Virtue and Moir: The most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 20, 2018 7:37AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 20, 2018 7:56AM EST
GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of -- Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir sang along to parts of their breathtaking "Moulin Rouge" program as they whirled around the Olympic ice.
Caught up in the magnificent moment, they were alone in their own world. And Canada went along for the ride.
A partnership 20 years in the making, Virtue and Moir penned their own thrilling ending by capturing gold at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday, and becoming the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history.
They weren't quite ready to say goodbye in the moments after claiming the crown, saying they want to wait "until the dust settles" before announcing their retirement. But when they do, they'll leave a trail of crushed hearts and a gaping hole in the sport in Canada.
Will there ever be another Virtue and Moir?
"Probably it will take a long time," said coach Patrice Lauzon. "They're a once-in-a-generation talent, that you don't see often.
"And it's something to be that good and to be able to keep at it for that long . . . to be at the top for three Olympics is quite amazing."
"Spectacular," added Marie-France Dubreuil, who co-coaches Virtue and Moir with Lauzon, her husband.
Dressed in a skin-tight backless red dress with a glamorous high jewelled neck, Virtue played the role of Nicole Kidman. Moir, in a mostly-sheer back shirt, made a great love-struck Ewan McGregor. And together they dazzled the Gangneung Ice Arena crowd with their passionate skate to "Moulin Rouge," a movie they'd seen together when Virtue was just 11 and Moir was 13. They had wanted to skate to it ever since.
Their personal-best score of 122.40 for the free skate, and a world-record combined score of 206.07 points, carried them past French rivals and silver medallists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (205.28).
The moment they received their scores, Moir let out a roar, lifting Virtue off her feet.
And social media exploded.
In the aftermath, six of the top-10 Twitter trends in Canada were about the ice dancers.
"Virtue/Moir -- their skate will be an iconic Olympic skating moment," tweeted skating legend Dick Button, the men's Olympic gold medallist in 1948 and '52.
The gold was their fifth career Olympic medal, breaking a tie with Russia's Evgeni Plushenko and Sweden's Gillis Grafstrom for the most in figure skating at the Winter Games, and their three golds matched the record shared by Grafstrom, Sonja Henie of Norway and Irina Rodnina of the Soviet Union. The Canadians also have two silvers.
Kaitlyn Weaver of Toronto and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., were seventh Tuesday, one spot ahead of Piper Gilles of Toronto and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont.
Since they first melted hearts when they won gold at the Vancouver Olympics eight years ago, Virtue and Moir have pushed the ice dance envelope with their athleticism and intricate lifts and footwork. And they've made sensuality practically a required element in the sometimes stuffy world of ice dance.
They toned down one sizzling lift for the Olympics that saw Virtue launch herself backwards onto Moir's shoulders, her legs are wrapped around his neck, her hands cradling his head.
They had the crowd roaring with another gorgeous soaring lift that had Virtue bending backwards, her arms reaching to the rafters victoriously, her blades balancing on Moir's thighs.
Moir was asked about their contribution to the sport, and was modest in response.
"I don't know what we've given to ice dance, that's for you guys to write about it, not for us to say," he said. "We can't even watch tape of ourselves from 2010. Maybe when we're sitting in our rocking chairs in our old age.
"I would say that how we want to be remembered is by inspiring the next generation, and that goes for Canadians and anyone in the world. Hopefully ice dance has come to a new level."
They certainly took chemistry to a new level. Virtue was just seven and Moir nine when they were paired together by Moir's aunt. (There's adorable YouTube video of the two youngsters in early competitions).
"They were born under good stars," Dubreuil said with a smile, "because they found each other at a young age, and it's a partnership that kept growing. I mean, 20 years of skating together. Eyes closed, they know what they're doing. It's something spectacular."
Canada's longest-tenured team credits those two decades, and their legitimate love of skating together, for their uncanny ability to tell a story on ice.
"She's a pretty fantastic person," Moir said in the post-skate press conference, at times resting an arm on Virtue's back, or touching a hand to her thigh. "I would never even think about skating with somebody else. The whole reason I wanted to come back to skating was to be close to Tessa again, and to share those moments."
Many fans desperately want the two to have a romantic relationship, but they are not a couple off the ice.
"We're very proud of our business relationship, it's been very special for 20 years. Who can say that? It makes me shake my head sometimes driving to the rink, because I'm still excited to see Tessa at the arena for warmup. Who enjoys going in to work every day? That's ridiculous."
Moments before they stepped on the ice Tuesday -- and as they've done before every skate for years -- they hugged for half a minute, eyes closed, Virtue's head resting on Moir's shoulder. It helps them focus, they've said.
The eight-time Canadian champions tried to keep any sadness around their last skate from sneaking in.
"That was the goal," Moir said.
"We tried to sort of take the emotion out of it and just think 'We had a big job to do, and do what we do every day at home,"' Virtue added.
Their coaches "really tried to not go there with them" either, Dubreuil said.
"At the end (though), of course," she added. "They skated the best they've ever skated in four events here, four times. And I think a whole generation of skaters will be influenced by them and will be inspired by them. We're really grateful we had that journey with them."
Virtue and Moir will continue to skate on the professional circuit, and could return to sports broadcasting, which they did in their two-year hiatus from the sport. Virtue has her own jewellery collection with Canadian company Hillberg & Berk.
Canada's sports media might miss Virtue and Moir as much as the fans, their friendly demeanour over the past decade making them easy to like.
When the ice dancers, who carried Canada's flag into the opening ceremonies, arrived to speak to Canadian reporters after their golden skate, Moir hollered "Group hug!" and wrapped a few in a big embrace. When an official finally tried to end the interviews with the inevitable command of "Last question," Moir wanted to take a few more.
"Can I have more? Just one more?" he asked.
Canadian skating fans would love just one more.