Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir reflect on Olympic dreams and lasting legacies ahead of the Thank You Canada Tour’s finale in St. John’s on November 24th
Fairytale endings aren’t usually reserved for adults. No, those are the stuff of storybooks, used to prop up the imaginations of kiddos with wide-eyed wonder.
Yet, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s journey through the Pyeongchang winter Olympics this past year – billed as the likely close to their legendary career as two of the most decorated Olympians in Canadian history – was nothing short of flawless.
Largely considered to be the greatest ice dance team of all time – who first joined forces in 1997 at the tender ages of seven and nine – Virtue and Moir are eight time Canadian National Champions, three time Four Continent Champions, and three time World Champions. Their place in the history books was well secured before February’s games, when the pair roared into South Korea, becoming two time Olympic champions in ice dance, shattering records in the process.
“I remember being on the plane and flying to Pyeongchang and thinking, we’re so ready, we have never been more prepared for a competition in our lives,” Virtue shared with The Herald. “As an athlete that’s really all you can ask for. That’s really where the fulfillment comes in and the satisfaction knowing that there was no stone left unturned. It was a bit of a fairytale. It’s exactly what we worked and trained for, but when you get to execute that, just as you imagined, it’s something totally surreal. I’m not really sure if we’ve had time to decompress or come down.”
“I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath and look back, but I will say that the preparation for Pyeongchang was all about that perfection didn’t exist, that we were pursuing excellence instead of perfection, giving yourself room to respond to little mistakes and to conquer things,” seconds Moir.
A Storybook Ending
“It was a very beautiful time in our lives. As an athlete, to be able to go to the Olympics and be on the plane on the way over and sit there knowing you couldn’t have done anything more to prepare yourself is such a great feeling. But there is sport in sports, there’s still that five per cent or three per cent you can’t really control. You never know what’s going to happen. It seems like we had the momentum, we were super trained and obviously that helped. It was a storybook ending for our amateur career. It was so neat to be able to live that together and truly be present during those moments … Pretty close to perfect.”
Virtue and Moir, who were selected as flag-bearers for Canada at the games, were a crucial part of Canada’s gold in the team skate event. As a unit, the squad operate as if by symbiosis, as fluid and united as any team globally.
“We had made that decision as a team, even after the Sochi Olympics. We came together and said Canada has to be the greatest skating nation and we owe it to Canadians to bring home the gold. We made that our mission and we didn’t take it lightly,” Virtue explains. “We all came together and contributed and I think that set the tone for the rest of the games. Of course we’re a part of an Olympic team which is unparalleled really across the board, but our skating unit, we really felt the synergy and support from one another which is really comforting in those times where the pressure is on and the world is watching.”
As a means of giving back to their home country, Virtue and Moir, alongside the likes of Patrick Chan, Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford and Newfoundland’s own Kaetlyn Osmond, will embark on a cross-country Thank You Canada Tour, which stops in St. John’s at Mile One Centre on November 24th.
“We want to bring it into all the corners of the country, especially for young aspiring skaters. We always felt so fortunate and lucky to have the support we had from Canadians across the country,” Moir shares. “We felt like it was the right time to celebrate and to give back to the fans who have given us so much support.”
The lengthy tour kicked off on October 5th in Abbotsford, British Columbia and will close out here on The Rock, something all hands agree is a fitting cap to what will be a celebration of Canadian pride.
Curiosity of the Masses
“I can’t think of a better way to culminate things. It will be a nice way to wrap up the tour. We’re all going to be so pumped. The fans are spectacular there, and the people,” shared Virtue, noting that the home-province showcase for Kaetlyn Osmond is seen as a focal point of the tour.
“We’ve seen Kaetlyn grow up. Watching her take the ice and perform Black Swan at the games was such a moment for all of us. I remember feeling such pride and thinking that she was inspiring a new generation of skaters coming up. There were so many people watching that and cheering her on. To be with her when she takes home ice again, I just can’t wait.”
Virtue and Moir’s professional partnership has always peaked the curiosity of the masses. Their chemistry is palpable on and off the ice, which has always attracted a certain amount of ‘are they or aren’t they’ chatter. The two have always maintained that their relationship is perfectly professional, though battling that public and media interest is an added stressor of an already glaring spotlight.
“We’re proud of our partnership, because it is different,” Moir says. “We’re a man and a woman business partnership that aren’t romantically involved, but we’re proud of how strong that is. We do love each other, we love each other on the ice and love working with each other, but there isn’t that personal relationship that everyone wants to be there. I think that you have to attribute some of that to the fact of the stories we tell on the ice. We like telling stories of a man and a woman falling in love, falling out of love, fighting their battle and people connect with them. There’s a lot that goes into it, and I think we’re just fortunate to have that support for so many years and that people, in a way, got to see us grow up and change. We’ve always really been focused on trying to be the best Canadians that we can be. For me that’s just being ourselves and trying to make sure what we give people is 100 per cent authentic.”
Being Good Canadians
As for the legacy of Virtue and Moir, one that truly only has reached phase one of what will surely be a long and illustrious stay in Canada’s sports landscape, the decorated duo wish to be remembered as, above all else, good Canadians.
“I think most importantly we’d like to be remembered as being good people and people who were passionate about the sport, who worked hard and committed themselves fully to whatever the goal was,” Virtue shares.
“I’d like to think that hopefully there is some inspiration there across the board, and not just for figure skaters but for any young kids watching the Olympics to just get moving, get active and find something you love. Be present. That’s kind of the message we like to share whenever we do seminars or speaking gigs. Options are limitless as long as you dream big, cliche as that may be. We got to live ours, we’re so lucky.”
“There’s kind of a long resume in our ice-dancing lives, but what we always talk about, and for me, is that we’re remembered as being good Canadians,” adds Moir.
“That is the best compliment that we can get around the world, when people say ‘you’re so Canadian’. I love hearing that. That’s first and foremost. I want people to remember the people that we are. I think our legacy exists in the next generation, the people who watch us through all three of these games and set goals in their lives, who chase their aspirations because they saw Olympic moments on CBC. For me my moment was when I saw Simon Whitfield win in Sydney. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an Olympian.
“Maybe some kid around the world gets inspired by watching ice-dancing, which is a hilarious statement, but it happens. For me the proof of our legacy will be in the next generation of athletes and the next generation of figure-skaters. If there are some young kids, which I hope and expect that will come up and absolutely destroy our record, nothing would make me happier.
“That’s what I’ll look for and hopefully we’ve done that and can continue to do so.”
Tickets to the Thank You Canada Tour are available at the Mile One box office, by phone and online at mileonecentre.com