LONDON, ONT. - Tessa Virtue is back in business.
Ten weeks after undergoing surgery on her shins and calves to reduce pain from her long-standing battle with chronic exertional compartment syndrome, the Olympic ice dance champ will team up with partner Scott Moir to headline the Winter Dreams on Ice show Sunday night at the John Labatt Centre.
“Tessa’s been back on the ice for a couple weeks now,” said Moir, the 23-year-old from Ilderton. “With the good people of Fowler-Kennedy, we started off slow and went undercover for a while at Thompson (arena at Western). But we’re back in Canton (Mich.) training now and we’ve got some new programs we want to show off and of course, at this time of year, we’ll be skating to something festive — John Legend’s Let It Snow.”
Tour stops in Windsor and Oshawa have been cancelled.
“That goes to show the power of the London and area skating community and their dedication,” Moir said.
Virtue and Moir missed the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix season, including Skate Canada in Kingston, while the 21-year-old Londoner recuperated from her second surgery in three years.
This show signals they’re on their way to returning to the competitive stage.
“That’s what we’re looking at,” Moir said. “We’re competitive people. It was tough (to miss the Grand Prix final in Beijing), but we wanted to take it slow. tough and determined and she’s back and things look good so far, but we wanted to make sure everything was right and we have a long career.”
Unless Virtue suffers another setback, it’s not out of the question they try to defend their national title in Victoria next month and compete at the 2011 worlds, March 21-27 in Tokyo. They’ll decide as they continue training.
Moir also had a minor back injury he had to clear up. “It didn’t hold a candle to what Tessa went through,” he said, “so I didn’t skate with the sandbag this year (in her place).
“We’re excited to skate. We have a different vibe going then we did before the Olympics. It’s a lot of fun.”
Skate Canada, as an organization, is thrilled to hear about their dynamic duo’s progress. They won’t push their golden kids.
“It’s still too early (about nationals) — the most important thing for us has always been that Tessa makes a complete and successful recovery,” said Skate Canada CEO William Thompson. “In talking to her, I knew things were going well but that she was also being careful about it, which I think is prudent.
“They’re doing the show and it falls outside of the Grand Prix (ISU competition) window, so we’re fine with it.”
Thompson isn’t surprised to see the team training again and ready to perform.
“That’s the one thing you saw with Scott and Tessa from the very beginning is they’re very competitive people. They love to compete. I saw their programs before the season started and they were doing very exciting things.
“You don’t want to see anyone miss a season but if you’re going to sit out at all, the one after the Olympics is a good one to recuperate and make sure you’re healthy moving forward.”
Virtue’s ailment was assessed by Skate Canada’s new chief medical officer Dr. Marni Wesner at the national team’s preseason camp at Mississauga in September.
“Marni played a big role in Tessa’s situation,” Thompson said. “She put her through the tests and from that they were able to pinpoint what was wrong and start her on the process of getting the problem fixed.”
Dr. Kevin Willits of London’s Fowler-Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic performed both of Virtue’s surgeries.
With the Canadian stars out of the picture, U.S. rivals and training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the Olympic silver medalists at Vancouver, won the Grand Prix title in Beijing.
But Patrick Chan captured gold in men’s singles and ice dancers Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier took bronze.
Virtue and Moir’s presence again would be a big boost to the Canadian squad.
“Massively,” Thompson said. “You add the defending Olympic and world champions, that’s huge.
“We’ll wait and see what happens but yes, it’s an encouraging sign they’re skating again.”