GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AFP) – Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir smashed the short dance world record to take the lead in ice dance figure skating at the Olympics on Monday.
The Vancouver 2010 champions kept their French title rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at bay with a score of 83.67.
That bettered their own previous record of 82.68, and put them 1.64 points clear of their younger training partners Papadakis and Cizeron going into Tuesday’s free dance final.
Virtue said: “Better than setting the record was the feeling we had when the music ended, we were able to look at each other and take a moment and feel that pride, knowing that we had to have a strong skate today.”
“But we still have work to do tomorrow!”
Despite their show-stopping samba rhumba cha performance a third Olympic title is by no means in the bag for Scott and Moir as Papadakis and Cizeron could overtake them if they produce their best free dance.
The French duo, the first ice dancers to break the 200 points barrier last year, produced a best ever combined score at the European Championships in Moscow last month, suggesting an epic free dance battle is in store at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Tuesday.
After claiming gold on home ice in 2010 Virtue and Moir missed out on the title at Sochi four years ago, having to settle for silver.
They also picked up team silver in Russia, but turned that into gold when helping the Canadians to go one better in Pyeongchang last week.
The couple, who joined forces in 1997, took a two year time out after Sochi, changed coaches, and returned with a bang to beat Papadakis and Cizeron in last year’s world championships in Helsinki.
The French pair gained revenge in the Grand Prix finals in Japan in December and for many were favourites to emerge triumphant in South Korea.
Placed third after the short program were Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the Americans narrowly ahead of their compatriots, brother and sister Maia and Alex Shibutani.