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Figure skating: Virtue and Moir close in on third world title

By Pritha Sarkar

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A surge of energy coursing through their bodies helped Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir produce an electrifying short dance as the Canadians made a winning comeback with a record score at the world figure skating championships on Friday.

Back at the global meet for the first time since 2013, the 2010 Olympic champions proved they had lost none of the sultry moves or dazzling footwork that had earned them two world titles during Act I of their career.

On Friday, they broke their own world record by earning 82.43 points for their sassy, hip-swinging routine performed to a medley of Prince songs.

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A slight loss of synchronization on their side-by-side twizzles was the only flaw but even that blip could not prevent them from opening up an almost unbeatable lead of 5.54 points over twice-world champions and French training partners Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

To the delight of the crowd at Helsinki's Hartwell Arena, they finished their display to "Kiss" and "Purple Rain" with the latest reincarnation of their show-stopping 'goose lift'.

As Moir glided sideways in a crouched spread-eagle position, Virtue, clad in a shimmering purple and black catsuit, climbed on to his thighs before arching backwards with outstretched arms.

It was a performance that left the fans cheering and stamping their feet in approval.

"I felt really electrocuted, there was so much energy going through my body," a beaming Moir, who took a two-year break from the sport following their silver-medal performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, told reporters.

Virtue, who has been unbeatable this season, added: "Part of this comeback was to skate artistically in a way that we feel represents the place we are in right now as artists. The best part of that performance was knowing that we couldn't have done more on the ice."

That was not a sentiment shared by their French rivals, who ended the day with blood on their hands - literally.

Cizeron suffered a cut between two fingers as he grabbed his blade during their twizzle sequence. Visibly grimacing in pain, he missed a rotation and the judges punished the omission by downgrading the skill to a level three.

The 22-year-old later played down the mishap by declaring: "I got two stitches but I’m fine."

However, the injury clouds their medal hopes on Saturday as it could prevent Cizeron from pulling off the challenging elements, including lifts, in their free dance cleanly.

With only 0.64 of a point separating Papadakis and Cizeron from fourth-placed Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates, one false move could leave the French out of the top three.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue completed a promising day for the Americans by finishing third with 76.53.

(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar; editing by Mark Heinrich)