A forced separation has turned into a permanent split for three-time Canadian pairs champions Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison.
Dube and Davison, the 2008 world bronze medallists, announced they've ended their partnership Thursday, nearly five months after Davison underwent season-ending knee surgery.
"I'll never forget what we had together," Dube said on a conference call.
"It's not necessarily a sad moment," Davison said. "The really cool thing is that two athletes are excited about not necessarily being athletes anymore and wanting to go back to school and moving on with things. That's a hard thing for an athlete to do."
Dube, 23, skated singles this season after the 25-year-old Davison —her partner for nine years —had surgery on Oct. 26 to replace a broken bone chip in his knee, the result of a joint disorder called osteochondritis dissecans.
Dube, a former singles skater before she turned her focus to pairs, said her time alone on the ice reminded her of how much she loved it.
"I found some kind of spark again inside of me and I didn't really want to lose that," Dube said. "It's really bad timing with the injury but it's like I needed something to remind me of all I enjoyed in skating. The injury made me realize that, that there was other things in life that I wanted to change."
Her decision leaves Davison looking for a new world-class partner, and he knows this could spell the end of his competitive career.
"I'm going to put my name out and test the waters looking for a new partner, but it will have to be someone pretty special to come along to be successful pretty quickly," Davison said.
"It's not easy to find a partner at that level. It's tough and I'll look but at the same time, you have to keep all your options very open and realize that there's more to life than just skating."
Dube, from St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., and Davison, from Huntsville, Ont., were sixth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and won the 2007, 2009 and 2010 Canadian championships.
Their romantic free skate performance to "The Way We Were" earned them a standing ovation at last year's Canadian championships.
The two began this season eager to make up for a disappointing performance at the Vancouver Olympics, but a week before Skate Canada International, Davison's knee locked up during a practice. Doctors discovered a three-centimetre fragment of bone had broken off where the thigh bone meets the knee.
The surgery left a 10-inch scar that runs vertically from his lower thigh to the top of his shin. He was off his feet completely for three months.
Davison was recently given the green light to return to the ice, but only for short stretches of five to 10 minutes. It will be at least another couple of months, he said, before he can do any serious skating.
Davison admitted Dube's decision came as a surprise.
"But when I sat back and looked at it, I thought, this is not a bad thing and I totally respect her decisions for ending it," Davison said.
"It wasn't something I was surprised and got mad about. It has been a large part of both of our lives, it's always going to be disappointing when it ends but there is going to be a time when it ends no matter what."
Dube, who was sixth at the Canadian championships in January, plans to continue competing in singles. She's also enrolled in Concordia University for next fall, and plans to study communications.
Davison will continue studies in human anatomy and physiology through Athabasca University's online program, and plans to remain involved with Skate Canada.
The two close the book on a roller-coaster career, including a devastating injury to Dube at the ISU Four Continents championships in 2007. The two were doing side-by-side camel spins when Davison's blade sliced open Dube's face. The gash across her cheek and nose required more than 80 stitches to close, and the two were later treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Their return to the ice, at a show in London, Ont., was one of the highlights of their career, Davison said.
"When I look back at it, that was probably my most terrifying moment as a figure skater, but one of my most special memories that I'll probably never ever forget," Davison said.
The two rebounded the following season to win Skate America, finish second at Skate Canada, and capture their world bronze.
"It's sad to see that they're not going to be competing as a team anymore," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director.
"But we want the best for them moving forward and we know they're going to be a big part of Skate Canada moving forward."
Their departure comes during a post-Olympic year that traditionally sees plenty of turnover with skaters retiring.
Skate Canada has a couple of young pairs teams on the rise, including Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Toronto's Dylan Moscovitch, and Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmerton, Ont. Both teams will compete at the world championships later this month in Tokyko.