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Virtue, Moir say delay has helped them

Olympic champions anxious to show off polished programs in Moscow

Olympic gold medalists and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
Olympic gold medalists and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/19/2011) - With the 2011 ISU World Figure Skating Championships kicking off on Apr. 24th in Moscow -- more than four weeks after initially planned in Tokyo -- some skaters may show up in Russia past their peak. Others may benefit from the extra practice.

On a media teleconference Tuesday, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir declared they are firmly in the second camp.

"We're right on track, we're right where we want to be now," Virtue, 21, said. "I feel like we're a new team."

After recovering from the initial shock of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent cancellation of worlds, the team ramped down their training a bit, but picked things up after the event was moved to Moscow. The extra weeks' practice enabled the Olympic champions to add some finishing touches to their Latin free dance, which has yet to be performed in competition.

"It's a terrible tragedy what happened in Japan; it kind of makes you take a step back and realize how . . . little the skating world is," Moir, 23, said.

"With Tessa and I, and the challenges we've had this season, [the delay] can only be a good thing. . . We really got into a groove and got some training done and a lot of things have changed, that's to be expected."

The Moscow worlds will be Virtue and Moir's first full competition of the season. On Oct. 6, Virtue underwent her second surgery for chronic exertional compartment syndrome, with doctors operating on both of her calves. The team withdrew from its Grand Prix events and the 2011 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, which they had won three seasons running.

At the 2011 ISU Four Continents Championships in Taipei, their first ISU event in 11 months, Virtue and Moir won the short dance, narrowly defeating training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They withdrew after stopping a third of the way through their free dance, after Virtue felt pain and tightness in her thigh. Davis and White skated on to win the event.

Today, both skaters emphasized the injury in Taipei was not related to Virtue's previous surgeries.

"I feel great," Virtue said. "The issue with my quad [in Taipei] was coming from my back. It stemmed from a particular lift we were doing, a split lift, and now we do an upside-down position [in the lift] instead of a split. That isn't putting quite the torque on my back."

"The goal was to get Tessa healthy," Moir said. "She had to recover from that injury. We know how to train, we've been doing this long enough. . . We needed the time, we needed the mileage [on the free dance], we're excited to go and show it off at worlds."

The skaters say monitoring sessions from Skate Canada officials, as well as competition simulations complete with costumes at their Canton, Mich., training rink, have helped compensate for their lack of competition this season.

"What has changed is the comfort level," Moir said. "Over the past month, we're really made it our program. In my opinion, it is a lot more demanding than [last season's free dance] the Mahler program. We needed the extra time. The comfort level is a lot higher than it was at Four Continents."

Besides the split lift, the short and free dance elements are little-changed since Four Continents.

"The patterns [in the programs] have stayed the same, pretty much," Virtue said. "We've changed a little bit of the diagonal footwork in the free dance."

To gain even more practice miles, the team will depart Detroit for Moscow on Saturday, two days before the U.S. world ice dance teams also training in Canton, including U.S. champions Davis and White; silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani; and bronze medalists Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein.

The early departure gives them the benefit of each official practice on Moscow ice.

"We're improving our power and speed, and getting back to the flow we had in 2010 at the Olympics and World Championships," Moir said. "Those things come with time and mileage and training."