Road To The Olympic Games


Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir's return will shake up ice dance world

P.j. Kwong discusses the return of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as the once dominant pair try to find their place in ice dance in pursuit of another Olympic gold medal.

Figure skating powerhouse looks to re-establish dominance

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue have a lot of work to do in order to prepare for the 2016/17 season and their bid for another Olympic medal in ice dance. (Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Everyone is entitled to take their time in making up their mind. When we last saw Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir on the podium as silver medallists at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, we knew, at the very least they would be taking a break from competitive skating; if not retiring from the sport altogether.

It took two years and three days from the time Virtue and Moir stepped on the Olympic podium on Feb. 17, 2014, to make the announcement on CBC's Road to the Olympics broadcast that they would be returning to competition in the 2016/17 season.

Scott explained how they arrived at their decision: "There was a moment after the 2010 Olympics, where we knew that we wanted to continue and that was during rehearsals for the gala at worlds the same year. The decision to come back this time was more like a series of conversations. We wanted to make sure that it was 100 per cent right."

I can already feel the emails circulating around the world as federations, skaters and officials try and wrap their brain around what this news means.

Not the typical comeback story

In my opinion, this comeback story is different. The ice dance world has not really stabilized since the departure of Virtue and Moir. The same half dozen or so talented teams have all been jockeying for position and switching places on the podiums of the important competitions. All this indicates to me is that there did not appear to be a consistent front runner; until now.

Dance coach and CBC commentator Carol Lane says: "Anything that encourages watching skating is great and certainly the return of Tessa and Scott, Vancouver's sweethearts, will do that. Ice dance is about finding your place in the ice dance universe and Tessa and Scott will have to start fresh and find theirs once again."

Lane is part of the coaching team responsible for sixth place world-ranked Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. Fellow Canadians and two-time national champions, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, like Gilles and Poirier will no doubt acknowledge the return of their fiercest rivals but will then, presumably, turn back to the hard work of training and being the best they can be.

According to Lane, all of ice dance's most highly-ranked teams, her own included, are in the middle of a four-year master plan to get them to the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. Virtue and Moir will have to condense their plan, get their competitive legs back under them and re-establish themselves as the favourites in half that time. One thing is for sure; there isn't a team out there that is going to let that happen without a fight.

Preparation for 2018 begins

"Can we do it? Can we create content we're proud of?" wondered Virtue. "Ice dance is the delicate balance between art and athleticism."

That athleticism is one of the things that both Virtue and Moir want to get back to. Moving to Montreal to train with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon is 'one of the perks' to coming back to competition according to Virtue. "We have known Marie-France and Patch [Patrice] for such a long time and in our own career they took us under their wings and mentored us not only at competitions but in Stars on Ice as well," added Moir.

This return to competition feels focused. "There's more for us to do. We feel like we are going to be able to take a fresh approach to our skating. It feels right," said Moir.

Dubreuil and Lauzon were Canadian ice dance stars in their own right who have evolved into master coaches. They are responsible for the meteoric rise of 2015 world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron among others.

Although it's early days yet; the return of Virtue and Moir adds a level of pressure and intensity to the ice dance landscape; where some teams will fold while others will be pushed to greater heights.

If history is any indication, Virtue and Moir will take nothing for granted with their preparation. I imagine that they will step on the ice next season, serving notice as the early favourites to take the Olympic title in 2018.

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