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U.S. pair has edge over Canadian rivals

SOCHI, Russia – The top two ice dance teams in the world share coaches, choreographers and a rink in Canton, Mich. Separating them in competition often takes nit-picking because both are enormously skilled in the figure skating discipline where subjectivity clearly plays the biggest part.

Lately, though, reigning world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States have been clearly superior to reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada in the judges’ minds. Davis and White have not lost to their training partners in their last five meetings over the past two seasons.

That was the case again Sunday in the short dance phase of the Olympic competition at the Iceberg Sports Arena.

Davis and White posted a world-record score of 78.89 points to take a lead of 2.56 over Virtue and Moir going into today’s free dance.

If the International Skating Union had the slightest public relations sense, it would bring out a judge to help everyone understand the reasons for the difference in those scores, since ice dancing marks are the least comprehensible of any in skating.

An apparent tiny mistake in one of two required short dance sequences accounted for more than one-third of the point difference.

Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov are third, 3.29 behind the Canadians. The other U.S. teams – Madison Chock-Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani – were eighth and ninth, respectively.

After the short program, Moir sounded resigned to the idea that he and Virtue likely will not become the second team with two Olympic ice dance titles, following 1994-98 champions Oksana Grishuk and Evgeny Platov of Russia.

“There are a lot more elements in the free program, so it’s doable, but we know the team we are sitting beside is going to bring a great skate,” Moir said.