Four years ago, Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir became one of the youngest ice dance teams and first Canadian team to win Olympic gold, when they ascended to the top spot in Vancouver. Standing beside them, one step down and winning silver, were their friends and training mates, Meryl Davis & Charlie White of the United States. Fast forward to 2014, and the teams have swapped places. Davis & White have won the first Olympic gold medal for the United States in ice dancing, and Virtue & Moir took home the silver.
Skating last, Davis & White skated their “Scheherazade” free dance with precision, flying across the ice through their twizzles and step sequences. At times, the performance seemed reserved and not as free as it has been in other events this season, but the final minute was a release of energy, as the expression increased right up until the final pose.
Virtue & Moir skated second in the final group. Their free dance to “The Seasons” and “Waltz in Concerto No. 2” by Alexander Glazunov and “Piano Concerto in F” by Alexander Scriabin showcased their deep edges and quality of skating. Their performance appeared sincere and emotional, and the program made more of an impact than it has is prior outings this season.
Virtue & Moir set a world record free dance score of 114.46, but the record did not last long, because Davis & White ended up winning the free dance by 1.97 points. They increased their overall event lead to 4.53 points en route to posting a new world record-breaking total score of 195.52. The Canadians’ score of 190.99 was a new personal best for them. Both teams earned all level 4s and, therefore, started with the same base value, so the it was the difference in GOEs and PCS that pushed the Americans over the top.
In 1976, ice dancing was added to the Olympics. Since then, Soviet and Russian teams have always been on the podium, winning most of the Olympic contests until 2006. Heading into these games, the bronze medal race was as hot of a topic as the gold medal race. Included in this conversation was which Russian team would get the biggest push, out of 2014 World bronze medalists Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev or Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, who have never finished higher than fifth at the World Championships. Russia continued its streak of Olympic ice dance podium finishes, courtesy of Ilinykh & Katsalapov. The young Russians’ performance to “Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky received level 4 on all elements, except for their circular steps, which received level 3. They also received many +2 and +3 GOEs on their lifts. The audience was enthusiastically behind them throughout their program, and Ilinykh appeared overwhelmed by emotion at the end. Since winning the World junior title in 2010, the team had not been able to live up to their obvious potential—until now, on the sport’s biggest stage.
France’s Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat finished fourth in the free dance and overall. The French are storytellers and brought to life the novel “Le Petit Prince,” using a variety of music selections. Throughout the performance, their character portrayal continued to evolve until the end, and they appeared to leave their hearts and emotions on the ice. Except for their circular step sequence (level 3), they received level 4 for all of their executed elements. Even though their base values were the same, their free dance score was exactly 6 points behind that of Ilinykh & Katsalapov, due to lower GOEs and PCS scores two points lower than those of the Russians. They were also one of four teams to receive an extended lift deduction. Pechalat & Bourzat were heartbroken to finish off the podium, and they certainly skated as well as they could have. In the end, it came down to a matter of preference by the judging panel.
Bobrova & Soloviev finished sixth in the free dance, but were able to hold on to fifth place overall. Prior to the Olympics, the team ditched their bird-themed free dance to “The Four Seasons” and “Lacrimosa” in favor of returning to last year’s madness-themed program to “Man with a Harmonica” and “Tosca.” They skated directly after Ilinykh & Katsalapov, and though they received a new personal best of 102.95, they seemed to be fighting through the elements rather than having a seamless performance. The home audience was giving them tremendous support throughout the program, but Bobrova was in tears at the conclusion of their skate.
Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca LaNotte finished seventh in the free dance, but held onto sixth place. Skating to the overture from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, they finished just 1.03 behind Bobrova & Soloviev, beating them on the technical mark (higher twizzle level), but losing on the PCS. Their expression was charming, and they have a strong connection to each other within their performance.
Skating last in the penultimate group, Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje of Canada finished fifth in the free dance, but were unable to make up enough ground to move up from seventh overall. They received level 4 on their lifts, spin, and twizzles, but both footwork sequences received level 3. Their performance to music from “Maria de Buenos Aires,” a tango opera by Astor Piazzolla, was skated with authentic and fiery expression. Each year, the team stretches their technical and artistic capabilities by branching out into a different genre, and this program was no exception.
Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates (eighth) and Maia & Alex Shibutani (ninth), and Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland of Great Britain (10th) rounded out the top 10.
One standout performance from beyond the top ten belonged to Sara Hurtado & Adrian Diaz of Spain (pictured, right). They are Spain’s first competitive ice dance team and, obviously, their first Olympic entry in the dance event. They were the final qualifiers for the field of 24 dancers, but their improvement in just the past few months has been remarkable. They capped off their experience in Sochi with a stunning free dance to music from “Surviving Picasso.” They finished 13th, six places higher than their World Championships placements in 2012 and 2013.
As a whole, the free dance performances were enjoyable and there were only a few visible costly errors. Along with Pechalat & Bourzat, the Shibutanis, Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi (Germany) and Tanja Kolbe & Stefano Caruso (Germany) were the only teams to receive a deduction (for an extended lift).
Flowers were presented after the free dance so the medal-winning teams could celebrate their victories on Olympic ice, but medals were presented Tuesday night at the medals plaza. While the medals plaza has been a feature at previous Olympic Games, 2014 marks the first time that figure skating medals were not presented in the arena immediately after the free programs.