|Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue put all those retirement rumours to bed on Wednesday. (QMI Agency/Andre Forget)
Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir announced their future plans on Wednesday.
Virtue is going to help design handbags for Roots, their new sponsor.
And Moir is going to play a lot of ice hockey.
And, oh yes, they’re going to continue to compete in competitive skating for at least one more season, and likely through to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
All you figure skating fans can breathe now.
“That decision was made very recently actually,” said Moir, at a news conference to announce their new multi-year sponsorship deal with Roots. “When we got on the ice to do the Japan leg of Stars on Ice, we briefly chatted about it, and kind of just looked at each other and it was like: ‘Are we done, is this it?’ ”
They decided that they weren’t done. Not by a long shot.
There was speculation — the seed of which was planted by the skaters themselves after Vancouver — that retirement from competitive skating might be in the offing. Many skaters retire after winning gold at the Olympics. But after a few weeks of contemplation, the Canton, Mich., based skaters decided that, not only do they want to keep competing, they want to compete and push the envelope.
Really push the envelope.
They’ve won the Olympics and the worlds, so it’s not just about winning anymore. It’s about pushing the sport, and themselves, to new heights.
“When I look back on my life, at my skating career, and I won the Olympics and I was fourth at the next one, it’s not going bug me,” Moir said. “We want to experiment.”
Moir said coach Marina Zoueva recently told him to start thinking about a new direction for next season, with the explicit instruction not to come up with anything predictable or boring.
“She said: ‘Start from the weirdest stuff you can find, and try to discover something,’” Moir said. “So we’re wide open.”
Virtue and Moir are technically excellent skaters, but they’re also known for taking chances artistically. There has never really been a comfort zone for the young team. And certainly won’t be now.
This season, for instance, they resorted to a traditional style of freedance, performed to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.5, which turned out to be a wise move in an Olympic year.
But their taste in music over the years certainly has been eclectic. Last season, their freedance was performed to The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd. They’ve also skated to Russian folk music, Little Richard, Johann Christian Bach, Jean Sibelius and Bobby Darin.
And now that there’s less pressure to win, Virtue and Moir plan to, perhaps not shock anyone, but really come up with programs and performances that the skating world talks about for years to come.
Another factor in their decision to stay the course in competitive skating for at least one season stems from the most basic reason of all. Moir is 22 and Virtue 20. They both feel they can get better with age.
“Looking back at our Olympic and world championships performances, I’m sure we can find many things to nitpick and criticize,” Virtue said. “We’re always pretty tough on our own skating. I think that’s in our nature, to be perfectionists, and we’ll always be striving for something better, something more.”
William Thompson, the CEO of Skate Canada, said the federation will certainly encourage the team not to play it safe in the years ahead.”
“It could be like a Torvill and Dean situation, where, now that you’ve got the titles and gold medals, you can start to push things. You don’t want to stagnate,” he said.
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are, in the eyes of many, the greatest ice dance team ever.
Certainly legends in the sport. There have been suggestions that, given their age and talent, Virtue and Moir could someday achieve that status, though they were both taken aback when that suggestion was made Wednesday.
“We don’t think like that,” Virtue said. “We do this because we love to skate.”
The perks aren’t bad either. Virtue is busting at the chance to design a handbag collection for Roots. When they do finally retire from skating, the London, Ont., native plans to pursue a career in fashion, prompting one wag to jokingly ask if she has a signature perfume in the works.
“Not yet,” interjected Moir, cracking up the gathered assemblage.
Virtue didn’t think the idea was that funny.
“That would be great,” she said.