Figure Skating·Analysis

There will never be another Virtue and Moir

For CBC Sports analyst Pj Kwong, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are the greatest ice dance team of all-time. They proved it again at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. More importantly, the Canadian duo reached a level that won't be seen in quite some time — if ever.

Canadians leave legacy only reached by legends

Canadians ice dancers Tessa Virtue, right, and Scott Moir, left, have reached a level of excellence that won’t be seen for quite some time. (Kevin Light/CBC Sports)

By Pj Kwong, CBC Sports

As Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated to their positions, a booming voice yelled out, "you have the best costumes," that could be heard throughout the arena.

It was coming from Saturday Night Live's Leslie Jones. The comedian was at Gangneung Ice Arena to watch the ice dance free skate and was live tweeting during the competition.

Best costumes? Hardly. Let's go with the greatest team of all-time.

Virtue and Moir claimed their second gold medal of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. The victory couldn't have been sweeter. It unfolded the way it should — decided on the ice with sublime skating.

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Earlier in the day, Virtue and Moir were the final skaters on the final practice session before competition. All of the other teams had already taken their bow and were gone. Virtue and Moir used every last moment of that practice, as if they were trying to squeeze in as much time as possible in advance of their skate. The Canadians were still working on manoeuvres when they were informed that the practice session was over, and they needed to clear the ice.

When it was time for the final group of dancers to take the ice for real, it was clear that both Virtue and Moir and their French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron were ready.

The French skated beautifully and were the third-last team to skate. Papadakis and Cizeron posted a world-record score of 123.35 — breaking their own free dance mark. The task for Virtue and Moir was daunting; they would have to earn at least 3.29 points more than their career best (118.33) to capture gold. The Canadians would have to be perfect.

The surprise in Virtue and Moir's performance was their commanding presence, with no hint of nervousness or hesitation.  It was a "do-or-die" situation. This is what separates Olympic champions from very good skaters. The ability to push through and do what's needed in the moment.

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Watching the connection between these two skaters, as I have been for the last 15 years or so, is a study in trust. The outstanding technical moves, especially their acrobatic lifts, couldn't happen without the skaters having complete faith in one another.

On this day, they each projected their Moulin Rouge-inspired characters way past the boards, while maintaining the intimacy that defines their skating connection.

Virtue and Moir were flawless, and had Level 4 scores assigned to all their elements. Even before the marks came in, Virtue and Moir's reaction let us all know that they had done all they could, and it was in the hands of the judges. It seemed too close to call.

When the scores were posted, the Gangneung Ice Arena erupted. The Canadians received a career-best 122.40 — just .79 ahead of Papadakis and Cizeron. Virtue and Moir also established a world-record total score of 206.07.

Simply put, there will never be another Virtue and Moir.

The legacy they leave is an important one for Canadian ice dance that speaks to not only talent but heart, tenacity, hard work and the willingness to play the long game.