Virtue-Moir win ice dance at worlds

JEROME PUGMIRE AP Sports Writer Published:

NICE, France (AP) -- Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada won the world figure skating title Thursday, reversing last year's result by beating defending champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S.

Virtue and Moir, who captured the worlds and Olympic crown two years ago, took the free dance after finishing first in Wednesday's short dance.

The Canadians defeated the Americans for the second straight event, this time by a score of 182.65 points to 178.62. Virtue and Moir also won at last month's Four Continents against their rivals and close friends.

"The feeling is definitely a little bit different than it was last year," Davis said. "Last year, we felt a lot of pressure to make history with the opportunity to become the first American world ice dance champions. This year, coming in, we wanted to put down two really great performances and make a statement, and I think we did that."

Davis and White delivered an inspirational free program to the searing sound of Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" that had the crowd on its feet. But they had to settle for the silver medal, with Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France winning the bronze.

"We feel like we skated our hearts out. We took what we did in the short dance into today and left it all on the ice," White said. "The music is crowd pleasing, so then we get into it and it magnifies it."

Earlier, Alena Leonova of Russia nailed all her jumps to win the women's short program ahead of Japanese teenager Kanako Murakami and European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy. The American women were almost certain to not win a medal -- Ashley Wagner was eighth and Alissa Czisny was in tears after finishing 16th.

This is the weakest women's field in a non-Olympic year in a long time. Neither Miki Ando of Japan nor Olympic champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea, last year's gold and silver medalists, is competing.

Leonova, wearing a pirate outfit, drew a standing ovation and had a score of 64.61, with Murakami at 62.67 and Kostner at 61. The free program is Saturday.

"I performed my program 100 percent today," Leonova said through a translator. "More than the first place, I'm pleased I completed all my jumps completely. It was my best performance of the season and probably of my life."

Two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan was fourth after finishing sixth last year. On her triple axel, she fell backward on her landing.

After Asada's fall, Leonova immediately followed and roused the crowd with an energetic routine to the punchy rhythm of "Sirens" from the blockbuster film "Pirates of the Caribbean." She finished with a throat-slitting gesture that would have impressed the most bloodthirsty of pirates before leaning her head back and taking in the roaring applause.

"From the very beginning, when we were putting this program together I was trying to put a lot of emotion into it. Today I landed everything and I am very pleased it came across well," said Leonova, who was fourth at last year's worlds. "I did feel the support of the crowd and I heard them screaming and cheering. There were a lot of Russian fans in the crowd and it was nice to have that."

Kostner, the bronze medalist last year, felt she could have done better.

"I have mixed feelings about my program," she said. "I had a mistake on a jump that made me quite angry, a jump I don't normally have problems with."

The American women's six-year medal drought, their longest since the 1960s, will probably extend to another year.

"I don't know what happened out there," said Czisny, who fell on her first two jumps, and then into the arms of her coach afterward. "I'm disappointed. It didn't go quite how I wanted it to. I felt good going into the program."

Wagner tried a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, but stumbled backward and almost fell. She had been excellent heading into the worlds, winning her first national championship and then beating Asada at Four Continents.

"It was a really long waiting period (after the warmup) and that's why I struggled with the triple flip," Wagner said.