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Moir, Virtue second after short dance, trail American rivals Davis and White

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their short dance in the ice dance competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics Sunday, February 16, 2014 in Sochi. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

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Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their short dance in the ice dance competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics Sunday, February 16, 2014 in Sochi. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

SOCHI, Russia - The moment the music ended, Scott Moir turned and skipped across the ice, dancing to his own impromptu bit of choreography. He scooped partner Tessa Virtue off her feet and buried his face in her shoulder.

While the moment was exactly what Moir and Virtue had been hoping for, the marks, however, were not.

Canada's defending Olympic ice dance champions finished second in the short dance Sunday at the Sochi Games after laying down a virtually flawless performance.

"That was more like it. I said to Tessa right after we finished, 'That's the skate we'd been having in practice,' and to do that on this stage, it felt pretty good," Moir said.

Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., scored 76.33 to finish 2.56 points behind American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Virtue and Moir's mark was more than a point below their season's best. The Americans' mark was a world short program record.

"We sat in the kiss-and-cry and kind of looked at each other and said 'It doesn't matter,' because that was the moment we wanted to have," Virtue said.

When the Americans completed their skate, they also embraced.

"We kept in the moment and neither of us was pushing it," White said. "We were out there enjoying each other's company.

"This was special for us."

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., were seventh with 65.93 points. Alexandra Paul of Midhurst, Ont., and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., were 18th with 55.91 points, which was good enough to move on to Monday's free dance.

Davis and White, silver medallists in Vancouver and the 2013 world champions, had beaten Virtue and Moir by nearly 10 points in the team event almost a week earlier — by far the largest margin of victory over the Canadians. Moir summed it up that night, saying: "We got smoked."

On Sunday, the Americans topped Canada's ice dance darlings on the technical mark, plus all five component scores (what were the artistic marks under the old scoring system).

The large margin of difference between the two teams sparked anger from Canadian skating fans, who voiced their outrage on Twitter.

"I thought T&S were better tonight. I just looked at the component scores closer. I don't agree with," three-time world champion Elvis Stojko tweeted.

". . . the point separation is way too much as well. T&S had that SD," Stojko added.

The two teams that train at the same rink in Canton, Mich., and share a coach in Russian Marina Zoueva, have won every major international title between them since the Vancouver Games. Davis and White have had the upper hand though for the past year.

One notable difference in the technical marks Sunday came in the Finnstep — a segment where all the dancers are required to do the same steps. Virtue and Moir uncharacteristically received only a Level 3 mark, with Level 4 being the best.

"It's probably very, very tiny, we couldn't see it, our eye didn't catch," Zoueva said on their Finnstep misstep. "For me, it was absolutely clean, absolutely nice.

"They did the best with this program that could be done, because it was truly dance, it was pleasure and joy and very strong from beginning to the end."

The marks didn't seem to diffuse the enthusiasm Virtue and Moir felt about the night. Before they took the ice for warmup, the two wrapped each other in a long embrace. When they took their starting position, Moir — ever the showman — winked, prompting a giggle from the fans at the Iceberg Skating Palace when it was captured on the giant screen.

"People were waving at me and I thought that was kind of funny," Moir explained. "The great thing about the Olympics Games is you get a lot of different fans in the venue and they were just happy I was looking in that direction.

"They thought I was going to wave back I think, so I had to give them a wink or something."

"I saw two of my brothers," Virtue added. "I got to look at them and they gave me a little nod. That was a nice boost."

The program was significantly stronger than it had been a week earlier in the team event, where Canada captured silver. Skating their foxtrot and Finnstep to music by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, Virtue in a glittering beaded black dress, and Moir in black slacks, suspenders and bow tie, the two were crisp and seamless from beginning to end.

When the music ended, the 26-year-old Moir gave an emphatic "Yes" before doing his gleeful dance.

"Yeah, I didn't get the memo on that one," Virtue, 24, said, laughing at Moir's dancing.

"I looked back at Tessa and she's like: 'You left me.' So I had to hug her," Moir said. "Sometimes excitement gets the best of me. I was staying in character."

The two-time world champions and six-time Canadian champions are expected to retire after Sochi, bringing the curtain down on a magnificent career that started 17 years ago when Virtue was seven and Moir was nine.

The two have been competing against Davis and White since 2001 and training with them since 2005.

Virtue said the rivalry isn't as palpable at the Games.

"Interestingly this is where it sort of dies for us, because it's easy for us to get in our zone," she said. "Unlike at home when we see Meryl and Charlie every single day, we've been on different practices, different warmup groups than them, so we haven't crossed paths."

Virtue and Moir said the almost week between the inaugural team event and their individual event seemed excruciatingly long.

"I've been twiddling my thumbs, I didn't think six days could last any longer than they did," Moir said. "This morning I woke up with a big smile on my face.

"It's funny because we're living the dream right now, we're in the Olympic village surrounded by a lot . . . of the sports stars, long-track speedskating and curling. . . that I've admired for years.

"But I was just miserable. I wanted my chance, I wanted to be out there, I wanted to be on the stage."

Weaver and Poje, fourth at the 2012 world championships and fifth last year, weren't thrilled with their marks that left them well out of the medal running.

"I think everyone is a little confused at this point, we felt like we skated great and that's a feeling that no one can take away from us," Weaver said, calling the technical mark "fishy."

The crowd groaned after their marks went up.

"Most importantly I think is we're fighters, that's why we're still here today and that's why we'll still be here (Monday)," Weaver said.

Added Poje: "There is some downfall to having ups and downs in the marks, but we gain personal experiences and personal joy from our own triumphs."

Russia or the former Soviet Union dominated Olympic ice dance for years, claiming seven titles since the discipline was added to the Olympic lineup in 1976.

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