Moir, Virtue set sights on ice dance dominance

Casually answering a question about the upcoming figure skating season, Scott Moir announces the one simple goal he's set with Canadian ice dance partner Tessa Virtue.

Scott Moir didn't think twice about what was about to come out of his mouth.

Casually answering a question during a conference call on the upcoming figure skating season, Moir announced the one simple goal he's set with Canadian ice dance partner, Tessa Virtue.

"We want to be at the top," he said in preparation for Friday's Grand Prix opening of the Trophée Eric Bompard event in Paris. "We think we are the best ice dance team in the world."

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Moir wasn't being cocky. He was only reaffirming what most in the figure skating community have predicted since the day this Canadian team hit the national stage three years ago.

On several occasions, Tracy Wilson, CBC Sports skating analyst and 1988 Olympic ice dance bronze medallist, has compared the young London, Ont., natives to the legendary team of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. The British ice dancers, who won gold at the 1984 Olympics and four world titles, are considered the Wayne Gretzkys of their sport.

Wilson often marvels at the way the Canadian champions can captivate an audience with their tremendous athleticism and innovative moves.

"We have such respect for Tracy," said Virtue, 20. "I mean, anything coming from her … we sort of bow down to her."

"I don't think it puts more pressure on us, but it's such a compliment and it's something that we'll [always] cherish," added Moir, 22.

There is no denying that Virtue and Moir have the technical and artistic prowess to overtake 2009 Russian world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, along with silver medallist Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the U.S.

The question remains whether Virtue can regain the health that abandoned her last year.

She missed the entire Grand Prix season after surgery to relieve severe pain in her shins brought on by chronic exertional compartment syndrome, a condition that stems from overtraining.

While the team did come back to win world bronze in Los Angeles, Virtue rested for three weeks in the summer before beginning a training program involving physiotherapy and conditioning to strengthen leg muscles.

"Obviously, I have moments and have those days, and I'm sure I will for a little while," she said. "But I feel so much more positive and able to do so much more on and off the ice. It's not that constant worry anymore. It's a huge relief."

Moir would not use Virtue's shin problems as a crutch, pointing out that several dancers, including Agosto, incurred injuries last season.

The Canadians will debut a new programs this weekend with the hope it will bring them success for the season and at February's Olympic Games in Vancouver.

The free dance is skated to Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony, replacing the Pink Floyd number the couple performed last year.

"It's very joyful, we're in love, it's happy, and it definitely came naturally," Virtue said. "[Our coaches] were really trying to bring something out of us, something that was in us, just let it shine."

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