The grand plan, with the Olympic gold medal in the bag, was always to take ice dance to new heights.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir wanted to revolutionize their sport, do things no one had seen before and push the boundaries of what’s possible.
And in a crazy, mixed-up way, that looks exactly how it’s going to happen.
They’re still intent on defending their world title in Tokyo next month even though they missed pretty much the entire competitive figure skating season, skipped the Canadian championships and pulled out of their only event — last week’s Four Continents in Taiwan — when Virtue stopped due to a left quadricep problem 30 seconds into their free dance.
“Our goal is to compete and win worlds in five weeks and we feel like we’re on track for that,” Moir said Tuesday in a call aimed at celebrating the one-year anniversary of their Vancouver victory.
It’s a typically cheeky statement. It’d be so easy for the duo to put this season in mothballs like they did their signature Goose lift, regroup and try again fresh and healthy for 2012.
But that’s not going to fly with Virtue, who is no stranger to overcoming pain, her constant companion through her Olympic journey.
The 21-year-old Londoner said the latest injury isn’t connected at all to the compartment syndrome that required a second surgery last fall. That alone is a confidence boost.
“The quad was something I felt going in (to the competition) and it was a bit overwhelming (in the end),” Virtue said. “I’m just going to deal with this and move forward. I don’t foresee us missing any training.
“Obviously, it would’ve been nice to perform the free dance in front of the (International Skating Union) judges, but the feedback we did get was good and we were able to show them our new short program and we were pretty happy with the way we skated it.”
There is a difference between this situation and the 2008-09 season when Virtue needed her first surgery on her shins. Back then, she missed training time.
“The product suffered,” Moir said. “We weren’t able to do the training for the 2009 worlds we would’ve liked, but we were still able to come back and compete.
“This season has already blown that season out of the water. We’re just following the plan put forth by our coaches and the programs are solid. I think we’re in good shape to achieve our goal.”
But here’s the big issue now: Virtue stopped skating when the warning signals went off in Taipei. Will she back off if something else pops up with a world title on the line in Tokyo?
Her history suggests she’ll keep skating through it.
Virtue said this quad issue “isn’t a big deal.” In general, she has felt great since the second surgery to take out the tissue in her shins and calves that was putting such strain on her legs.
“That’s been the biggest relief,” she said.
They had the luxury, thanks to Skate Canada’s policy regarding its injured champions, to not worry about qualifying for worlds. Skate Canada chief executive William Thompson and high-performance director Michael Slipchuk have long said whenever Virtue-Moir are ready to compete, they would get one of the country’s three spots.
They cemented that privilege in Vancouver.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” the 23-year-old Moir said.
They spent the first couple months of their post-Olympic glow basking in the opportunities that came their way as a Canadian success story. They dined with the Queen, were greeted by Albert, Prince of Monaco, and signed a deal with Roots.
They took part in the Stars on Ice tour and have re-committed for this spring.
There had been talk of retirement before this season, but the belief was, if Virtue could stay pain-free, they were capable of so much more on the ice.
“We had tunnel vision,” Moir said. “We didn’t plan beyond that day (at the Olympics). We were so focused on it.”
Virtue is studying psychology at the University of Windsor. She’s a few credits from an undergraduate degree and wants to keep going.
She said they will re-evaluate their skating future, as always, at the end of the season after worlds.
If they win again, it’ll be another triumph racked up against incredible adversity.
Not much has changed, in that respect, from Vancouver.