Olympic and world ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are withdrawing from this week's BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
Virtue and Moir, who missed the entire fall ISU Grand Prix season after Virtue underwent leg surgery, said Monday they plan to return for the prestigious Four Continents event in mid-February in Taiwan, and to defend their world title in late March in Tokyo.
"Our plan is to be Four Continents champions and world champions," Moir told reporters on a conference call, adding he'd be "extremely shocked" if he and Virtue didn't compete at those events.
Canadian figure skating championships on CBC
CBC Sports' coverage of the Canadian figure skating championships in Victoria begins Friday with the opening ceremony (Bold, CBCSports.ca, 6 p.m. ET), followed by the ice dance short program (Bold, CBCSports.ca 6:45 p.m. ET).
A replay of the ice dance competition can be seen on CBC Television at 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. local time.
Fans can watch live streaming of all CBC broadcasts and chat with figure skating analyst Pj Kwong on CBCSports.ca's iAsk page, presented by Artistry.
For full broadcast and streaming details, click here.
The two aren't required to skate at the nationals to be named to Canada's world championship team in late March, Skate Canada CEO William Thompson confirmed.
Virtue said her comeback is going well and the team is excited to unveil its new programs, but she and Moir didn't feel they were quite ready for competition.
"While our training has been amazing, we haven't been able to master the programs to skate them at 100 per cent," Virtue said.
Chan top draw in Victoria
Virtue had surgery in the fall to alleviate chronic aching in her lower legs caused by compartment syndrome — a condition caused when the muscles can't expand within the tissue that contains them.
The 21-year-old from London, Ont., had the same surgery — but on different lower-leg muscles — in the fall of 2008, and she and Moir returned to win the Canadian title less than four months later.
But the pain lingered, hampering Virtue even as she and Moir, a 23-year-old from Ilderton, Ont., won Olympic gold last February in Vancouver and went on to claim their first world title a month later in Turin, Italy.
With the top pair out, 2010 silver medallists Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier will be favoured to take their first Canadian ice dance title. They finished third at last month's Grand Prix final.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who finished fifth at that event, are also expected to contend for the national championship.
The absence of Virtue and Moir leaves Patrick Chan as the top draw when the Canadian championships begin Friday at Victoria's Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. The reigning three-time men's national champ won his first major international title last month when he took the ISU Grand Prix Final in Beijing.
Reigning Canadian women's champion Joannie Rochette hasn't skated competitively since earning bronze at the Vancouver Olympics shortly after the death of her mother. Rochette is taking the season off to decide on her future in the sport.
Skate Canada's Thompson said he expects a strong event even without Virtue and Moir.
"You don't want to lose your Olympic champions, but I think there's an awful lot of good skaters still competing and it will still be an excellent event."