Figure skating - Virtue and Moir cap comeback with third world title

By Pritha Sarkar
Figure Skating - ISU World Championships 2017 - Ice Dance Victory Ceremony - Helsinki, Finland - 1/4/17 - Gold medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada attend the ceremony. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

By Pritha Sarkar

HELSINKI (Reuters) - It was far from the perfect performance they are known for but a slip by Scott Moir could not prevent him and Tessa Virtue from winning a third ice dance title at the world figure skating championships on Saturday.

The 2010 Olympic champions, who had taken a two-year hiatus after settling for silver at the 2014 Sochi Games, had been expected to cap their comeback season with a flourish having earned world record scores in their short dance just 24 hours earlier.

Instead they had to rely on the 5.54 point lead they had taken into the free dance to hold off twice-world champions and French training partners Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron after Moir inexplicably lurched forward having tripped up on their circular step sequence.

The Canadians won the title with a total of 198.62 despite being beaten in the free dance by almost three points by Papadakis and Cizeron.

The result capped a memorable comeback season for the Canadians as they have won every one of the seven events they entered.

"To come away with the title is a huge accomplishment ... although it's not the way we thought we would win," Virtue told reporters.

"We've never had a 'perfect season' before ... so we try not to get carried away with that."

After such a glaring mistake, Moir was left rather bashful that they had won the gold, that too with a total that had eclipsed their previous all-time best.

With no jumps or throws performed in ice dance, it is a rare sight to see competitors slip up in the discipline.

On Saturday, however, Moir was not the only skater mouthing "sorry" to his partner.

A shellshocked Zachary Donahue closed his eyes in disbelief after he lost his footing and fell over during a side-by-side twizzle sequence with Madison Hubbell.

Unfortunately for the Americans, who had been lying third after the short dance, it proved to be a costly error as it lost them the bronze medal. In fact, it dropped them to ninth.

"I was surprised the moment I felt myself going down... it came out of nowhere. It was devastating," said Donahue.

Donahue and Hubbell's misfortune allowed last year's silver medallists, American brother-and-sister act Maia and Alex Shibutani, to finish third.

Papadakis and Cizeron's emotional free dance provided them with a much-needed boost after Cizeron required two stitches on his right hand on Friday.

There had been concerns that the 22-year-old, who had suffered a cut between two fingers as he grabbed his blade during a twizzle sequence, might struggle on Saturday to pull off the four challenging lifts featured in their routine.

Their world record score of 119.15 told its own story.

"This was one of the best free dances of our career and we got our best score ever. This is a nice personal victory for us," said Cizeron.

(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Toby Davis)