THE INTERVIEW: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir









THE INTERVIEW November 2016:

One-On-One with Ice Dancers Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

When London’s Tessa Virtue and Ilderton’s Scott Moir left competitive ice dancing after capturing Silver at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, the duo never officially retired. Still, when the most successful ice-dance team in Canadian history announced in late-February that they were returning to competition, they knew their comeback would push them harder than at any other time during their illustrious careers. Virtue, 27, and Moir, 29, are six-time Canadian champions, two-time world champions and Gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. As accomplished professional athletes, they have nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. And that, according to the duo, is exactly why they decided to train again.
However, in most cases when elite athletes come out of retirement, they do so because nothing else in their lives fills the incredible void once occupied by accolades and applause. So, when editor Jeffrey Reed spent an hour chatting with the local dynamic duo, he looked for the void – a dark, deep hole out of which many retired athletes never crawl. But in all honesty, there never was a void to fill for Virtue and Moir. In fact, one can go as far to say, they’re back on the ice for all of the right reasons. Their ultimate goal is a lofty one: Gold at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. There will be a lot of blood, sweat and tears on and off the ice before then, but according to the long-time on-ice partners, that’s what drives them to be the best they can be. dance-gold-medalists-virtue-moir1That’s not to say the lengthy layoff saw Virtue and Moir lead a lazy lifestyle. Quite the contrary. They kept in shape, skated in exhibitions, connected with London community via charity work, and offered commentary from the television broadcast booth which Virtue said played a part in their decision to return to competition, because it gave them a new appreciation of their sport. Moir got his hands dirty with some home renovation work, while Virtue designed a jewellery line for Hillberg & Berk.
But according to Moir, after a much-needed break from the strenuous, stress-filled life of international skating competition, it was time to get back to work and see how their ice dancing – a combination of art and sport – could evolve to new heights. The pair don’t have to look any further than their own camp for motivation. The current world champions, young French duo Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, are also in Montreal – the new training home for Virtue and Moir – and also working under the guidance of coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.
Already, the duo appear to be in world-class form. Genuinely happy on the comeback trail, quick with quips and at peace with the world, Virtue and Moir spoke with Reed from their new Montreal home.

Jeffrey Reed, Editor, Listen, it appears the two of you haven’t skipped a beat since your two-year hiatus. In your first competitive skate in more than two and half years, you were near-flawless in short dance with a top score of 77.72 points at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International in Montreal (September 29).
Scott Moir: We had a good start.
Reed: Scott, that’s an understatement.
Moir:  It was interesting, because we have talked so much and at length with our team and our coaches, about having to do these events. They’re important, to get the rust off.
Reed: Pardon the pun, but although you’re skating one step at a time, you haven’t appeared to have lost anything from your world championship performances.
team-short-tessa-scott-9-001Moir: Well, we hadn’t competed in two and a half years. We’ve done shows during that time, but there’s a different energy in competitive skating. It’s so funny, we talked about how in some ways you just can’t prepare yourself for what it’s going to be like when you get back out on the ice. Yes, that short dance was a pretty good skate. But we were a little bit shaky. We both talked about how we kind of felt a jolt of adrenalin going through us. It was a fun start, for sure.
Reed: Obviously, you didn’t forget how to compete. You’re also accomplished artists – that’s unique to your sport. And your athleticism appears to be on the same level as before your layoff. But I’m sure that until you do hit the ice – and are judged – you’re going to be nervous. And we all know that being nervous isn’t a bad thing, if you make it work for you during competition.
Tessa Virtue: To be honest, that was a big part of what we missed. We certainly missed the structure of training, the hard work, and pushing ourselves both technically and artistically. But we also missed that adrenaline of competing, and performing and pressure. So regardless of the nerves, we are trying to embrace it, and remind ourselves this is why we came back.
Reed: Let’s go back to your retirement, which, as it turns out, wasn’t really retirement at all, was it? Had you both given a lot of thought to leaving the sport, before you did leave competition?
2014-canadians-senior-dance-short-virtue-moir015-001Moir: We always said that we’re just going to take a couple of years off, and we actually said we would take it one year at a time. So we never really officially retired. We wanted to make sure, because we knew that this was a possibility, I mean, after the Olympics we needed time off. We needed a break from that world. We knew that we wouldn’t be training again in Canton, Michigan. It was just something that we were ready to move on from. But soon after that, after a little bit of a break, being involved with other opportunities, we got the itch again and started working up here with Patrice and Marie-France. We saw the way they coached, saw the atmosphere that they train in here, and thought, let’s give this some serious thought. We said, if we were going to come back, this would be a great place. So luckily for us, we never really totally retired. We knew that there was a good chance – or at least a chance – that we would return. But we wanted to be sure. We didn’t want to retire, then re-retire, then un-retire six times over (both laughing).
Reed: Then you’d be known as the Michael Jordans of ice dancing.
Virtue & Moir: (Laughing).
Moir:  Technically we were just taking a break. And when we decided to do this comeback and the next stage, we knew it was right as soon as we started again, because we had the time off that we needed. And we were saving ourselves for the team we love to work with and that we admire. And honestly, ever since our comeback announcement, we’ve been having a blast. So it feels right.

