Local pair 'going places'

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

Youth will be served. Perhaps not during the next few days or the next year, but rest assured the youth movement in Canadian ice dancing is alive and in good hands.

Tessa Virtue of London and Scott Moir of Ilderton were the focus of attention as they practised their routines at the John Labatt Centre yesterday.

They are more than just the local darlings. Those who follow and administer the sport place great expectations on their shoulders.

They are the defending Canadian junior champions and at 15 and 17 respectively, they are truly babes among adults.

Yet it's only their youthful appearance that sets them apart from their more experienced opponents.

The most common phrase heard when talk turns to Virtue and Moir in the corridors of the JLC, where figure skating aficionados are hanging out this week , is "those two are going places."

There is a confidence, familiarity and determination in their movements and comportment that belies their youth and hints at the expected achievements to come.

A gold medal and two silver medals in international junior grand prix events has whetted the appetite of a skating nation that in recent years has not had much to feast on.

A couple of years slugging it out in senior competition will provide a better picture of where Virtue and Moir fit in.

The pair make their debut today at the senior level when they perform in the senior compulsory dance at the Canadian figure skating championships at the JLC.

Their goal is sensible.

"We just want to have three awesome skates," Moir said after their first official practice session in the senior ranks. "We don't worry about the results so much. If we skate well, the results will take care of themselves. We just want to skate our best."

"We were happy with the practice to get a feel for the ice and the arena," Virtue said.

The top three finishers -- champions Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon; runners-up Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe, and third-place finishers Chantal Lefebvre and Arseniy Markov -- are back.

Virtue and Lowe have made astonishing strides the last few years. They will compete at the senior level domestically, but at the junior level in international competitions.

But expecting anything more than a strong skate at these nationals is unrealistic. Consider this one a learning experience, a jumping off point for what should be a strong senior career.

"This is a huge step for us, moving up to senior," Virtue said. "We are really excited to be in London . . . all the support that we received from the people of London is just amazing. It is a big change for us."

The question remains whether skating at home in front of family and friends will prove easier or just add another degree of difficulty to their program.

"We're more excited than nervous," Moir said. "You're always going to get nervous, and that's healthy. We're really satisfied with how we're skating. We're just excited to be here. It's going to be the highlight of our year."

They have been skating together for eight years and Virtue says they have worked hard on their program and are confident in it. As the youngsters in this event, they are looking to display "a maturity" in their skating.

"I think showing maturity is important," Virtue said. "We want to show we are able to compete with the seniors -- to show we belong. Being a young team, that's a little big harder to achieve. I think we've both matured off the ice and that shows on the ice."

As does the composure and ability.


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