You’d never know it, considering the chemistry between Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as they skated to gold this week, but a little over a year ago, Moir was training alone—using a hockey stick and a sandbag as a stand-in for his partner.
Back then, Virtue could “barely walk,” says Lynn Lee, a close friend of the Moirs.
Eventually, they outgrew Mac Intosh—and Canada—and sought the help of Russian coaches Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband, world leaders in ice dance who’d put out their shingle in the Detroit suburb of Canton.
“We knew they had to do something to compete internationally with the European skaters,” says Alma.
“And when it was their turn, all the skaters and coaches sat back and just watched them.” Carol, who’d long since realized she had something special on her hands, had turned them over to Paul Mac Intosh and Suzanne Killing of the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club.
The close-knit Moirs and Virtues, who Carol says share a “big, farming family bond,” split the gruelling driving duties to Kitchener; they’d get up at 4 a.m. The kids would climb into the back of the car, and fall asleep immediately, says Jim.
On the ice, though, their talent couldn’t be contained.
Carol recalls how at one of their first major competitions, in Kelowna, B.
They were the cute kids, the crowd favourites—so small that Virtue could lift Moir during performances, says Ryan Pyette, a reporter with the who’s been covering them since they were kids.
By the time they were teenagers, the pair were packing 9,000 fans into the London rink—“like Gretzky,” says Pyette.
“And for the longest time before that they didn’t even know what was wrong with her.” Yes, it’s been quite the ride for Canada’s golden duo, the youngest ice dance gold medallists in history, and the first North Americans to win the event in its 30-year Olympic history.
It makes their victory, following a near-flawless skate on Monday, even more remarkable.
Moir’s mom Alma and her twin sister Carol both skated competitively, then later coached; his older brothers Danny and Charlie also competed.