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Virtue and Moir continue comeback by claiming seventh national title

Virtue, Moir claim national title No. 7

OTTAWA — Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir roared to their seventh national senior ice dance title Saturday, another victory in the veteran skaters' seamless comeback.

But in the moments after their elegant and intricate free dance that brought the TD Place Arena crowd to its feet in a moving ovation, Virtue positively blushed at the mention of "icon."

Do you see yourselves as Canadian icons in the sport, they were asked.

"It's so flattering to even hear you even ask that question," Virtue said. "But there is so much room for us to grow and so much room for improvement, which is why we're back and why we're doing this again. It's really exciting. I think it will take many many years after we're officially retired to realize kind of the impact we've had. But looking forward, we're just so excited to see where we can take this before 2018."

They skated their free dance to "Pilgrims on a Long Journey" by French-Canadian artist Coeur de pirate, and Sam Smith's acoustic version of "Latch," Virtue in an understated dusty rose dress, and Moir in black, and earned 203.15 points — a Canadian best-ever score.  

During the warmup, the announcer pointed out former Canadian ice dance stars among the crowd, such as Tracy Wilson and Barry and Louise Soper. The moment wasn't lost on Moir.

"It is kind of cool, it's just special to be among those names," Moir said. "I thought that was a nice touch, it was a classy touch. I don't know if we're icons but we definitely still are flattered to be mentioned among those names."

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., won silver with 192.73 points, while Toronto's Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., were third with 189.68, to clinch spots on the team for the world championships in Helsinki in March.

Virtue and Moir, gold medallists at the Vancouver Olympics, stepped away from competition after their silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Games. They've returned with a vengeance this season, going undefeated and penning their name to a world record score at the Grand Prix Final in December. Their score Saturday topped that, but isn't recognized as a world record because it's a domestic event.

This week's national championships was their 16th — including age group events — in their almost two decades together. Still, Moir insisted there was nothing old-hat about this one.

"It's different, different than I expected," Moir said. "A little bit more emotional for me, it's a really really tough field, our fresh perspective hopefully gives us an idea of just how important this really is. We're really thrilled, we had two great skates, we knew we'd have to to have the title.

"But for us to give our coaching staff their first Canadian national title is a huge honour for us, especially after their storied history in this country. That was kind of feeding into the pressure, so to accomplish what we were able to this week, we're very proud of ourselves."

Their coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon won the national ice dance title in the same rink in 2006, where Virtue and Moir won bronze.

Weaver and Poje's silver was their fifth at the national championships. The world silver and bronze medallists won gold in the two seasons Virtue and Moir were missing.

It's been a season of upheaval for the two, who moved from their training base in Detroit to Hackensack, N.J. They also spend considerable chunks of time training in Moscow.

"One thing we're learning in our skating right now is to let go," Weaver said. "Today our goal was to just let it go, let our hearts open up and send it out to the universe, and let the rest take care of itself. From the very beginning we let that happen and the rest is a domino event.

"It's easy to say, it's really hard to do, but that was a performance that we know we can do, we know we're capable of, and that we've been working toward."

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press