“We always said that we’re just going to take a couple of years off, and we actually said we would take it one year at a time. So we never really officially retired.” – Scott Moir

Reed: And there’s nothing like winning to jump start the comeback – something else Michael Jordan knows about. (Ed. Note: In their first Grand Prix even in three years, Virtue and Moir recently won Skate Canada with a combined score of 189.06). Getting back to your time away from the sport, was it the winning, or the competition, that you missed most? Truly, was there no empty feeling for you both away from the rink?
Moir: Definitely not. It is very different, obviously, being so structured and then not having that structure. But I think that’s what’s so great about this journey. And we’re both trying to have a little bit more in a balanced lifestyle. I mean, here we are, in Montreal, and we’re trying to enjoy it. We’ve found that the more we balance our lives, then the better athletes we are. Did we miss skating? Well, yes. And we missed the structure. But we’re both the type of people who are very intrigued by opportunities outside of the sport as well. I think this is just a window of opportunity for us – skating – and it is not going to be there for much longer. So we can probably officially call it our last chance to enjoy being competitive skaters. That was something we felt like we needed to hop onto. But after that, there’s a whole bunch of things to do in this life, and we will be pretty eager to get back to that as well.
Reed: You had the opportunity to work with TSN and the CBC. I’m sure that perspective gave you a whole new understanding of where ice dancing is today, because that world changes very quickly.
f-skating-ice-danse-free-dance-17fev-28-virtue-moir-2-001Virtue: That’s right. We did some broadcasting. And it did offer us some great perspective, seeing things from the other side. We saw that at some major competitions. And sitting in the stands, watching as fans, was unique for us – having that distance. But it made us appreciate our sport again. I think we knew coming back we would have a lot of hard work to do. But watching from the outside really helped us gain some insight on the direction we wanted our skating to go.
Reed: Tessa, you’ve said how impressed you are with the level of skating – how it has risen in just two short years. What makes it that much more impressive?
Virtue: I think it has evolved particularly in the technical area, partly because of the young, talented skaters coming up, but also because the system is adjusting to them. Throughout this past spring and summer, we were very, very focused on the technical side of things. We watched a lot of video before deciding to come back. And when we watched our skating, we thought that there was more that we could give – that there’s so much more that we can improve on. And that’s what’s driving us as well, the idea of, how far can we push our own selves and our own skating?
Moir: Being an athlete is about being the best you can be, pushing yourself to new levels and challenging yourself. That’s a huge reason why we came back. We’re always going to be able to find something that we can improve on.

“I think we knew coming back we would have a lot of hard work to do. But watching from the outside really helped us gain some insight on the direction we wanted our skating to go.” – Tessa Virtue

Reed: Tessa, a National Post article recently recounted how impressed you are with today’s young stars, like your stable mates in Montreal, the team of current world champions, French duo Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. You were quoted as saying there was much you and Scott could learn from them. We hear things like this all the time, as a type of mind-game. You know the drill: instill false security within the competition, while billing yourselves as underdogs. Was that part of the reason behind your comments?
Virtue: No. We’re reminded of (just how good the young skaters are) constantly with the French team. It’s in our face every day – the calibre of skating. We have to work extremely hard and we have to be better than we’ve ever been to even keep up. And that was part of the appeal (of returning to competition), that challenge of seeing what we can do.
Reed: So here you are, back in the saddle, taking another stab at the brass ring – in your case, the Gold Medal in 2018 at Pyeongchang, South Korea. That’s your ultimate goal?
2013-sci-dance-free-virtue-moir041-001Moir: Yes, and I think like any professional athlete, the goal is never in the background. We want to win in 2018, there’s no doubt about that. But at the same time, I think we know the key to our success and the key to our happiness would be focusing on what we do every day. We have a way to go before we’re ready to be there, so we just have to make sure that we follow the steps. And the biggest thing for us right now is enjoying what we do. We want to win. It’s not going to take away from that preparation. But I think we know that in order to win, we need to enjoy it. We just have to focus on having the time of our lives, and doing the best we can. I we think that will lead us to the success that we’re looking for in 2018.
Reed: Any butterflies as you train hard, day-in, day-out, with some competition thrown in for good measure before the 2018 Games?
Moir: We signed up for the butterflies, so they won’t be over until March 2018. We’ve always found that it doesn’t matter where you’re performing, we like that feeling. You need to get nervous. It means that you care. And for us, we don’t expect anything but more butterflies.

“It’s in our face every day – the calibre of skating. We have to work extremely hard and we have to be better than we’ve ever been to even keep up.” – Tessa Virtue

Reed: That’s the fun part, right?
Moir: Yeah! You have to feel alive!
Virtue: And we look forward to the challenge of seeing how we will perform.
Reed: Judging by your comeback to-date, Gold in 2018 is a very realistic goal. Tessa, Scott, thanks so much for spending some time chatting today. It has already been fun watching this second phase of your professional skating careers.
Virtue & Moir: Thanks Jeff! We appreciate it.

The Interview

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and

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