Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were all smiles after their first competitive skate in more than two and half years.
The Canadian ice dance duo skated in their first meet since taking silver at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia on Thursday night at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International at the Pierrefonds Sportplexe in Montreal.
The two are looking to recapture the form that made them the darlings of the 2010 Vancouver Games, where they won a gold medal.
"Today was all about how much we miss it in so many ways," said Moir, of Ilderton, Ont. "There was a bit of the jitters, but backstage and during warmup we were enjoying ourselves.
"That's a big part of why we came back. We love to compete. What's surprised me is how much we still enjoy it and we're hoping we can keep that way all the way through to Korea [the 2018 Olympics]. We want to enjoy every second, even the high pressure situations like this."
Performance a 'home run'
They were near-flawless in their short dance, posting the top score of 77.72 points, well ahead of the next pair. Denmark's Laurence Fournier-Baudry and Nikolaj Sorensen were second among the nine duos with 63.26. The free dance is set for Saturday.
"We'll have to be stronger in some of our technical points moving forward, but we're perfectionists," said Moir, calling the performance was "a home run for us."
The challenger event drew a strong field but is a level below grand prix competitions. That made it a perfect place for Virtue and Moir to try out their new routines and ease themselves back into competition.
"We're thrilled to share our material and be back in the swing of things," said Virtue, 27 of London, Ont. "Emotionally, mentally and physically our approach was right.
"We'll just have to adjust a bit heading into the free dance."
The short dance was an energetic routine based mainly on hip-hop and blues music, but Virtue said the free dance is "a story of two people who had some hard times coming together to get through that. It's a more emotional ride than our short dance."
Hungry to return
Virtue and Moir have participated in show skating in recent years but were hungry to get back to competition.
"I had to lose my beer gut, that was a big adjustment," Moir joked of the comeback.
Beside their Olympic medals, they were also world champions in 2010 and 2012.
They moved to Montreal to train under coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, who also train the current world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France. But there is none of the suspicion that marked of their previous arrangement with coach Marina Zoueva, who also trained the rival Americans who edged them for gold in Sochi, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
"We have to earn the term 'rivals,' we're not quite there yet," Virtue said of training with the French pair. "Ice dance has gone to an entirely different level in the last two years, so skating with Guillaume and Gabriella is inspiring.
"They're wonderful people and it's been fun to get to know them. It's fun to challenge and motivate each other."