Under the old scoring system, defending Olympic ice dance champion Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir would be coming into these Games with a cloud over the heads.
Remember the way ice dancing used to be judged? Once a certain team was deemed the best, they could do no wrong, basically until they retired.
But after the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic ice dance scandal, the International Skating Union got rid of the old 6.0 scoring system and brought in a new points system that while certainly not perfect, is much more fair.
And that’s a blessing for Virtue and Moir, who have lost to their American counterparts, Charlie White and Meryl Davis, in the last two major competitions in which they’ve faced each other — the 2013 world championships and 2013-14 Grand Prix Final.
Ten years ago, those results might have spelled doom for the Canadians at these Olympics. But now that the best team on the day usually wins (winning streaks aside), Virtue and Moir are confident they can beat White and Davis for their second Olympic gold medal — even if they have been on a bit of a recent losing streak against the Americans.
“We feel very confident about the way we trained this year, confident that we’re peaking at the right time,” said Moir. “We’re a different team than we were even in December. We feel like we’re ready to take this one. We feel that this is our Games and we’re ready to win.
“At the same time we know the Americans will be strong, the Russians will be strong, the Canadians beside us (Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje) will be strong. But Tessa and I always focus on our own job and that doesn’t change. For us, this week and this month is all about being the best that we can and having our own Olympic moment."
Still, there is a sense that despite being defending Olympic champions, Virtue and Moir are the underdogs here in Sochi.
And while he doesn’t like that idea, Moir is not heading into these Games worrying about White and Davis. There’s a bigger picture to consider. While they’ve never officially announced that this will be their final competitive season, it’s pretty well a given that the darlings of Canadian figure skating will retire after this season, at least from competitive skating.
Another gold medal would be fantastic, but Moir said he and his partner of 17 years are looking at these Games from a broader perspective.
“It’s a lot more personal than just going out and winning an Olympic gold medal,” the London, Ont. native said.
They’re looking at this competition as a celebration of their time together, what they’ve been through, and what they mean to each other, now and in the future.
“It’s kind of an interesting partnership that we have, a friendship, whatever you want to call it,” said Moir. “We don’t really know what to call it, but we know it’s special and we’re celebrating that.”
Moir became emotional at Skate Canada earlier this season when talking about his partnership with Virtue and how it may soon be ending.
There is a definite sense of melancholy with the pair, behind the excitement of being at another Olympics. Virtue said they often talk about where they will be as friends down the road.
“We talk about when we’re old and doing ballroom dance together,” she said.
“And babysitting each other’s kids and stuff like that,” added Moir.
One way they’ve made this Olympic swan song special is by skating their free dance program to a series of pieces by Russian composers Alexander Glazunov and Alexander Scriabin.
“There’s a lot that goes into that,” said Moir of their decision to skate Russian compositions in front of a largely Russian audience at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Part of it is to salute the great Russian ice dancers of the past.
“They really brought ice dance into the Games and they were champions for years,” said Moir. “And with us having a Russian coach (Marina Zoueva) who lived through that era, Marina really wanted us to do something that was Russian and special for the Russian people. And when we heard this music, we connected with it and it worked out well.
“We’re kind of the luckiest kids in the world,” Moir added. “We’ve had our home games (Vancouver 2010) and then we had a Russian Games.”