Moir, Virtue set sights on higher goals

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Stow the "up-and-coming" chatter. Toss out the "junior stars" rhetoric and peel away the "future champions" label.

Ice dancers Scott Moir of Ilderton and London's Tessa Virtue have worn the image of cute newbies for years, but have finally and officially graduated to figure skating's top stage: senior competitors, national contenders and world-class performers.

The reigning world junior ice dance champions attended the 51st London Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction last night before jetting off to Halifax for this week's Canadian figure skating championships and trying to better a third-place finish last year.

"Top two is a goal we're working toward," Moir, 19, said. "We're pretty much done with junior now and looking toward bigger things."

That became academic when the dazzling duo skated to top spot at the junior worlds at Ljubljana, Slovenia, last March. The Moir-Virtue combo achieved the first world junior figure skating title for Canada in 28 years and became the first Canadian ice dance champs in the 31-year history of the discipline.

After narrowly missing a berth at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, their goal is to perform well enough to earn a spot at the worlds in Tokyo and gain the necessary experience to waltz into the 2010 Olympics at Vancouver.

"There's not the pressure of the Olympics, but 2007 is a big year for us," Virtue, 17, said. "We liked the way the Grand Prix circuit went for us and we're looking forward to . . . the rest of the year."

Virtue is being modest when she said the early tour season went well. In their first Grand Prix assignment, the duo grabbed second spot behind veteran Canadian champs Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon at the Skate Canada International in Nov-ember -- finishing ahead of Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy, then ranked eighth in the world.

Usually chock-full of energy when they skate, Moir and Virtue have opted for a more dramatic waltz for their free skate this season. Their instruction and choreography continues to come from coaches Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva at Arctic Edge in Canton, Mich., near Detroit.

"We're just scratching the surface of what we've been able to learn from them," Moir said.

Between the training and competing, the duo took part in their fair share of touring shows. Though they receive invitations to skate at Canada's larger centres, they have always enjoyed dropping in at smaller club shows.

"Our favourite one this year was in Prince George (B.C.), it was a show with Brian (Orser) and Jamie (Sale) and David (Pelletier) in it," Virtue said. "They're great people and it was a thrill to be able to be out on the ice with them."


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