Canada doubled its medal count on Sunday afternoon at Skate Canada International in ice dancing, the ethereal figure skating discipline that is now one of the country's trump cards.
The key? Perhaps figuring out the rather new uplifting rule in ice dancing. Last season, the International Skating Union ruled that audiences should not be tortured any more with mournful, cheerless, funereal, slow music. No more bursting-into-tears or dying-on-the-ice routines for the ISU judges. Better to leave the ice with sunny faces than furrowed brows.
Along with that, there has to be a change of tempo in the music. The new rules would render illegal the unforgettable Bolero routine done by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean of Britain at the 1984 Olympics.
Olympic champions Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of nearby Ilderton, Ont., followed the rule to the letter and won the gold medal in ice dancing Sunday by a landslide, winning by 22.35 points over silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Kitchener, Ont.
On Saturday, Patrick Chan gritted his way through a error-marred routine to win the gold medal, while Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., won their first Grand Prix series medal together – a bronze – in the pairs event.
Judges are very serious about enforcing the uplifting and the tempo rules. They docked two points from young Russian team Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko, who skated to Romance from The Snowstorm for a "music restriction violation." They finished a close fifth of seven teams. Had they changed the tempo to something more upbeat for, say, 30 seconds, they would have been in the clear.
Virtue and Moir didn't just win, they completely and totally dominated the competition with their Funny Face routine, taken from the movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. Not only does it fit the rules, but the music fits Virtue's character. She has been a long-time fan of Hepburn.
Choreographer Marina Zoueva said she presented them with a routine that is totally different from anything the Olympic champions have done before. It comes with a different kind of movement, all of it dance-like.
The program, said Zoueva, totally fits with the ISU rules. "It's 100-per-cent uplifting," she said. "That's why marks so high, because the program totally fits rules."
Zoueva said she likes the ISU rules, because no matter what, she can still make beautiful, creative programs despite the restrictions.
However, Virtue wishes there were no restrictions on music. "I think it's a little bit limiting," she said. "Because there is so much creativity you can show on the ice and so many different emotions and so many different story lines."
Under the rule in existence now, all of the best programs in history would be illegal today, she said. "That's pretty sad," Virtue added. "I understand why the rule is here, but I hope we can diversify that."
Weaver said she and her partner were a little concerned about their music choice – Je Suis Malade – because of the uplifting rule. But she said they took a contemporary direction to the piece.
"I think our program is uplifting in the passion and the emotion of the program and I think that can be uplifting in itself. We can tap into something deeper which is what everyone can feel."
Weaver and Poje received a noisy, standing ovation for their winsome, romantic routine, as did Virtue and Moir.
Moir said the flood of new rules dancers receive each year from the ISU frustrates them, but there's a reason why they make the rules.
"Our job is to take the rules and create within them. For us, that is creativity," he said. "We see it as a challenge."
Virtue and Moir won with 178.34 points, just edging last week's score of their archrivals and training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White by .27 points. Davis and White won Skate America last week with 178.07.
However, the American dancers had the edge over Virtue and Moir in the free dance, with Davis and White earning 107.74 to the Canadians' 106.73.
"Different panel, different judges, different countries," Moir said. "We don't really compare points to points. We know that the matchup is coming in December [at the Grand Prix series final in Quebec City] We're not concerned."