SOCHI, Russia – It produced a silver medal, which in the face of dominant Russian opposition was probably the best that could be hoped for, but figure skating’s first-ever Olympic team competition will forever be overshadowed by a scandal that probably wasn’t.
Canada’s second place finish was an appropriate reward for a solid collective effort but Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and probably their teammates, deserved a whole lot better.
Not better as in a gold medal, but better than having their performance undermined by controversy, whether real or imagined or even the spawn of a mischievous plot.
Better than having every discussion about whether the fix was in, rather than the value of their performance on the ice.
Virtue and Moir were outscored by their close friends and greatest rivals, American pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White on Sunday, and it didn’t matter a bit.
The scoring formula of the team’s event meant that something extraordinary had to happen to dislodge Russia from top spot, Canada from second and the U.S. from third. Instead, things went pretty much to script – and that was how it finished.
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But for the Canadian pair it will matter in a week, when the ice dance event begins and Virtue and Moir try to defend their gold medal from Vancouver. Then it won’t just be nagging doubts about the judging, but a run of form that has seen Davis and White usurp them as the dominant team in the world.
“It is not at the top of our minds,” said Moir, when asked about the judging.
Moir clearly cared about the team event, and his shouts of encouragement for his teammates could be heard around the Iceberg Skating Palace.
“To do something as part of a team is pretty special,” he said. “It is different for us, to represent your country in this kind of format. It means a lot.”
With little to shoot for on the final night of teams, several teams made changes. In the Canadian camp, Patrick Chan was replaced by Kevin Reynolds, who acquitted himself well, coming in second behind home favorite and now four-time Olympic medalist Evgeni Plushenko to secure nine points for the team.
“That will give me confidence ahead of the individuals,” said Reynolds, who scored just 0.28 below Plushenko.
There was simply no stopping the Russians. Plushenko put the host nation on the brink of its first gold of the Games by finishing on top of the men’s free skate and 15-year-old starlet Julia Lipnitskaia finished the job with a rousing, crowd-pleasing performance. By the time the free dance began, it was already wrapped up.
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Russia ended well clear on 75 points, with Canada scoring 65 and the U.S. 60. The large gaps meant the event petered out into something of an anti-climax, despite being popular among television executives who craved three extra days of one of the Games’ most-watched events. And, of course, the locals.
It was just a shame it didn’t ever threaten to come down to the wire. A shame it didn’t really ignite the public imagination. And a shame that a troubling rumor that no amount of good skating could fix.
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- Ice Skating