Virtue and Moir easily claimed their fifth national ice dance title at the Canadian figure skating championships Sunday, but were left troubled by their marks that included two violation point deductions.
The violations were for holding two lifts over the allowable time — and two points could be the difference between gold and silver when they meet American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the world championships in March.
"Marina (Zoueva, their coach) is going to be all over me now with a stopwatch," said Moir — they also use video to monitor lift length.
"(Ice dancing) is a bit fussy. And to be honest we were kind of excited because that was an awesome skate for us. There was no doubt in our minds. That's exactly what we want to do. Now the (violations) don't take away from it but it would be nice to have a big number to go home and work off of."
The two-time world champions and Olympic gold medallists scored 187.23 overall, and their dramatic and sultry "Carmen" free dance brought the capacity crowd of nearly 4,500 fans at the Hershey Centre to its feet.
Toronto's Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier won the silver with 169.81, while Nicole Orford of Burnaby, B.C., and Thomas Williams of Okotoks, Alta., finished third with 152.56.
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, who grew up just down the road in Ilderton, Ont., are gunning for their third world title when London hosts the championships in March.
They also received a surprisingly low score on one of their spins.
Their "Carmen" program this season is a marked departure from their ethereal gold-medal free dance that most fans remember them for at the Vancouver Olympics. Virtue, wearing a black dress with a neckline that plunges down to her navel, opens by running her hand down Moir's backside — the gesture prompted a wolf-whistle from someone in the crowd Sunday.
Virtue and Moir have never been afraid of taking risks, and despite not receiving the high marks they've been after so far this season, they're still committed to the program.
"We wouldn't be skating if we were just going to play it safe and do the same tricks every year," Moir said. "We're going after it. That'll start to pay off. It already has started to pay off.
"To lose the points — it is disheartening but it's easy too at the same time. At least we have them in black and white, on paper. I always find it a lot more difficult to go home and try and fix the program component scores (the artistic impression scores under the old judging system) where you have no idea where the judges' brains are at."
The Canadian championships was the qualifying event for the Four Continents, Feb. 6-11 in Osaka, Japan, plus part of the world championship team will be announced Monday.
The three ice dance medallists were named to the Four Continents team.
Patrick Chan will skip the Four Continents, so the three men competing there will be Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., Andrei Rogozine of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Elladj Balde of Pierrefonds, Que.
Kaetlyn Osmond, a 17-year-old from Marystown, N.L., leads the women's contingent at Four Continents. Amelie Lacoste of Delson, Que., and Julianne Seguin of Longueuil, Que., are the other two.
The three pairs teams are Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto, and Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask.
While Virtue and Moir were virtually a lock to win gold at the Hershey Centre, second and third could have gone to several different ice dance duos.
Perennial runners-up Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje didn't compete here as Weaver broke her ankle five weeks ago when she slid feet-first into the boards.
Canada is known for its ice dancers, and Gilles and Poirier said the depth in the discipline keeps them on their toes.
"The youth is really showing that they are kind of pushing to make the sport grow," Gilles said. "It's making us having to keep pushing the boundaries because if we stay safe, they're going to come up and take our spots."
Canada has a full three spots in ice dance at the world championships in London, Ont., and likely will at next year's Sochi Olympics as well.
"What we're all really hoping is that next year, everyone can be out there and everyone can skate their best and we can make it a super-dee-duper awesome Olympic trial event," Poirier said. "I think that's what the people who are watching want to see and that's what we all want to do, we want it to be the best competition possible."