Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir surged to the Olympic ice dancing lead as world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin’s controversial Aboriginal-themed original dance failed to impress in Vancouver.
A dramatic Spanish Flamenco allowed Virtue and Moir to overtake the Russians who had been leading after the compulsory dance, with the three-time Canadian champions scoring 68.41 points for the programme and 111.15 overall.
The Canadians opened up a 2.60-point advantage on US champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who moved into second with their crowd-pleasing Bollywood-themed Indian Dance.
The Americans scored 67.08 for the original dance and 108.55 overall
Routine toned down
The Russians toned down their controversial costumes which had offended Australian Aboriginal elders during the European championships.
They lightened their dark bodysuits, cut back on some of the white swirls, although they stuck with their red loin cloths and threw in a few more eucalyptus-style leaves.
But it didn’t go down well enough with the judges.
Domnina and Shabalin scored just 62.84 leaving them with an overall 106.60 and putting them 4.55 points behind the leaders in third position going into Monday’s free dance final.
“We heard some opinions about it being offensive, and we tried to do it lighter,” explained Shabalin.
“We changed it a little bit to make it more authentic and less theatrical.
“We changed our routine about five to 10 percent, but we always do this after every competition to try and improve.
“Our whole intention when we chose this music was to be fair and friendly, we didn’t want to offend anyone.”
He said they had made the changes after their coach Natalia Linichuk did a bit more research.
“Natalia had a lot of research with people who know this culture. We did big research in the beginning of the season.”
He added: “You can’t be 100 percent authentic.”
Canada’s bid for gold
Virtue was delighted with their performance as they bid for Canada’s first ice dancing gold.
“It felt amazing,” said Virtue. “We just stayed in the moment every step. We were actually quite relaxed. We feel like all of Canada is on the ice with us.”
Moir said: “We do like our chances. Meryl and Charlie and us – we’re part of the new ice dance system, and that’s the way it should be.”
Olympic silver medallists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto are in fourth position.
Russia look set to leave Vancouver without a figure skating title for the first time in 40 years with Domnina and Shabalin having a large gap to make up going into the final round of three.
Teams from Russia or the former Soviet Union have won all but two of the Olympic ice dancing titles since it was introduced to the Olympics in 1976.