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Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their short dance program during the 2013 Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday, January 19, 2013. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their short dance program during the 2013 Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday, January 19, 2013. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Figure Skating

World champs Virtue, Moir lead after short dance at Canadian championships Add to ...

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir concentrated on unfurling a romantic story for a Canadian audience at the Hershey Centre on Saturday. They opened the performance with a hug, and ended it in passionate embrace, face to face, their lips every so close to a kiss. Or were they touching? Virtue and Moir want you to be left wondering.

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The masterful Canadian duo who captured Gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics surprised no one by skating out to a huge lead after the short dance Saturday at the Canadian National Figure Skating Championships. They had tinkered with the dance, which wasn’t quite up to their own extraordinarily high standards when they skated it at the Grand Prix Final, where they placed second behind their American training mates, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. On Saturday, Virtue and Moir skated it with a few changes, mostly to transitions they say, and they made it more playful, edited out some stops and starts. Most importantly, they strengthened the flow of the story they want to tell about the joy of dance and the evolution of a relationship.

Virtue and Moir scored 79.04 and are well on their way to a likely fifth Canadian senior title. Piper Gillis and Paul Poirier sit in second with 67.95, while Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam are third with 66.24. The teams are eyeing the three Canadian berths for the March World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont.

The duo wanted to make the short dance over in time for Worlds, cleaning up the elements and making it more simple for the judges to mark.

“With all the changes tonight, we were pretty nervous going into this skate,” said Moir, who . “It’s almost more nerve-wracking skating in your own country, where you want to be an example. We’ll still feel nervous tomorrow.”

Watching in the stands with heavy hearts was another team of serious Canadian ice dance contenders -- Kaitlyn Weaver and Andre Poje. Weaver broke her ankle in a recent freak accident in training, and was hobbling about on crutches, so they were unable to compete Saturday. But they haven’t given up hope of making their return in time to compete at the world championships.

Weaver is rehabbing long days in Toronto while Poje is trying to keep in shape by skating with a coach at their home club in Detroit. The Houston-born Weaver moved to Waterloo back in 2006 to skate with Poje and obtained her Canadian citizenship. They are six-time medalists in the Canadian nationals and won Four Continents in 2010.

“We are trying our very hardest to get back for worlds, but we can’t argue with the physiology and we have to be smart about it,” said Weaver.  “But preparing for next year is of the upmost importance.”

Men, women, and pairs are still to skate their long programs Saturday, and medals will be awarded. The free dance is Sunday.

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