Double gold would be perfect ending to 17-year career for Virtue, Moir
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada compete in the ice dance short program at Skate Canada International in Saint John, N.B. on Friday, Oct.25, 2013. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 7, 2014 1:58AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 7, 2014 2:00AM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- They joke about ballroom dancing together. They talk about babysitting each other's kids.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir often wonder what life will be like when, after spending nearly every day of the last 17 years together at the rink, they go their separate ways.
That day is coming soon. The Olympic ice dance champions are expected to retire after these Games, closing the book on one of Canada's most successful sports stories.
For them, Moir says, Sochi is about repeating as champions, and a whole lot more.
"This is a moment in our career we'll never forget, and we want it to be perfect just for us," the 26-year-old said at Canada's ice dance news conference Thursday.
"We're here at another Games and we want to win, but it's about having our moment on the ice, and this (free dance) program is about our relationship, and our career, and it's a lot more personal than just going out and winning an Olympic gold medal."
Virtue and Moir, who lead a strong 17-member Canadian figure skating team in Sochi, have the chance at collecting two more gold medals, with the addition of the new team event.
That would be the perfect ending to a partnership that began when Virtue was just seven, and Moir, nine.
This season's free dance, set to Russian composer Alexander Glasunov's "The Seasons," is meant to tell the story of their career, with the final seconds representing the Sochi Games.
"It tells the ups and downs of a young boy and a young girl working together and going through all these different ups and downs," Moir said.
"It's kind of an interesting partnership that we have, friendship, whatever you want to call it, we don't really know what to call it. But we know that it's special and we're celebrating that."
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, who grew up 20 kilometres down the road in Aileron, said right now they're not thinking beyond Feb. 17, the day of their individual free dance.
"It's going to be an adjustment I think for sure," Moir said, about parting ways with Virtue.
"But I'm sure there are days (at practice) that Tessa imagines I'm not there," he added laughing. "We're done on the 17th, so I know (injured Canadian hockey forward Steven) Stamkos isn't coming so maybe Babsy (coach Mike Babcock) will throw me in. I'm ready. I brought my gear."
The two-time world champions aren't shy about saying their goal is to win gold, a bold statement that might have once seemed un-Canadian.
"When we said it before 2010, it's almost as if we heard people. . . gasp. They weren't expecting it," Moir said. "For me, when you have to act Canadian is post-competition. Either you win or you lose with grace, that's Canadian to me."
They were asked if they see consider themselves underdogs at these Games, having lost to American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the world championships last spring and the Grand Prix Final in December.
The Canadians say they're at a different level than they were a few months ago, and are peaking at the right time.
"There's no denying that Meryl and Charlie are always ready, and the're ready early in the season, I think that's a tribute to their training, and they're strong competitors," Virtue said.
"The last couple of meetings haven't gone our way, but. . . we're a different team than we even were in December," Moir said. "We feel like we're ready to take this one, we feel it's our Games to have, and we're here to win.
"The interesting thing is I feel like it's not just a collaboration of our year, it's kind of a collaboration of our career coming together."
The choice of Russian music for their free dance was by design, a tip of the hat not just to their Russian coach Marina Zoueva, but to a country that was instrumental in developing their sport.
"We're the luckiest kids in the world. We had our home Games, and then we had a Russian Games," Moir said. "Obviously people know that Russia has been a power especially since around the '70s, but they've really brought ice dance into the Games, they were champions for years."
Soviet skaters won gold and silver in 1976 when ice dancing made its Olympic debut, and have claimed six Olympic titles since then.
"There was a lot of talk about this being 'enemy territory,"' Virtue said. "We don't feel that in the least. We're so connected to Russia, probably in part because of Marina's influence on our career."
Zoueva also coaches Davis and White at their shared training rink in Canton, Mich.
Virtue and Moir were the first North Americans to win Olympic ice dance gold in Vancouver, and since then the two North American teams have had a stranglehold on the sport. Canada has another dance team in Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., who were fourth at the world championships last March.
Virtue and Moir are also a big reason why Canada is No. 1 ranked in the team event, which was to begin Thursday night, and combines the scores of one entry each in men's, women's, pairs and dance.
Moir, who is the captain of the Canadian team (Virtue) is the assistant, said there is plenty at stake in the new event that some people might overlook.
"It's an Olympic gold medal, and we're here to fight for that and you have to take every single chance that you can and we feel really lucky we're able to go at two Olympic medals in one Games. In our sport, that's unheard of," Moir said.
Virtue and Moir said they've envied the short-track speedskaters who they usually share a rink with at Olympic Games. It seems every second day, Moir said, the short-trackers are going after a medal.
"I'd like to be Michael Phelps and come and get eight," he added. "That's an amazing opportunity to go after two medals. . . we are a little envious of (other athletes with more medal opportunities), and I guess that's why we're so excited about this extra event."
Virtue and Moir are expected to skate both the short and the long programs in the team event, making for a Games that will be double the work they did in Vancouver.
They're not worried.
As Virtue put it: "What we do in practice is about 100 times harder than what we're facing here these next couple weeks."
Canada's third ice dance entry in Sochi is Alexandra Paul of Midhurst, Ont., and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont.