SPORTS

Ice dancers Virtue, Moir had plans to retire; not they're undecided

11/02/2014 06:22 EST | Updated 01/02/2015 05:59 EST
KELOWNA, B.C. - Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir prepared for last season as if it was their last, and when Moir knelt down and kissed the Olympic rings on the ice in Sochi, it might as well have been a kiss goodbye.

But Canada's world and Olympic ice dance champions say they're not so sure now.

"To be 100 per cent honest, after Sochi we thought we were done for sure," Moir said. "But we knew that was a motivational decision, training for 17 years straight, and we needed to make sure that we took the proper time.

"And unfortunately now — or fortunately now — we're able to say we don't know if that's the case. Halfway through the summer we had a glimmer of hope that maybe we would like to come back. But we don't know if that's strong enough and we don't know what that means."

Virtue and Moir, who teamed up when she was seven and he was nine, won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and then were edged by American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White last winter in Sochi, to finish second.

The two were at Skate Canada International that wrapped up Sunday, working for TSN's broadcast crew, and watched as Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje led Canada in a 1-2 finish in ice dance. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier won the silver.

"It's sort of a mix of emotions," Virtue said. "In one sense, it's fun to be a fan, and it's exhilarating to be on the other side of things in a different capacity.

"But it's also strange when you hear that opening music that we're used to hearing before every competition and you get those butterflies. You see wonderful performances and you think: what would we have done this year? What programs would we have chosen? What choreography? What lifts?"

Moir said they "always loved" competing at Skate Canada.

"We were lucky to skate in front of 4,000, 5,000 people," Moir said. "It is nice to sit in the stands and see the Canadians do so well, but we were lucky to love what we did every day, trained, competed, and we loved to compete.

"We do miss it."

Three-time world champion Patrick Chan, who won silver in Sochi, is also taking the season off to contemplate his future.

Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director, said he suggested both Chan and the ice dancers take their time before announcing any firm decisions.

"With both, it's been a long six to eight years in the last two quad cycles. Sometimes it's nice to get a break and kind of look at things from the outside," Slipchuk said. "It gives them a chance to kind of see the competition and see what's out in the skating world, and just access what their next plan is.

"Sometimes you just need a break after that cycle. Often we don't realize how much of a toll that four years plays on the athletes."

Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., took the summer and most of the fall completely away from skating. Virtue is back at Western completing her psychology degree, while Moir is coaching.

"For 17 years, we knew what we were doing every minute of every day," Virtue said. "It's unsettling to not know, but it's also liberating."

They do public speaking engagements. Virtue stays in shape in the gym, Moir plays hockey, and figure skates once in awhile.

"I get to a point where I'm feeling super lazy, so I'll go (skating) one day and then take a week off. It's not really the training schedule for a champion," he said, laughing.

They're cherishing the chance to live like normal people.

"Tessa and I laugh, like how great is it we can wake up on a Tuesday and go grocery shop and then go visit our parents," Moir said.

"Run errands in the middle of the week," Virtue adds.

"It's the oddest thing to have a normal life," Moir said. "That's the other side that makes me not want to come back to skating."

They have a professional show coming up in December, so will hit the ice to train together again soon. They plan to choreograph one of their own programs for "Stars on Ice," which is a first.

"We still are just 27 (Moir) and 25 (Virtue)," Moir said. "And we can still push ourselves and we can still be better, even if it's at the professional level, so that's exciting."

They both say if they do come back they'll approach training and competing completely different.

"That's the enticing thing, because we know what we would do," Virtue said. "And even just the approach to training, we would have a better formula for what works for our bodies. It's much more intellectual, the approach to training, and maybe that's because we're older and dealt with injuries, but it's also more science-based."

Whether or not a comeback is in their future, they feel fortunate they went into last season as if it was their last.

"We were lucky because not every athlete has the opportunity to do that," Virtue said. "But we were healthy and fully prepared and we really couldn't have skated better in Sochi, and that's the best, most satisfying feeling.

"So if that was it, we're thrilled with that."

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