Skating rivalry rooted in brawl

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency


Scott Moir, shown here with partner Tessa Virtue, has a longstanding and intense rivalry with his U.S. counterpart ... and it's roots lie in hockey. (File photo)

VANCOUVER — Scott Moir heard quite about enough from this Charlie White guy.

Tired of listening to him celebrate after they watched the United States beat the Canadians in overtime at the world junior hockey championships in Saskatoon.

Sick of White hounding him to sign up for Twitter so the tweet insult war wouldn’t be so one-sided.

“I told Chuck, ‘I’ll get a Twitter account if you beat me in golf,’” Moir said, “and that never happened.”

“Of course Scotty said that,” White corrected, “when I walked onto the course cold.”

There’s a fierce rivalry between the male halves of the two best ice dance teams in the world. Almost none of it involves figure skating.

Much of it is rooted in hockey. There was the fireworks that started it all — a memorable brawl when they were both eight-years-olds on opposing teams — Moir, the native of small-town Ilderton, Ont., and White from Detroit.

Moir loves telling the story: he was on the ice throwing pint-sized bombs while White, the unfortunate pacifist, stayed on the bench. White has a different version. His coaches told him to stay out of it so he wouldn’t be suspended.

“It was crazy, there were players fighting on the ice and parents fighting in the crowd,” White said. “That would be Scotty to be right in the middle of it.”

It’s a terrible portrayal of minor hockey but it’s an appropriate symbol for these Olympics. The Canadians and Americans are in a frantic battle to out-medal each other here.

But in that crazed thirst for gold, the friendship between Moir and White — and their respective partners, Tessa Virtue and Meryl Davis — offers a sense of balance.

They are skating to win. But when they’re not out there, they will be rooting for one another and supporting each other — friends to the end, and beyond, these Games.

“Everyone tries to make it out like there’s a big rivalry between our teams,” Virtue said, “but nothing could be further from the truth.”

It will be, this week, like dancing against mirrors.

They have the same coaches and training space. Same plane rides, same social circles, same practice schedule and same down time. They have an advantage over every other team — they’ve both skated together for 13 years and have never really known another partner.

When Virtue missed time while recovering from shin surgery in 2008, Moir didn’t “borrow” Davis from White for a few run-throughs. He soldiered on alone, often skating with a sand bag as his partner.

The Americans felt for him.

“Scott did so well with it,” Davis said. “We were so proud of him.”

They’ll perform the Tango Romantica compulsory dance Friday at the Pacific Coliseum. To prepare, their coach Marina Zoueva brought in Elena Tchaikovskaya, the dance’s inventor, to work with both teams.

“When you work five minutes with Elena, she’s going to draw that passion and fire out of you,” Moir said. “She demands it and if you don’t do it, the lesson will be over.”

Both teams have their own styles. Virtue-Moir exude a romantic fire Zoueva parallels with her old Soviet pairs — Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov.

American White, with his bouncy blond curls, and Davis bring an infectious energy to the ice.

One should make Olympic history with the first North American ice dance gold.

The only time Moir turned this thing political is when he saw poor coach Igor Shpilband, who has to lug around both his Canadian and U.S. team jackets to the rink.

“I’m on the ice for practice and I look over and there’s my coach wearing a U.S. jacket,” wise-guy Moir said, “and I’m saying, ‘What’s up with that?’”

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

Virtue and Moir

— Born: May 17, 1989/Sept. 2/1987

— Three-time Canadian national ice dance champs

—second at 2009 Grand Prix final in Tokyo

— third at 2009 world championships in Los Angeles

— top score is 208.80 points at 2008 world championships in Goteberg, Sweden

— original dance is Spanish Flamenco — Farrucas by Pepe Romero

— free dance is Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler

— Olympic rookies

Davis and White

— Born Jan. 1, 1987/Oct. 24, 1987

— Two-time United States national ice dance champs

— Won 2009 Grand Prix Final in Tokyo

— Finished fourth at 2009 world championships in Los Angeles

— top score is 201.97 points at NHK Trophy in Nagano in November.

— original dance is to an Indian Folk Dance.

— free dance to Phantom of the Opera Overture.

— Olympic rookies

POLL