Virtue & Moir finally snag elusive Grand Prix Final title
Canadian duo had qualified for 5 previous Finals, win in comeback year
Former Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the ice dance at the Grand Prix final on Saturday in Marseille, France, clinching the elusive title for the first time in their comeback year.
Leading overnight after the short program, the Canadians were in a relaxed mood, chatting and smiling as they came on the ice for the free skate.
They won comfortably, scoring a total of 197.22 points to beat French pair Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron by more than four points (192.81).
World silver medallists Maia and Alex Shibutani, who are brother and sister, were second overnight but dropped to third with 189.60.
Virtue and Moir, who are also two-time world champions, returned to competitive skating early this year after two years away.
They won gold at the 2010 Games on home ice in Vancouver, and took silver two years ago at the Sochi Games in Russia behind Americans Merly Davis and Charlie White.
But they had never won at the Final before, placing second in three consecutive years to Davis and White from 2012-14.
Taking a break and coming back refreshed, there was no stopping them this time.
As their free dance ended, they hugged in relief, perhaps confident in the knowledge that they had easily done enough.
"[We were] relieved for a couple of reasons. We never won it and people have reminded us that a couple of times this week," Moir said. "Our goal was just to be in the mix and it's special to win this title. This is not something we expected."
Raising the bar
The expectation level will go up now, however, as rivals know they are back in business.
"We have a huge target on our backs," Moir said. "Our workload just multiplied by 10."
As the scores came in, Moir dropped his head onto Virtue's shoulder and smiled.
To celebrate, they gleefully brandished the Canadian flag on a celebratory lap around the Palais Omnisports in Marseille.
"The crowd was fabulous and there was a great energy in the building," Virtue said.
The individual men and women were in action in the free later Saturday, with 17-year-old Russian Evgenia Medvedeva — who set a world record in the short program — and Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu favourite to defend their titles after dominating the short.
Hanyu is chasing a fourth straight Final win.
with files from Associated Press