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Virtue, Moir say winning worlds is "a great possibility"

Canada's reigning world silver medalists are excited heading to L.A.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are the favorites to take gold at this season's first Grand Prix event.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are the favorites to take gold at this season's first Grand Prix event. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(03/18/2009) - Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir head to next week's world championships in Los Angeles with top-dog status, following the withdrawal of the defending world champions, France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder. Canada's reigning world silver medalists, however, said they don't feel like they have a target on their backs.

Virtue, who is still recovering from the surgery she underwent on her legs early last fall, noted, "It's tough to say where we rank [globally], and being out with an injury is a tough thing. Coming back, you're never sure where you might fit in."

Moir said, "I don't know if I feel like we're the team to beat. There's a lot of good teams at the top of the world. I think it's going to be a great competition next week."

He added, "We kind of have to keep tunnel vision and worry about our skating and looking to go and skate our best and, hopefully, get some great results."

Despite their abbreviated season, Moir said that ending up on top of the podium at the Staples Center is still "a great possibility."

"We're actually sad the Pink Floyds didn't go head-to-head this year," Moir noted, referring to the fact that Delobel and Schoenfelder had also chosen the unorthodox music selection for their free dance. "It's always fun to go to a competition and know everyone is at their best. It seems that hasn't been the case for a couple of top teams this year, but obviously we wish her [Delobel] a speedy recovery and look forward to competing against them next year."

Virtue and Moir missed the 2008 Grand Prix Series after she sought relief from the debilitating pain in her legs early in the fall. When they returned to competition in January, they easily defended their Canadian title and then claimed silver at the ISU Four Continents Championships, just behind their Michigan training mates, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Virtue reported, "My shins are feeling much better. We've been training really well. Things are feeling really strong, and we've definitely made leaps and bounds and huge improvements since Four Continents."

Virtue said she has learned a lot about pain management through her ongoing recovery. Pain-wise, she said, her down days are not nearly as bad as they were previously, and the ups are even better.

"This has certainly been our toughest season so far. It's so cliché to say it makes us stronger, but it's really true. We've learned so much about each other, about our partnership, that this [competition] will mean a lot. Both competitions we've competed in so far have been huge milestones. Just to get through those knowing we can do it with such little training and under the circumstances, I think it sets us up really well for anything else that might come our way," Virtue suggested.

Moir said that the training time since Four Continents has allowed them to gain more power and strength in their programs.

"I think that we're starting to skate the programs and skate a lot more like you've come to know Tessa and Scott skate -- really loving every moment," he said.

Moir described these world championships preceding the 2010 Olympic Games as "huge."

"Worlds at any time is huge, and this will be only our third world championship, so it's very exciting for us to be competing with the best skaters in the world... . I think it really sets the stage for next season, so we're going to be going to L.A. and be ready for three strong performances."

Virtue said there will be "a little more pressure and extra butterflies" competing at these pre-Olympic worlds, but she believes it will be a good experience for them to learn how to deal with such an intense competitive environment.

"We're coming in aggressively and optimistic about the results of how things might go, and we're definitely just going to attack everything," she said.