Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are a step closer to ending their Olympic careers with gold medals around their necks.
The three-time world champions and ice dancing partners for two decades scored 83.67 points in Monday’s short dance to “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Hotel California,” and “Oye Como Va,” to sit first at the Pyeongchang Games. The score topped their own previous world mark of 82.68 set at Skate Canada International in October.
“That’s something we are really proud of,” said Moir. “That is every athlete’s goal here and to come out and do the best you can. And to do it on this stage, we’re really, really proud of that. We know our work isn’t over. It’s a long event. The biggest chunk is tomorrow and we have to stay on our game.”
French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron scored 81.93 for second.
Virtue, a 28-year-old from London, Ont., and the 30-year-old Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., won Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010. They lost to Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White four years later in Sochi, and then took two seasons off, returning in hopes of reclaiming gold.
Virtue and Moir, who will retire after Pyeongchang, were undefeated in their return until losing to Papadakis and Cizeron in the Grand Prix Final in December.
Canada’s other duos also qualified for the free dance, with Andrew Poje and Kaitlyn Weaver sitting eighth with 74.33 points and Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer earning 69.60 for ninth. The free dance is Tuesday.
“We tried to go there and really soak in the environment and the energy that is the Olympics,” said Poje. “It’s an amazing experience to be part of the team here and the great environment of all the athletes.”
Skier Cassie Sharpe is off to a promising start in the women’s halfpipe, taking the top spot in qualifying.
Sharpe, from Comox, B.C., scored 93.40 on her second run after a 93.00 on her first time down the halfpipe. In halfpipe, the best score from two runs counts.
“On my first run I just really wanted to land, that’s like my biggest thing for my confidence,” said Sharpe. “If I don’t land my first run, I have a hard time coming back from that, so I just really wanted to land my run, and then after that I was like ‘OK, I want to qualify first because I want to drop last in the final’.
“Because if you do well through that, you can drop last, and it’s your victory lap. It’s the best feeling in the world. So if I can get another one of those, I mean, I’m so excited.”
Calgary’s Rosalind Groenewoud qualified 11th with a score of 73.20. The top 12 competitors move on to Tuesday’s finals.
France’s Marie Martinod was second with 92.00 points and Brita Sigourney of the United States was third with 90.60 points.
In women’s big air, Laurie Blouin of Stoneham, Que., was fourth after the qualifying round. She scored 92.25 in her second qualifying run for the big air competition, landing a cab double underflip, the same trick she tried in her first run. In big air, the best score from two runs counts.
“I did one of my biggest tricks that I have 100 per cent on lock to make sure I make it through to final,” said Blouin. “For the final I have another big trick, so I’m going to have to work hard in practice.”
Blouin suffered a head injury when she fell during training for the women’s slopestyle on Feb. 9, but went on to win a silver medal in that event.
Spencer O’Brien of Courtenay, B.C., was 11th after earning 76.75 points in her second run. The top 12 competitors advance to Friday’s finals.
Austria’s Anna Gasser was first in qualifying with 98.00 points in her second run, followed up by Japan’s Yuka Fujimori (94.25) and Reira Iwabuchi (92.75).
In curling, the losing streak continues for Kevin Koe’s curling rink. The Calgary skip lost his third straight game Monday, a 9-7 decision against the U.S. in extra ends.
The loss drops Canada’s record to 4-3, but still has Koe in a playoff position. He’s tied for third with Britain.
The top four make the semifinals.
On the women’s side, Rachel Homan pulled her rink into playoff contention with an 8-3 win over Japan.
The Canadians have won three straight after beginning the tournament with three losses.
“We had to let go of the past and focus on the present, one game and one shot at the time,” said Homan of the turnaround. “Stay in the moment, but still enjoying our time here and our experience as Olympians. I’m really proud that we’re here representing Canada and we’re going to give it our all and leave it out there.
“If it’s good enough, awesome, and we can’t wait to hopefully make playoff. If it’s not good enough, the team comes out that plays better than us deserves to win.”
The win put Canada into a tie for fourth with China and Britain at 3-3.
Later Monday, Canada plays the team from Russia in the women’s hockey semifinals.