After months of waiting, Olympic and world ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will finally make their season debut at next week's Four Continents event in Taipei City, Taiwan.
The Canadians were sidelined this season as a result of Virtue's off-season operation to correct lingering shin problems.
Four Continents on CBC
CBC Sports Weekend will have live coverage of the Four Continents competition, featuring Canada's ice dance team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir on Saturday Feb. 19 (4 p.m. ET, CBC, CBCSports.ca).
Virtue, 21, from London, Ont., and Moir, 23, of Ilderton, Ont., concluded a magical 2010 season by capturing gold at both the Vancouver Olympics and world championships.
"We're excited to have them back in competition," Mike Slipchuk, high-performance director for Skate Canada, told CBCSports.ca. "We're just happy that they're going to be there, not only for us in Canada, but for skating worldwide. They are great ambassadors and they did a lot for ice dance in North America."
Moir first reported their intentions in an email he sent to CBC Sports' Scott Russell last week.
"We will be back at Four Continents in two weeks and I can't wait to compete again," Moir said from the training base in Canton, Mich. "We still have the fire and I hope it will last for many more years."
New programs to debut
Virtue and Moir will feature two new programs, one in the newly formed short dance that the International Skating Union (ISU) put in this year, and free skate.
Widely regarded as the most innovative team since the great British duo Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean from three decades ago, the Canadians are expected to unveil two complicated and fluid programs.
"They've always tried different styles," said Slipchuk, who first saw the programs at Skate Canada's training camp back in September. "They're always challenging themselves and taking a step to continually move [ice] dance in a new direction. That's what's exciting about them, there's always something new. This will be two programs that no one has seen in competition."
Virtue was diagnosed with chronic exertional compartment syndrome and had surgery in 2008, forcing her and Moir to miss two Grand Prix events. The following season, and months prior to the Vancouver Games, the pain had resurfaced, although few outside Virtue's circle were aware of the situation.
Still, Virtue and Moir dominated the Olympic ice dance competition to win gold. They continued their dominant run by winning the world title last March in Turin, Italy, setting a world record with a score of 70.27 points in the original dance.
Nearly a month after her second surgery, Virtue admitted last October that she was struggling with severe pain in her legs, including her gold-medal performance with Moir at both the Vancouver Games and the world championship.
"When we actually performed, it was the last thing that I thought of or felt, just with the adrenalin and the magnitude of competing in the Olympic Games in Canada, the pain wasn't really prevalent," Virtue said at the time. "But it was there, it was definitely there in the practice."
However, Slipchuk is confident Virtue's lingering shin problems won't prevent her from competing at an elite level.
"Tessa is in really good hands with the medical team around her and her therapist Mary Branigan," he said. "They took the time to make sure she had a good recovery period and was ready to go when they got back on the ice, and didn't force it. That was important. Health is the No. 1 priority and once that's been taken care of, [it's important] she feels comfortable. We're hoping that the past surgery was able to solve any difficulties moving forward and we [need] to make sure that the proper medical care is with her."
In total, Canada will send 12 entries to the Four Continents competition, including three in each of the four disciplines.
The full roster includes:
- Shawn Sawyer, Edmundston, N.B.
- Joey Russell, Labrador City, N.L.
- Kevin Reynolds, Coquitlam, B.C.
- Cynthia Phaneuf, Contrecoeur, Que.
- Myriane Samson, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
- Amélie Lacoste, Delson, Que.
- Kirsten Moore-Towers, St. Catharines. Ont., and Dylan Moscovitc, Waterloo, Ont.
- Meagan Duhamel, Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, Balmertown, Ont.
- Paige Lawrence, Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers, Kipling, Sask.
- Tessa Virtue, London, Ont., and Scott Moir, Ilderton, Ont.
- Vanessa Crone, and North York, Ont., and Paul Poirier, Unionville, Ont.
- Kaitlyn Weaver, Waterloo, Ont., and Andrew Poje, Waterloo, Ont.