Cana­dian skaters al­ready feel­ing buzz

Winnipeg Free Press - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

MIS­SIS­SAUGA, Ont. — Scott Moir used to be able to blend in dur­ing wing night at your typ­i­cal Ilder­ton, Ont., es­tab­lish­ment. But when the three-time world ice dance cham­pion was back in his home­town a cou­ple of weeks ago, every­one wanted to talk fig­ure skat­ing.

Five months out from the Pyeongchang Games, Moir said he can al­ready feel the Olympic buzz.

Moir and part­ner Tessa Virtue look to re­claim Olympic gold in Fe­bru­ary in South Korea in one fi­nal season be­fore they re­tire. The veter­ans at­tended Skate Canada’s tra­di­tional sea­sonopen­ing high-per­for­mance camp on Wed­nes­day, and talked about the im­mense Olympic hype that’s waits just around the cor­ner.

“We’re in a pres­sure-filled sport for sure, but any­thing in an Olympic season is height­ened, the highs are higher and the lows are lower, and ev­ery­thing just takes on grander pro­por­tions,” Virtue said. “So we have to be ready for that, and I think ex­pe­ri­ence will serve us well. But it’s about man­ag­ing that en­ergy, and man­ag­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, both out­side and even more so what we want of our­selves.”

“And that’s where it comes from... the ex­pec­ta­tions you have on your­self in an Olympic year, the highs are so high and the lows are the end of the world,” Moir added.

The two cap­tured gold at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Games but had to set­tle for sil­ver in 2014 and, after a two-year com­pet­i­tive hia­tus, re­turned with a vengeance last season hell-bent on re­claim­ing the top spot on the podium. Virtue and Moir went un­de­feated last season, cap­tur­ing their third world ti­tle in Helsinki in March.

The Cana­di­ans will com­pete with a bulls-eye on their back, but it’s a tar­get they wel­come.

“We like that chal­lenge, it’s been a big mo­ti­va­tor for us,” Moir said. “We know how hard it is to win after we’ve won, and it’s been a good mo­ti­va­tor this year. (But) we don’t need motivation. This Olympic season we’re just try­ing to con­trol our emo­tions more so than find motivation. We’re think­ing about it ev­ery day and that’s al­ready started, it’s so funny how quick you’re go­ing to bed ev­ery night dream­ing of the Olympics, it’s al­ready be­gun.”

While the tem­per­a­ture climbed to 25 C out­side Mis­sis­sauga’s Her­shey Cen­tre on Wed­nes­day, it might as well have been win­ter in­side as the Cana­dian team skated their pro­grams un­der the dis­cern­ing eyes of judges and coaches.

Virtue and Moir are ex­cited to un­veil their free dance to mu­sic from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, the 2001 movie star­ring Nicole Kid­man and Ewan McGre­gor. It was one of the rare times the ice dancers in­sisted on a par­tic­u­lar piece of mu­sic. Virtue said there was “no other op­tion.”

“We knew that we felt this so much and loved this so much, there was noth­ing that could com­pare,” said the Lon­don, Ont., na­tive.

“We re­ally love it and skat­ing to it feels spe­cial. I don’t know what it will look like, might be a com­plete mess,” Moir laughed. “But I can tell you that we’re hav­ing a blast while we do it, and we feel a spe­cial con­nec­tion to it and hope­fully that will show through.”

Three-time world cham­pion Pa­trick Chan chose Jeff Buck­ley’s ver­sion of Hal­lelu­jah for his long pro­gram, in a “nod to Leonard Co­hen.”

“The fact it was com­posed by a Cana­dian is very cool to have in my back pocket at an Olympic Games... feel­ing proud to be Cana­dian and rep­re­sent­ing my coun­try on the great­est stage in the world,” Chan said.

The Olympic sil­ver medal­list will skate his short pro­gram to the late-70s hit Dust in the Wind by Kansas and said he can re­late to the song’s mes­sage.

“We’re all flesh and bone, no mat­ter what kind of suc­cess you have in your life, what kind of dis­as­ters or hor­ri­ble things hap­pen in your life, we all kind of have a full cir­cle,” Chan said. “It’s about re­al­iz­ing how small we are in the greater world, and it’s kind of my motto for this year.

“It’s about do­ing this year the way I want, and not think­ing so much about the re­sults. I’m work­ing re­ally hard to not put so much em­pha­sis (on re­sults), just for my own well-be­ing and my own men­tal health. The last two Olympics, I re­al­ized I didn’t re­ally en­joy them be­cause I was so caught up in the ‘go win the gold for every­one, beat every­one.’ It’s not about that, it’s a higher in­tel­lec­tual learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me, go­ing to a third Olympic Games.”

Chan, Virtue and Moir, plus two-time world pairs cham­pi­ons Mea­gan Duhamel and Eric Rad­ford will open their in­ter­na­tional sea­sons at Skate Canada In­ter­na­tional, Oct. 26-29 in Regina.

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are work­ing to­wards be­com­ing Olympic cham­pi­ons again in 2018.

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