When they meet at centre ice, it’s as if the world stops. She’s looking at him and he’s looking at her. As for us, the 4.5 million Canadians (not to mention the other nations) watching this on-ice chemistry explode right before our eyes? We’re the hopeless romantics just happy to bear witness. This is the grand finale, the last hurrah for two people who have given everything to be in this moment. And we, the viewers of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, want it so desperately for them.
As the first notes of “El Tango de Roxanne” from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge ring through Gangneung Ice Arena in PyeongChang, South Korea, it’s clear that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir know exactly what to do.
You could call this something of a redemption, a comeback to retrieve what is rightfully theirs as the greatest ice dancers of their generation. They won gold in Vancouver in 2010 but were left wanting more after taking silver in Sochi in 2014; fast-forward four years, and the veteran duo heads into their final Olympics not only as Canadian flag-bearers, but as athletes ready to reclaim the top of the podium. From the second Virtue slams the pick of her skate into the ice for their concluding PyeongChang number, we know it: they have saved their best for last.
Gliding, soaring, spinning. Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place. Lifting, catching, whirling. Suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace. Although their skate plays out on the world stage, it feels like an intimate moment between Virtue and Moir. They weave into each other’s shapes with technicality and athleticism, sensuality and intimacy. And it works—the gold is theirs (along with another gold from the team event), making them the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history.
The performance is one that still leaves Virtue and Moir breathless. “It was magical,” Moir remembers. “That was probably the most fulfilling seven minutes of our career.” Although it’s been months since that triumphant day in PyeongChang, the pair still has that golden glow—especially today, in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where they’ve joined their Team Canada colleagues on special nationwide Thank You Canada Tour.
Standing on the ice at Abbotsford Centre, the duo’s connection is undeniable. She is radiant, sophisticated, always dressed with a smile; he is playful, a born leader. Together they are the total package, and it’s easy to understand the millions of people around the world who completely fell in love with their chemistry—enough to wonder if their partnership was something more romantic off the ice (it’s not). At the end of the day, they have what they call a “special business relationship,” and they remain fiercely committed to it.
“Part of our job is telling a story,” Virtue says. “And often, when it’s a man and a woman on the ice, that comes down to love, romance, and everything that falls within those boundaries: passion, jealously, anger, rage, and joy.” It’s what sets Virtue and Moir apart: they are able to make us feel something, forcing us to take a step back and surrender to human emotion. “We love diving into those characters,” Virtue adds.
Their pursuit of excellence has been one of careful calculation and construction since the beginning. At the ages of eight and 10, Virtue and Moir were paired together by mutual coach (and Moir’s aunt) Carol Moir in Ilderton, Ontario near London. Their individual power and skill quickly melded together to create a well-oiled machine of trust and communication. “If you spend two decades with someone and invest every single day into making that a purposeful partnership,” Virtue explains, “inevitably, that pays off and something special grows from it.” That dynamism led them to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where they became the youngest ice dancers ever to win gold.
As Moir excuses himself to go assist with some of the technical details before the opening night of the tour, Virtue is quick to praise her partner. “He’s passionate about everything he does,” she says. “He’s one of those people who wears his heart on his sleeve, and we always know what he’s thinking and feeling. To be around someone that emotionally invested in what he does is inspiring.” When Moir skates back to Virtue’s side, he eagerly gives the admiration right back to her. “She’s a genius,” he says. “It’s pretty cool to come in every day for 21 years and still be inspired and motivated by what she can come up with from a creative standpoint. The athlete she became going into PyeongChang was both inspiring and terrifying, because I didn’t know if I could keep up most of the time.”
Now with that perfect Olympic ending behind them, what’s next? “There’s a crash after the Games,” Virtue admits. “It’s such a high and then there’s a crash. I’m still working through that—emotionally, physically, and mentally trying to find some kind of balance.” Many Olympians note that the months and even years after the Games are difficult; once a goal of this magnitude is reached, the path forward can often be hard to find.
After the Thank You Canada Tour wrapped last November, Virtue shared a quote from Fred Rogers on Instagram. “My hope for all of us is that ‘the miles we go before we sleep’ will be filled with all the feelings that come from deep caring—delight, sadness, joy, wisdom—and that in all the endings of our lives, we will be able to see the new beginnings.” Is it a message of closure? The farewell to a magical chapter? Sure. But it’s also a note of bravery, of embracing the unknown. For Virtue and Moir, tomorrow is full of promise, and no matter what path they decide to embark on next, be it solo or as a duo, one thing is for certain: they will always be standing hand in hand, come what may.
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