Moir & Virtue: A sure bet

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

KITCHENER -- From his crazy Canada-themed hats to his booming cheers, Scott Moir's older brother Danny provided most of the atmosphere at a rather subdued world junior skating championships at Kitchener's Memorial Auditorium this week. Yesterday, the former Ilderton ice dancer, who is now coaching skaters in Copenhagen, Denmark, provided the challenges and question marks facing his 17-year-old sibling and 15-year-old Londoner Tessa Virtue as the pair quickly climb the rungs of the international ice dance circuit.

Moir and Virtue fell short of capturing Canada's first gold medal in world junior ice dance Friday night.

Instead, they settled for silver -- the second in Canadian history -- behind Chicago native Morgan Matthews and transplanted Russian Maxim Zavozin.

The 17-year-old Matthews and 20-year-old Zavozin are heading to the senior level next year, but many dance observers have indicated that the team with the most potential to win future senior world and Olympic medals is the diminutive pair standing in the second level on the podium.

Many feel Moir and Virtue, who could technically compete at the junior level for the next four years, would be wasting precious time returning for next year's junior worlds in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

They are already so far ahead of anyone else on the horizon that gold would be a certainty and the only other benefit would be maximizing their air miles.

"That's something they have to talk about with their coaches (Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva)," Danny Moir said.

"Most skaters stay two or three years at the junior level, and this is their second year. They went from 11th last year to second this time, which was tremendous.

"But they're on the Canadian senior national team now" -- thanks to their fourth-place finish at nationals at London in January -- "and it all depends on how many events they get at that level.

"If they were to come back (to world juniors), it would be to win the gold."

As much as it would be nice for Skate Canada to brag about a gold medal, it might not be best for the pair's development to hold them back from competing at the highest level.

Moir and Virtue's crowd appeal and technical superiority over the rest of the teams was evident this week.

Their biggest point gap behind Matthews and Zavozin was in the opening compulsory dance, which was explained by a couple of observers as the result of the young Canadians having not yet grown into their bodies.

The older Matthews and Zavozin, who are more mature physically to this point, are able to make deeper cuts in the ice. That advantage won't last forever.

The American team knows that. Matthews and Zavozin were fully aware the Canadians were capable of beating them. And Moir and Virtue were disappointed not to win.

Afterward, Moir uttered the most telling line of the week when asked what Shpilband said after the two knew they would finish second.

"He just said this wasn't going to be the highlight of our career," he said.

Few have reason to doubt that.

"I thought they were fantastic. It was a wonderful week for them," said Danny Moir.

"I flew something like 5,000 miles to see this and it was worth it.

"Sure, it's a competitive sport and you don't like to settle for silver. But it was a good end to their year and they have a lot more to look forward to.

"If they keep working and improving and do well on the senior Grand Prix circuit, you start thinking of stuff like world championships and the Olympics."

If this week proved anything, the young local couple aren't far off from those rather large dreams.


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