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Gilles and Poirier finally win Canadian title after being 4-time runners-up

In ice dance, Gilles and Poirier had stood on the national figure skating podium seven times, but never on the top step.

But Saturday, after nearly a decade of skating in the large shadow of superstars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, they captured gold.

“It’s obviously something that we’ve worked really hard to get and it hasn’t come easily,” said Gilles. “But I think everything is about timing in life . . . we’re just both really proud of ourselves.”

Skating to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” — they chose a Canadian artist because the world championships are in Montreal — Gilles and Poirier scored 136.76 for their free dance, for a total score of 225.62, a Canadian record. While the scoring system has changed meaning scores aren’t truly comparable to those prior to the 2018-19 campaign, the duo was thrilled.

“It’s really big,” said Poirier, a native of Unionville, Ont. “It’s huge,” echoed Gilles, who was born in Illinois but calls Toronto home. “One judge gave us all 10s (for the component scores). All 10s!”

Gilles and Poirier, who are both 28, had five national silver medals, and two bronze. However the retirement of Virtue and Moir (who was in the audience Saturday), and the absence of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who are taking the season off and could also retire, left a huge door open.

“This season and especially this competition for us has really been about seizing the opportunity that we had a really good shot at winning this event, and really making a big statement,” Poirier said. “It was ours for the taking and we really had to embrace it. . .  performing as if we are champions.”

Their triumph comes a day after they had a major wardrobe malfunction in Friday’s short dance.

Gilles was looping under Poirier’s arm when the top of her braided crown of hair got caught for several seconds in a button on his shirt.

No such troubles Saturday. Dressed in caramel-coloured costumes covered in tiny mirrors, they skated a virtually flawless presentation, bringing the Paramount Fine Foods Centre crowd to its feet.

After their fifth-place finish at last month’s World Cup Final, they went back to the drawing board to “figure out the little bits that were killing the momentum of the piece,” Poirier said.

“I think we’ve opened up a few little bits of the program that I think has allowed us to skate with more freedom, and more abandon and more speed, which I think are things that leave a strong impression with judges and with the audience as well, just to be able to see the power behind everything,” he said.

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