Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir during the ice dancing short program at the Gangneung Ice Arena in South Korea. Photo: Reuters / Damir Sagolj
Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir during the ice dancing short program at the Gangneung Ice Arena in South Korea. Photo: Reuters / Damir Sagolj

They are the perfect couple. Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir made a sensational start in their bid to add another Winter Olympics medal to their haul by breaking their own ice dance short program world record on Monday.

The pair have tasted defeat just once since coming out of retirement in 2016 and are now favorites to take the gold after Tuesday’s free skating program.

“It feels great but even better than the world record is the feeling we had when we ended the program,” Virtue told a media conference.

Moir and Virtue are competing in their last Olympics and played a key role in Canada’s team trophy gold last week.

On Monday, they scored 83.67 points for their red-hot Latin-themed routine, breaking their previous record of 82.68.

In a fluent performance, they edged out French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, whose stellar skate had the audience clapping along to the Ed Sheeran soundtrack which accompanied their dance, by less than two points.

“We’re really pleased with that performance,” Virtue said. “On the world’s biggest stage when the pressure is mounting, it’s nice to be able to deliver like that.”

Virtue and Moir have two individual Olympic medals, gold from Vancouver in 2010 and silver in Sochi four years ago, as well as a 2014 team silver to go with last week’s gold.

These Olympics have been billed as a showdown between the Canadian and French pairs, with figure skating experts believing defeat for Virtue and Moir would signal a generational shift in the sport.

Last week, the Canadians said that after December’s stinging loss to Papadakis and Cizeron they went back and reworked their program.

But then, the rivalry has taken on an extra dimension as they share the same coaching staff and practice on the same rink in Canada.

“We’ve marked them as our rivals for a long time, from the start of this comeback,” Moir said. “[But] we have nothing but respect for these two.”

Vonn hits back at ‘social media’ snipers

American skier Lindsey Vonn insists she will continue to voice her political opinions despite an avalanche of social media abuse.

The 33-year-old has been a vocal critic of the United States President Donald Trump and said she would not visit the White House if she won an Olympic gold medal.

But when Vonn failed in her opening event, the Super-G on Saturday, a section on social media mocked her performance and even celebrated her failure.

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“That is what bullies want you to do,” she told the media after a training session for the women’s downhill on Wednesday. “They want to defeat you and I am not defeated, I am the same.

“I stand by my values and I am not going to back down. I may not be as vocal right now with my opinions but that doesn’t mean they have won – I haven’t changed my mind,” she added.

USA in the mood for gold

The United States women’s hockey team crushed Finland 5-0 in their semi-finals tie on Monday to remain on target for their first gold medal in 20 years.

Dani Camarensi scored twice, with Gigi Marvin, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Hilary Knight also finding the net.

It will be a third successive appearance in the gold medal match for the Americans, who have lost to fierce rivals Canada on each occasion.

The USA’s last gold medal in the women’s event came at Nagano in 1998.

“You know, I look at the shots on goal, and we maybe had 39 tonight,” Robb Stauber, the US coach, said. “The other nights we had 44 or 50 and we didn’t score as much. Our plan coming in was to repeat the good habits that we talked about earlier in the tournament.”

Doping case engulfs Russian team

Russian medalist Alexander Krushelnitsky has left the Winter Games on suspicion of doping, a team official revealed on Monday.

The scandal has shocked his teammates and could imperil Russia’s efforts to regain full Olympic status.

Krushelnitsky, who competes in curling, one of the least physically taxing sports, is suspected of testing positive for meldonium, a banned substance that increases blood flow and improves exercise capacity.

Asked for an update on the case, the Russian delegation spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said the athlete had surrendered his Games accreditation and left the Olympic village.

He later denied having referred to any individual by name. But Russian women’s curling coach Sergei Belanov replied to reporters’ questions about Krushelnitsky, dismissing the idea that a “young, clever man” would use drugs in a sport where they would produce “no benefits”.

“It’s stupid, but Alexander is not stupid, so I don’t believe it,” Belanov said.

Krushelnitsky won bronze with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova in mixed-doubles curling in Pyeongchang. He has not responded to a request for comment.

– with Reuters