|Tessa Virtue isn't in fear of any setbacks after undergoing another surgery to correct the pain in her shins and calves. (Daniel Mallard/QMI Agency)
MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - A year ago at Skate Canada International, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were surrounded by question marks.
Their ice dance season had been placed on pause while Virtue underwent another surgery to correct the pain in her shins and calves from compartment syndrome.
"Sitting in the stands in Kingston last year, that was the first time I felt like we were missing something," Moir said Thursday with the annual Canadian Grand Prix stop set to start Friday at the Hershey Centre. "Skate Canada is like a mini-nationals for us."
If a season-opening win in Finland didn't do it, the Olympic champs can put a big exclamation point on their competitive return in front of a home crowd. Their 210-11 campaign wasn't a total write-off -- they eventually returned, pulled out of Four Continents with a Virtue quad injury, then gutted out a silver at the world championships behind United States training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
"We want our world title back," Moir said.
Virtue isn't in fear of any setbacks. She experienced some pain after worlds in the spring, but the 22-year-old Londoner isn't anticipating another phone call anytime soon to her orthopedic surgeon, Kevin Willits.
"Unfortunately, the only time Kevin and I get to talk is when I feel pain," she quipped. "I feel as healthy as I've ever felt. I'm excited about what's in store this year. You practise all the time but there's nothing like being on that competitive stage."
They still won't commit to their on-ice future beyond the current season. But they're constantly searching for that feeling they had on the Olympic ice at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
"It's hard to say if we're better skaters (after an injury-stunted season)," the 24-year-old Moir said. "But do I feel like we have the ability to improve on what we were back then? Absolutely. We had the best summer we ever had (putting their new programs together), even better than heading into the Olympics."
They are now considered veterans on the Canadian figure skating team, a position they relish.
"We were always viewed as the young team," Virtue said, "but now, we're among the older skaters and I'm looking forward to taking on more of that leadership role."
Their Funny Face-d free dance is plucked from the 1957 musical film featuring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. They have already altered a lift based on feedback from their their Finlandia win.
"It's not about the points," Moir said. "Whether we have 130 or 150 points, it's about how we feel in the moment. That's what we care about. I hope kids come along in five years and smash all our records."