Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir bemoan coach's split allegiance
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 18, 2014 9:20AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 18, 2014 11:50PM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Marina Zoueva didn't accompany Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to the Canadian championships this season, attending the U.S. nationals held over the same week instead.
The coach didn't march with Canada in the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, marching with the U.S. team instead.
A day after the Canadian ice dancers won Olympic silver behind Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who are also coached by Zoueva, Virtue and Moir lamented the coach's split allegiances, admitting to times during this season when they wondered if staying in Canton, Mich., was even a good idea.
"There were moments for sure," Moir said. "We needed to take a step back and re-evaluate if our situation was ideal and if it was going to be the training atmosphere that got us on top of the podium.
"We were both pretty blunt with her in the fall and even leading up to the Olympics that we weren't happy and we felt that sometimes she wasn't in our corner. . .She's not in an easy position.
"She can't win no matter what. . .Well, she does win no matter what kind of," Moir added, laughing. "We had some odd things happen this year that haven't happened before. We expected that Marina would march with us and be on our team, like she was in Vancouver.
"It was a tough pill to swallow and so her not being at our national championships for the first time in our whole career was odd. But in 2010 the shoe was on the other foot. So. . .what can you do?"
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., edged the Americans for gold in Vancouver and then went on to win the 2010 and 2012 world championships.
But results started tipping in the Americans' favour and Virtue and Moir said they could sense early on this season that there had been a shift in momentum. The judges, it seemed, preferred the Americans over them.
"I guess styles or preferences. . . I'd be lying if I sat up here and said I didn't feel that in December and in the fall," Moir said.
They approached Zoueva "on countless occasions" to tell her they were unhappy, "and in no way were we going to be happy with a silver medal," Moir said.
"We tried everything, we felt a little bit like we were in quicksand because sometimes we try and compete with (Davis and White) and the styles are so different."
They praised Zoueva for how she handled the delicate situation. The coach listened, they said, and reshaped parts of their program.
In the end though, Davis and White defeated the Canadians -- who are expected to retire after the Games after 17 years together -- by almost five points Monday night.
"I'm fine. It's OK. I made them first and now they are second. It's OK, really," said Zoueva when asked about Virtue and Moir's comments.
It's common in figure skating for coaches and choreographers to work with athletes from different countries. Canadian Brian Orser coached men's gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Javier Fernandez -- one night they skated back to back, forcing a quick change for Orser from his grey Japan jacket to wine-coloured Spain coat.
Zoueva, a 57-year-old Moscow native, was asked after Sunday's short dance how she juggles the two teams.
"I keep both couples in my heart," she said. "They train together nine years, in the same group and on the same ice with each other since they were babies. They are like a generation, and they are still skating together and grew up and made the same progress and go on together."
The short dance prompted outrage from Canadian figure skating fans because of the large point spread -- 2.56 points -- that favoured the Americans."
"That's great to hear," Moir said. "Moments like this we kind of talk to the people whose opinions we really care about and we've heard a lot of that feedback and it does mean a lot."
There are pros and cons, Moir said, to the new judging system that was implemented in 2004 meant to weed out crooked judging after the Salt Lake Olympic scandal that initially robbed Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of gold.
"It's tough for Tessa and I to sit up here and criticize the system that we've been successful in. I personally feel like the judging system needs to keep evolving with the sport," Moir said. "Now that we're moving on to the next phase (of their career), maybe that will be something that we look at and the ISU will want our help or something."
A couple of hours after Monday's free dance, when Virtue was in doping control, Moir scooted onto the ice, pausing to kneel down and touch the Olympic rings before bending and kissing them.
He had done the same thing four years earlier in Vancouver.
When asked about the gesture, Moir said he and Virtue have been fortunate for the opportunities they've had.
"And the Olympics -- even this coaching thing that is going to make a couple headlines -- it gives you great lessons for life," Moir said. "I think the Olympics has been in my mind since I was a little boy, and it's kind of what I modelled my life around and to be able to come to two Games, I just needed to say bye I guess.
"It felt like a victory to me, it was a celebration."