|Ice dance couple Tessa Virtue and Scott moir perform during the free dance at the International Skating Union's Grand Prix final in Quebec City, Que., Dec. 11, 2011. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency)
LONDON, ONT. - Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have parted ways with their long-time ice dance coach Igor Shpilband.
The Canadian figure skating stars said they learned of a split between Shpilband and fellow coach Marina Zoueva after returning to their training base in Canton, Mich., on the heels of a six-week break, which included touring with Stars on Ice.
“We were obviously disappointed to receive the news that our coaching team of Marina and Igor will no longer be working together,” Moir, the 24-year-old Ilderton native, said in a statement. “Their coaching partnership provided an enjoyable and productive training environment and together we experienced great success on the ice.”
Shpilband claimed he was fired — and Arctic Edge GM Craig O’Neill told the Detroit Free Press that the club’s top three teams, which include Virtue and Moir and American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White, felt as if “Igor wasn’t there for them anymore.
“What it came down to was the kids didn’t want to skate there anymore with Igor,” O’Neill said. “Either they were leaving or Igor was leaving. We told him that the kids weren’t going to come back to the rink until we had this meeting with you.”
Virtue and Moir will continue to work with Zoueva in Canton.
“It was an honour to work with (Igor) every day, and we respect his dance knowledge and technical expertise,” Virtue, a 23-year-old Londoner, said. “We are very grateful to him for everything he has helped us achieve.”
They will lean more exclusively on the busy Zoueva, now in sole charge of the world’s top three ice dance teams, to chase a third world title and, ultimately, a second Olympic gold.
“Igor and I built this program together, and it was great,” Zoueva said. “Unfortunately, we are going in different directions.”
Shpilband, who defected from the Soviet Union 22 years ago and became a U.S. citizen in 2000, hoped to stay involved in the process.
“I don’t want it to end like this,” he told the Free Press. “Two years after the Olympics (2014 in Sochi, Russia) we could have gone our separate ways.
“Every partnership has arguments . . . but Marina didn’t see it that way. She wanted me to go away. I worked for many years before Marina, I built and took skaters to the top podium in the world. But I felt like I needed Marina to (go) from worlds to the Olympics, which (was) incredible — we did it together.”
Virtue and Moir joined forces with Shpilband and Zoueva eight years ago and have shared their coaches with Davis and White, the U.S. champs, since 2005.
“We hold the firm conviction that Igor’s expertise and investment in our career have been integral to our success,” Davis said. “We will have nothing but fond memories and sincere appreciation for our time with Igor.”