Winning a world title at home before thousands of adoring hometown fans just became a lot trickier for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
Overjoyed with the energy at the Budweiser Gardens, but disappointed with a few meaningful points they left on the table, Virtue and Moir sit in second place with 73.87 points after the short dance at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. They trail American rivals and training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who set a new world record with 77.12 points. If the Canadian ice dancers want to overcome the deficit and repeat as world champs, they know their free dance to Carmen on Saturday must be top-notch.
"It's tricky for sure, we're further behind than we would like to be," said Virtue. "But I don't think it changes our job on Saturday. We'll attack the program. We have nothing to lose. We're confident in Carmen."
Then Moir piped in about their steamy and dramatic free dance to the famous opera music.
"We're about to see what Carmen has, that's for sure."
Davis and White were smooth and on point for the big score. They had recently topped the Canadians for gold at the Four Continents Championships and the ISU Grand Prix Final. The two teams have the same coach, train in the same rink in Canton, Michigan, and have been jockeying for gold at most every major event for the last four seasons, including the 2010 Olympics, where the Canadians skated to their unforgettable gold medal in Vancouver.
In London on Thursday, the fleet-footed Canadians were passionate, graceful and focused, Virtue debuting a new shimmering silver and white dress, Moir in classy grey tweed pants and a navy velvet jacket. Their fans erupted, especially the pockets of yellow-sweater-wearing supporters representing their home club in nearby Ilderton, Ont. However, the Canadians lost some costly points, namely on their synchronized twizzle and their side-by-side footwork. They had scored 75.12 with the same program at Four Continents last month.
Moir called it this favourite competition ever, because he said he didn't care about opinions of the judges nearly as much as he valued those of the cheering London fans. But the five-time Canadian champions admitted that the less than four-point gap is a big one.
"We would put the same pressure on ourselves whether this Worlds was in London, Tokyo or France," said Moir. "We would like to come out a little bit stronger than that, so where we're sitting now can be a little disappointing, but we're looking ahead. We're excited for Saturday."
Another Canadian team also excited the house on Thursday. An emotional Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, competing for the first time since the Houston-born Weaver broke her ankle in a freak training accident earlier this season and needed surgery, skated to a personal best 67.54. They are in sixth place, while Toronto's Piper Gilles and Uninoville's Paul Poirier are currently 15 (58.61).
Earlier Thursday, 17-year-old Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond thrilled the Canadian audience as well by positioning herself within striking distance of a medal by skating to fourth place in the ladies' short program. Kim Yu-Na topped the field, the Korean 2010 Olympic gold medalist who just returned from a two-year hiatus. Carolina Kostner of Italy is second, and Japan's Kanako Murakami is third. Japan's Mao Asada is sixth.
Friday's action will include the men's long program and Patrick Chan's quest for a third straight world title. Canadian pair Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, sitting second and poised for a medal after the short program, will perform their free skate.