Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Canadian ice dance team that received positive grades of execution for a lift that can only be described as “face sitting on ice skates” won their second gold medal of these Olympics tonight and their third Olympic gold medal overall. They’re now the 2010 Olympic champions in the event and the 2014 runner-ups, as well as the only figure skaters with five Olympic medals. This win solidifies their standing as the greatest ice dance team of all time.
Virtue and Moir performed the final free skate of their competitive careers—they say they are retiring after the Olympics—to the done-to-death “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack and somehow made it feel fresh and exciting, turning in the best Olympic free skate of their careers to defeat Gabrielle Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France 206.07 to 205.28.
Yesterday during the short program, Papadakis experienced an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction and spent the entire performance trying to keep from exposing herself to a global television audience. Let’s just say that, given that small distraction, the French team didn’t skate with their usual abandon as a result.
That somewhat tentative skate set them back 1.74 points. But they also entered the Olympics as the world record holders, and if anyone could overcome that point deficit, it was Papadakis and Cizeron. They skated brilliantly tonight to “Moonlight Sonata” and won the free skate portion of the competition. But Virtue and Moir’s long program was more than good enough to hold them off. The point deficit Papadakis and Cizeron brought with them them from the short program was the deciding factor between gold and silver. An undone neck clasp might’ve made all the difference.
The fight for the gold medal in ice dancing was always going to come down to the French and the Canadians (who actually train together in the land of French Canadians, Montreal). The three American teams—Madison Chock and Evan Bates, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Maia and Alex Shibutani—were expected to be in a three-way fight for the bronze.
Chock and Bates were the first of the three to go and the first to go down. Skating in the second to last group to “Imagine,” they had a lovely program going until they took a hard fall on the ice.
Splats like that are pretty uncommon in ice dance. Unlike singles and pairs skating, which have jumps and lifts, bringing the potential for spectacular falls, the difficulty and risk in ice dancing is more subtle. Skaters usually don’t fall like Chock and Bates, the 2015 U.S. national champions, did.
Then, after the Shibutanis turned in a brilliant long program to Coldplay’s “Paradise,” reigning U.S. champions Hubbell and Donohue took to the ice. Their skate was going very well until the very last moments when Donohue put both his hands down on a knee spin. He played it off pretty well but it counted as a fall, and the duo received a mandatory one point penalty. Hubbell and Donohue ended up in fourth place.
The Shibutanis, the leading U.S. couple throughout most of the last four years, ended up with the bronze medal, making them the first brother-sister ice dance team to win an Olympic medal since Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won the silver in 1992.
This podium—Canada, France, and the United States—marks the first time ever that OAR or Russia or the Soviet Union or whatever we’re calling it hasn’t won a medal in Olympic ice dance competition.