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Virtue, Moir withdraw from Skate Canada

Canada's top pair will miss first Grand Prix assignment

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are ready for a triumphant comeback at Canadian nationals next week.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are ready for a triumphant comeback at Canadian nationals next week. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(10/23/2008) - Who knew?

Very few people, apparently. And those that did must be very good at keeping big news under their hats.

That's why it came as such a surprise when Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada's world ice dance silver medalists, announced their withdrawal from next week's HomeSense Skate Canada International.

It seems Virtue has not been on the ice since she underwent surgery in mid-September to repair painful injuries in her shins. After suffering with the condition called chronic exertional compartment syndrome for almost a year, she could no longer avoid seeking permanent relief from the pain which had intensified over the summer. "I'm so pleased and so happy that it was something that was fixable. The surgery should be great and I should be back on the ice in no time, so I'm lucky in that sense," Virtue said in a telephone interview with icenetwork.com.

"It should be all fixed now. They just cut right through the fascia all the way down my leg around the muscles. Now my muscles should be able to expand and I should be able to build myself up and get going again," she added, noting that today was her first physiotherapy session.

The surgery came right after the couple had created such a buzz at the Canadian team's high performance camp in Vancouver with their new free dance set to music by English rock band Pink Floyd. What wasn't reported at the time, however, was that Virtue and Moir were capable of performing the routine only in short sections rather than running through the entire routine at once, because of Virtue's painful condition.

The couple's coach Marina Zoueva said they had originally hoped Virtue could have recovered in time to compete at the Grand Prix event in Ottawa. In the end, they decided it was best not to rush her return to the ice, Zoueva said, citing Russian ice dancer Maxim Shabalin's over-anxiousness to return to the ice last season which ultimately forced him and partner Oksana Domnina out of the World Championships.

Moir has continued to train on his own, Zoueva reported, saying that they still hope to be able to compete at the last event in the Grand Prix series -- NHK Trophy in Tokyo. Virtue isn't making any promises before she has a chance to evaluate how quickly she recovers.

"If we're in top shape by then [end of November] and we feel we can compete, then we'll do our best to be there [in Tokyo]. It's too bad we had to miss Skate Canada. We're both really disappointed, but it comes with the territory of being an athlete, and we both have to stay positive. NHK is in the back of our minds, but I don't want to rush it. I want to make sure I'm completely healed, but it's definitely something I'll be pushing for."

Virtue's injury is believed to have been caused by new skate boots she got about a year ago. She has since changed boots, but the damage was done.

"It got to the point that I couldn't do nearly as much skating as I wanted to. I know I wouldn't have been able to complete the season without the surgery so better this year than next year and the timing of it is something I'll have to deal with," Virtue said.

Zoueva will still make the trip to Skate Canada as coach to U.S. contenders Meryl Davis and Charlie White and part-time coach of Ryan Bradley. Virtue has not yet decided if she will make the relatively short trip to Ottawa from her home in London.

Skate Canada has endured an unfortunate thinning of the stars from its roster since September. First, Jeffrey Buttle retired. Then, Canadian pair champions Anabelle and Langlois and Cody Hay's attendance was scuttled by her recovery from a broken foot. Next, twice world champion Stéphane Lambiel announced his retirement and Kiira Korpi, of Finalnd, scratched. And, now, Virtue and Moir are out.

As far as the Canadian contingent goes, that leaves upstart Patrick Chan, who snatched the national title from Buttle last season, his female counterpart Joannie Rochette, and world pairs bronze medalists Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison as the host country's remaining high-profile medal contenders.