Creative lift goosed

Canada’s top ice dancers weren’t taking any chances — so they brought the goose back down to earth a bit.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the compulsory dance portion in the ice dance competition at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships Thursday. They are one of Canada’s big medal hopes for the Olympics despite now having to alter one of their signature lifts.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the compulsory dance portion in the ice dance competition at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships Thursday. They are one of Canada’s big medal hopes for the Olympics despite now having to alter one of their signature lifts.

LONDON, Ont. — Canada’s top ice dancers weren’t taking any chances — so they brought the goose back down to earth a bit.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the leaders after Thursday’s compulsory dance at the Canadian figure skating championships, will unveil an altered version of their breathtaking lift they nicknamed the “goose” this week after learning the element they’ve been performing all season long might be viewed as illegal.

“If you can tell us what is illegal about it, we would love to know,” Moir said.

The innovative lift that is unique to the Canadian duo has the 20-year-old Virtue poised on one leg on the back of a crouched Moir, her arms outstretched. The goose always elicits gasps from fans at events with its distinctiveness and sheer difficulty.

“We love that move and got some good feedback on it, but we just kind of had to roll with the punches and it’s just not worth the risk in case we get to the Olympics and (officials) decide to count that as illegal,” said Virtue.

The grey area was the dismount. Virtue used to leap to the ice in what some judges viewed as a jump — a no-no in ice dancing. Now, she spills into Moir’s arms.

“It’s a little bit tough when Tessa and I work so hard to come up with lifts and kind of be original and it seems every time we do something cool, they clamp down on it,” Moir said. “But this kind of dismount is cool too.

“Bring it on! Bring on the rule changes!” Moir added, laughing.

The two scored 43.98 points to win the compulsory program Thursday with their “Tango Romantica.” Vanessa Crone of Aurora, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., were second with 37.27, while Kaitlyn Weaver of Toronto and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., where third with 36.87.

“We’re happy with the way it felt and how together we were,” Moir said. “A good start, it felt like today.”

The reigning world bronze medallists and one of Canada’s top hopes for a medal in the sport at the Olympics, have had a little more than a week to practise the new version of their goose lift — and will have just four more weeks of finetuning before they hit the ice at the Pacific Coliseum for the Games.

Plus, the new dismount is “scarier” than the old one, Moir said.

“And it’s not as fun,” Virtue added.

“We’re still getting used to it, and there might still be some changes after this competition, we’ll see, we have some ideas to play around with,” said Moir, 22. For Virtue and Moir, who train in Canton, Mich., this week’s event is a homecoming of sorts. Virtue is from London, while Moir grew up in nearby Ilderton. The Labatt Centre was their home ice for years before they moved south of the border.

Dozens of children from Moir’s elementary school were bussed to the downtown arena on Friday to cheer on the skaters.

Virtue said being back on Canadian soil makes the looming Vancouver Olympics suddenly seem so much more real.

“It’s really cool. It’s actually really interesting being back in Canada because when we’re training in Michigan, we don’t see much of that (hoopla),” Virtue said. “Here you can just tell the whole country is coming together and the ads are amazing and Canada is really getting hyped up.

“It’s kind of fun to be back here and I think as we get closer the nerves are turning into excitement because our training has been going so well and we’re feeling prepared, so we can’t wait. It will be really fun.”

Canada has two entries in ice dancing at the Olympics and perhaps the more interesting storyline in the event will be who will grab the team’s No. 2 spot for Vancouver.

Crone and Poirier are the reigning national silver medallists, but Weaver and Poje, who were third last year, have been closing the gap.