MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir struck their final passionate pose Saturday, eyes locked, lips mere millimetres apart.
Canada's Olympic ice dance champions, who continue to push the sport's boundaries, easily won the short dance at the Canadian figure skating championship with a program the two say mirror their own partnership of almost 16 years.
The near-kiss delighted fans at the Hershey Centre and those who fell in love with the Canadians during their gold-medal run at the Vancouver Olympics.
"We weren't touching. . .are you sure, are you sure?" Moir said, playing with reporters afterward. "It was pretty close.
"We've got to save something for worlds."
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., scored 79.04 points for their program, which begins with a warm embrace and ends with the almost-kiss, set to "And The Waltz Goes On," composed by actor Sir Anthony Hopkins.
"We just sort of wanted it a little bit more playful, more simple, just about the joy of dance and sort of the ups and downs of a relationship," Virtue said. "Started with a hug, ends with a kiss."
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto scored 67.95 to sit second going into Sunday's free dance. Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., are third with 66.24.
The 23-year-old Virtue and Moir, 25, have long stated they want to leave the sport of ice dancing better for having had them in it.
They're known for pushing the envelope, but a few skating fans believe they've pushed it too far this season. Some fans apparently don't approve of their sexy free program to "Carmen."
Virtue and Moir admit to having received some hurtful comments about the program they'll skate Sunday that opens with Virtue running her hand provocatively up Moir's thigh.
"It's always tough to get criticism or comments on a program," Moir said. "To be honest sometimes it's just funny to get the personal comments because people think they know who you are from what you do out on the ice, but they really don't have a clue."
The program has drawn mostly rave reviews, as much for its level of difficulty -- and pure entertainment value -- as anything else.
"That's what's challenging and fun and motivating for us," Virtue said. "We don't want to skate to do the same program over and over again, even the same elements. So that was a big challenge for us this year was to have absolutely every element be different from what we've done. I think we can be proud of that."
Saturday's short dance was a bit of a departure even from the one they skated en route to winning gold at Skate Canada International back in October. They had to settle for silver behind American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the Grand Prix Final in December, and are intent on climbing back on top to claim their third world title in March in London, Ont.
They simplified the short dance, saying the story they had been attempting to portray wasn't coming across in the just under three minutes they have on the ice.
"That skate, with all the changes we made in December and again this year, to get that under our belts is a huge boost for our confidence and for that program specifically," Moir said.
This year's national championships is missing Canada's No. 2 dance duo -- Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. Weaver broke her ankle when she fell and slid feet-first into the boards five weeks ago.
The fourth-place finishers at last year's world championships were at the Hershey Centre to watch Saturday's short dance, Weaver on crutches and wearing a black walking cast adorned with a white flower. They haven't given up hope of competing at the world championships in March in London, Ont.
"We're trying our very hardest to get back in time," said Weaver, a Waterloo, Ont., native. "We can't argue with the physiology and just make sure we're smart about it and of course, preparing for next year (Sochi Olympics) is of utmost importance.
"But you can bet your bottom dollar we're going to try everything to get back. We're not giving up yet, that's for sure."
While Weaver is spending long days doing rehab in Toronto, Poje has kept training at their base in Detroit, with coach Angelika Krylova -- a two-time world champion -- acting as his partner.
"We've got polka patterns next week so we'll see how that goes," he joked. "It's fun/scary. For me, not for her."