By SHIRLEY ZHU
As Canada’s flag bearers at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic opening ceremony, internat- ionally-recognized ice dance pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had the world’s eyes on their every move. With an immense pressure to perform, they, like all great athletes, rose to the occasion.
After a heartbreaking second place finish in Sochi 2014, having failed to defend their 2010 gold medal in Vancouver, Virtue and Moir decided to take a break from competition. However, missing the sport, the regimented training schedule, and the fierce competition, the duo announced their return two years later, much to fans’ excitement.
At this year’s Olympic Games, the pair helped Canada win gold in the team figure skating event before perform-ing their short dance, a black and gold number, and free dance, a sultry routine crackling with chemistry, for their individual event. On the final night of compet- ition for pairs ice dance, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France set a world record just minutes before Virtue and Moir took to the ice. However, the seasoned couple, radiating confidence, stepped onto the rink tall and proud while Canada cheered on.
The first tremulous notes rang through the stadium and a hush fell over the crowd, leaving a nervous anticipation hanging in the air. As a low voice growled the opening words of their free dance Moulin Rouge, the world-famous ice dance pair sprang to life. Prowling across the ice with a single powerful stroke, the two glided in a wide arc to meet in the centre. With a heart- stopping leap backwards, Virtue paused, suspended in Moir’s arms, before coming down gently in a dizzying spin. Sharing a smouldering look, the couple began to dance. They moved with deadly precision in a succession of sharp head motions, quick directional changes, and swift turns. Switching from inside to outside edges, the captivating duo twizzled in unison to the swelling music. Just as the crescendo rose to the fullest, they stomped their skates, digging up shards of ice in a striking display of strength.
The melody merged into a more lyrical tune and Moir’s arms softened while waltzing his partner effortlessly along the curves of the boards in a fluid, continuous rhythm. Together, they glissaded with purpose and a practiced ease, weaving back and forth over the Olympic rings, carving patterns into the frozen surface. Whenever the two skated apart, they always found each other again; almost as if a string between them, intertwining and tangling as they spun across the arena, pulled them together. Their connection to each other evolved with every crest and trough of the song and, with an expressiveness that exuded from their faces to their very fingertips, the couple lost themselves in each others’ embrace. In the final dying chords, the audience roared, charged with electricity.
Filled with risqué moves, this gold-medal performance beat their personal best and edged out their French rivals by a mere 0.79 points for a new world record overall score of 206.07. A product of a 20-year partnership that overcame hardship time and time again, their magical skate was a breathtakingly beautiful display of artistry, strength, and grace. Drawing praise and admiration from around the world, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir became immediate global icons.
On social media, Tessa thanked the fans, saying, “Speechless. This is the moment we have dreamed about. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for all of the support. This one is for you, Canada!” Within four minutes, Virtue and Moir had not only set the world ablaze, but also had skated into the history books.