Finnstep, insisted Virtue and Moir had been more impressive despite being marked lower.

Ice dancing's highly subjective nature means its scoring system is always liable to come under heavy criticism. Weaver was speaking at the end of her free dance with Andrew Poje – they placed seventh – and before the top two dance tandems had skated.

Even at that stage, it was felt that Davis and White would claim gold if they skated a clean program, as judges have been more fond of their performances over several competitions leading up to the Olympics. However, Weaver insisted Virtue and Moir have a resonance with the crowd that Davis and White are unable to match.

[Photos: Olympic crush: Mikaela Shiffrin]

"[The Canadians] have created it into something more exciting," Weaver said of ice dance. "It is a little bit more acrobatic, it is more dangerous in a way, and yet all the while they are maintaining this dance quality and chemistry and romanticism.

"They bring emotion and they bring a relationship. You put a man and woman on the ice and as an audience member you want to see something happen, you want to see magic. That's what makes them so pertinent and relatable, and that's why I think people, their heart beats for them. It is beyond physical tricks or speed or ... all those things play a factor, but they will be remembered because of the feelings they give the audience."

Davis and White had their share of defenders, who felt that the way the finishing order was determined was entirely correct.

Italian Luca Lanotte, who placed sixth with Anna Cappellini, marveled at the physical power of White and says the Americans have taken ice dance to a new level of technical excellence.

"They changed this sport forever," Lanotte said. "They push this sport forward. They changed everything. [Charlie] is more of an athlete. He is very strong."

[Photos: Team USA's Sochi Games report card]

"They turned it in into a more acrobatic sport," Cappellini added. "They are machines, but in a good sense. They skate their hearts out and your jaw just drops and you are like, 'Where does that energy come from?' They try to push the limit of the man being really strong and the woman being really athletic and light."

The controversy has created an awkward situation given the strength of the friendship between the two teams, who practice together in Michigan. Both ice dance teams are fine representatives of their sport, which has often slipped behind individuals and even pairs figure skating in popularity.

Now, the Americans and Canadians each have an Olympic gold and silver after reversing their positions from Vancouver four years ago.

"Even though they are who they are," Great Britain's Penny Coomes said, "they don't have an air of arrogance about them."

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