|Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue will not be competing at the Canadian championships this weekend. (QMI Agency File/Sue Reeve)
TORONTO - Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are happy, healthy and excited. And grounded.
Talk about mixed emotions.
The London-based skaters announced on Monday afternoon that Virtue is healthier than she has been in years, their training is going better than either of them expected at this point of the season, and they're thrilled with their new short and free dance programs.
Yet, despite all the good news, they will not be competing at the Canadian championships this weekend at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C.
"Tessa and I sat down with our coaches Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva late last week and together the four of us made the difficult decision not to compete in Victoria," Moir said. "We have been making huge progress every single day in training, so we are confident that we can really build our programs over the next four weeks and feel well prepared for the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.
"This is obviously a big disappointment for us, because Scott and I love to compete," Virtue added. "We were working so hard to be ready for this competition, and we were hopeful up to the last minute that we'd be able to be there. We're going to spend this next week continuing to work on our programs."
Virtue, 21, underwent surgery in October to alleviate the pain in her calves and shins -- the result of Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome. She underwent similar surgery in 2008, though this time, she said, the surgery was more aggressive and her recovery is more advanced. In fact, she said she hasn't felt this good in years. Unfortunately, their coaches felt the team, who were back on ice training in December, still don't have enough mileage on their new dance programs to be able to perform at their usual high level.
"Not to take anything away from the Olympic programs (from last year), but if we were doing Gustav Mahler (Symphony No.5) again this year, we'd be at nationals, no problem," Moir said. "But this freedance is the hardest one we've ever done, the most intricate."
Their short dance, Moir said, has a "Gatsby" type waltz feel to it, while their free dance comes in two parts -- the first skated to Temptation by Tom Waits and the second is to Mujer Latina by the Colombian composer Kike Santander. They plan to unveil both programs at the Four Continents Championships, Feb. 15-20, in Chinese Taipei and then at the World Championships in March in Tokyo.
"I love our programs this year -- especially our free dance," Virtue said. "It is fast, intricate and unique and we want to be able to do it justice our first time out. I'm really excited to see where we will be in four weeks time.
"We're always trying to create original ideas. The goose and everything ... that's so 2010," added Moir, with a laugh. "We're moving on and we're trying to go back to the dancing part of ice dance. We still have the tricky lifts and everything -- you need good elements to compete in this system. (But) we're trying to make it all about the whole package and take ice dancing to where we want it to be and where we think the sport should be."
It has certainly been a whirlwind year for the young ice dance team since captivating the world at the Olympics last year. But they admitted that, for a time, they definitely experienced a post-Olympic letdown -- probably because they only had about nine days off to recover after the Games, before touring season began.
"I don't think we realized how burned out and how exhausted we were," said Virtue, adding that the two-month break as result of her surgery actually helped in their recovery. "We really needed that. It was a chance to recharge and rejuvenate, and maybe (the surgery and rehab) was a blessing in disguise. We've come back stronger and we have that spark again."
Unfortunately, fans in Victoria won't get to see that spark first hand.