Return on Virtue's terms

JIM CRESSMAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Tessa Virtue returns to the ice next week as she and ice dance partner Scott Moir resume their pursuit of a world championship.

But her return likely comes too late for the reigning Canadian champions and 2008 world silver medallists to compete in the NHK Trophy in Tokyo, Nov. 27-30, then the International Skating Union's Grand Prix final.

Virtue, 19, of London would only say yesterday "it's doubtful" because any official announcement has to come from Skate Canada, she said.

That would be three major events they've been forced to miss after she underwent leg surgery last month, which caused them to sit out Skate Canada International in Ottawa.

But Virtue said she and Moir, 21, of Ilderton, will be ready for the Canadian championships in Saskatoon in January as they prepare for the worlds in Los Angeles in March.

"Missing these competitions definitely takes a toll on our season because the (NHK Trophy) and Grand Prix final are like mini-worlds, but we want to be completely ready and comfortable with our program," said Virtue, who hasn't skated since Sept. 14 and underwent surgery six weeks ago to deal with chronic exertional compartment syndrome, which occurs from overtraining.

"We don't want to push it," she said of this month's NHK Trophy. "We don't want that pressure."

She said once she begins skating, they won't resume their training for another week or so after that.

"All I've been doing for two months is staring at my skates. It's going to take a while to build my strength back up and gradually increase my activity."

While Virtue has undergone physiotherapy in London, Moir has continued to work out at their training centre in Canton, Mich., focusing on developing more power and speed.

"There's been no rush to get Tessa back on the ice," he said yesterday. "We've really been patient.''

The syndrome is an exercise-induced neuromuscular condition that causes pain and swelling, most often to the lower legs. Virtue said the pain began last year but worsened in the summer to where it was intolerable.

"The recovery has been great," she said. "I think one thing I've learned from this is to be a bit smarter with training. The injury was really unfortunate because it came from working so hard, not just from a careless accident. But I know when we do get back, we're both going to have that fire for success."

The two have been together 11 years and Tracey Wilson, a former Canadian ice dance champion and Olympic bronze medallist (with Rob McCall), has been extolling the greatness of the young skaters.

"They have the potential to go to Torvill and Dean status," Wilson said in this month's issue of International Figure Skating magazine, using Virtue and Moir in the same sentence as the two Brits considered the greatest ice dancers ever.

"No other Canadian team has moved up the rankings so quickly. They have the technical requirements, the natural rhythm, the natural grace, the perfect body types and the unison."

Virtue said that's high praise, coming from the best female ice dancer this country has produced.

"That was pretty incredible for her to say that. I've always looked up to her and her opinions has meant so much."


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