On a day of amazing free dances, we got two of the greatest free dances in Olympic history - one by legends who have set a new standard for Olympic figure skating achievements and the other by proto-legends who will use this experience to fuel their next four years of potential dominance. It was a day that will live on as one of the most thrilling days of ice dance.
Results/videos: Short dance | Free dance
We all knew coming in that Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir would become the first figure skaters to win five Olympic medals. What some didn't expect was for them to win their third gold (two individual, one team), especially given the momentum that Gabriella Papadakis/Cizeron came in with.
There was a bit of deja vu to be had. Much like in Sochi, Virtue/Moir had come into the Olympics as somewhat underdogs. In 2014, Meryl Davis/Charlie White squarely had the momentum on their side, and Virtue/Moir just couldn't stop the train. It led to them not giving the performances that had really defined their careers up to that point. But it was completely different here in PyeongChang - regardless of how Papadakis/Cizeron skated, Virtue/Moir put down two of their best ever.
And today's free dance was perhaps even more stunning given that this program has not had the same traction that past free dances have had for them. But what they did so well here was to grab the energy from the crowd and perform the daylights out of that program. Everything was done right to the edge, and they could not have created that moment without it.
With two individual Olympic titles in hand, eight years apart, Virtue/Moir can go out knowing that they have been at the top of their game in a time when ice dance has never been stronger. They wouldn't confirm retirement ("the r-word," as Moir put it) in the hours after their win, but they know that they have changed the face of ice dance and pushed the sport forward more than anyone over the past decade.
History just beginning
On the other side of the coin were Papadakis/Cizeron, the slight favorites coming into the Games. Their free dance was done to perfection, and their scores reflected just how good they were. And even though the audience didn't have the same reaction to their program the way the had to the bombast of Virtue/Moir's, the judges ate it up.
But they needed a mistake from Virtue/Moir after the short dance costume malfunction for them to get that gold. Looking back at that short dance, where Papadakis' hook on her dress came undone just seconds into it, it was incredible that she was able to keep it together and skate the way that she did. The distraction took a toll on her concentration, and you could see it in her face for a lot of that program, and it took a toll on one step sequence that got marked a level 3 because their steps weren't completely clean. Yet they stayed in contention, thanks in part to component marks that were just a tad too high based on what they did in that program.
Today's free dance was a complete turnaround, and those marks that they got were every bit deserved and reflective of their performance. There's nothing more motivating than knowing that you have more room to grow - and this experience, and this Olympic silver, will just make them more driven to dominate over the next four years.