In minds of Virtue and Moir, Olympics have already begun

Scott Moir used to be able to blend in during wing night at your typical Ilderton, Ont., establishment. But when the three-time world ice dance champion was back in his hometown a couple of weeks ago, everyone wanted to talk figure skating.

World champs very motivated to recapture gold in Pyeongchang

Canadian Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir show off their gold medals at the world figure skating championship in March, a pose they are hoping to duplicate at the PyeongChang Olympics in February. (Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press)

Scott Moir used to be able to blend in during wing night at your typical Ilderton, Ont., establishment. But when the three-time world ice dance champion was back in his hometown a couple of weeks ago, everyone wanted to talk figure skating.

Five months out from the Pyeongchang Games, Moir said he can already feel the Olympic buzz.

Moir and partner Tessa Virtue look to reclaim Olympic gold in February in South Korea in one final season before they retire. The veterans attended Skate Canada's traditional season-opening high performance camp on Wednesday, and talked about the immense Olympic hype that's waits just around the corner.

"We're in a pressure-filled sport for sure, but anything in an Olympic season is heightened, the highs are higher and the lows are lower, and everything just takes on grander proportions," Virtue said. "So we have to be ready for that, and I think experience will serve us well, but it's about managing that energy, and managing expectations, both outside and even more so what we want of ourselves."

2-year hiatus

"And that's where it comes from. . . the expectations you have on yourself in an Olympic year, the highs are so high and the lows are the end of the world," Moir added.

The two captured gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games but had to settle for silver in 2014, and after a two-year competitive hiatus, returned with a vengeance last season hell-bent on reclaiming the top spot on the podium. Virtue and Moir went undefeated last season, capturing their third world title in Helsinki in March.

The Canadians will compete with a bull's-eye on their back, but it's a target they welcome.

"We like that challenge, it's been a big motivator for us," Moir said. "We know how hard it is to win after we've won, and it's been a good motivator this year. (But) we don't need motivation, this Olympic season we're just trying to control our emotions more so than find motivation. We're thinking about it every day and that's already started, it's so funny how quick you're going to bed every night dreaming of the Olympics, it's already begun."

While the temperature climbed to 25 C outside Mississauga's Hershey Centre on Wednesday, it might as well have been winter inside as the Canadian team skated their programs under the discerning eyes of judges and coaches.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are excited about their new free dance routine which features music from the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Virtue and Moir are excited to unveil their free dance to music from Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, the 2001 movie starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

It was one of the rare times the ice dancers insisted on a particular piece of music. Virtue said there was "no other option."

"We knew that we felt this so much and loved this so much, that was nothing that could compare," said the London, Ont., native.

"We really love it, and skating to it feels special. I don't know what it will look like, might be a complete mess," Moir laughed. "But I can tell you that we're having a blast while we do it, and we feel a special connection to it and hopefully that will show through."

Chan skating to Hallelujah

Three-time world champion Patrick Chan chose Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah for his long program, in a "nod to Leonard Cohen."

"The fact it was composed by a Canadian is very cool to have in my back pocket at an Olympic Games. . . feeling proud to be Canadian and representing my country on the greatest stage in the world," Chan said.

The Olympics silver medallist will skate his short program to the late-70s hit Dust in the Wind by Kansas, and said he can relate to the song's message.

"We're all flesh and bone, no matter what kind of success you have in your life, what kind of disasters or horrible things happen in your life, we all kind of have a full circle," Chan said. "It's about realizing how small we are in the greater world, and it's kind of my motto for this year.

"It's about doing this year the way I want, and not thinking so much about the results. I'm working really hard to not put so much emphasis (on results), just for my own well-being and my own mental health. The last two Olympics, I realized I didn't really enjoy them because I was so caught up in the 'Go win the gold for everyone, beat everyone.' It's not about that, it's a higher intellectual learning experience for me, going to a third Olympic Games."

Chan, Virtue and Moir, plus two-time world pairs champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford will open their international seasons at Skate Canada International, Oct. 26-29 in Regina.

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