Figure skating hero Tessa Virtue launches 2014 with reality series

After grabbing the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were known affectionately as Canada’s Sweethearts. As this dynamic duo looks to repeat as gold medal champions at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, their efforts are being immortalized on film.

Reality program “Tessa & Scott” made its debut on Canada’s W Network on January 2, 2014. Moir had disclosed to the Canadian Press that the filming of the program was a way for them to look back on their journey towards Sochi. Virtue added that the show did not affect their training and the two became friends with the members of the crew.

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With the program divided into seven episodes, the seventh and final episode shall air in February, right before the beginning of the Games. The program represents an adventure for the 24-year old Virtue, who provides fans with an all-access view into her day-to-day life.

Despite the pressure that comes with training for competition on the world’s biggest stage, accompanied by a full-time television crew, Virtue carries herself with remarkable poise. Considering that Virtue is working towards a degree in psychology at the University of Windsor, she certainly has the mental toughness to excel.

Having skated with Moir since 1997, the two would become the first Canadian ice dancers to win gold at the World Junior Figure Skating championships. Their gold in Vancouver was complemented by triumph at the 2012 World Figure Skating championship. With such a life-long relationship on the ice, the first episode of the series tries to answer the question of whether they have a relationship off it.

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine's 2013 edition of The Beauty of Sport. Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=15

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine’s 2013 edition of The Beauty of Sport. Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=15

For Virtue’s fans, it may come as a surprise to know that she began her athletic endeavors in athletics and ballet, rather than on the ice. At the tender age of nine, she was forced to decide between entry into the National Ballet of Canada or the choice to skate full-time with Moir. Ironically, Moir began figure skating as an initiative to improve his hockey skills. To further add to the irony, it was Moir’s aunt Carol who coached both of them when they started figure skating.

Enjoying time together at a summer fair in the opening of the first half-hour episode, it only helps to fuel the speculative fires. Although the most prevailing element of the program was certainly tension. Virtue and Moir are trained in Canton, Michigan by Marina Zueva, the former trainer to Russian pair Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. Compouding their woes is the fact that Zueva also trains their rivals, American skaters Meryl White and Charlie Davis.

February 22, 2010: A jubilant Virtue and Moore proudly display the Canadian flag after earning the gold during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (Image: PacificCoastNews.com)

February 22, 2010: A jubilant Virtue and Moore proudly display the Canadian flag after earning the gold during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (Image: PacificCoastNews.com)

Such a balance is difficult to maintain when one must try to be focused yet graceful, despite the presence of their rivals in the same facility. The one key difference is that Virtue and Moir have also relied on the consultation of former Canadian ballroom dancing champion and TV personality, Jean-Marc Genereux. Although it may be awkward for viewers when Genereux suggests to Moir that he run his hand up and down the figure of Virtue in order to bring about the passion needed for successful ice dancing.

Later in the episode, Moir shows his possessive side when a fellow male skater asks Virtue if they could share a night out together. Suddenly, Moir gives a tongue-lashing to the interested skater. To the viewer, it would be easy to assume that he is carrying a flame for her. In true soap opera-like fashion, a later scene shows Moir embracing a lady with long dark hair at his front door in London, Ontario. Of course, this lady is not Virtue but another raven haired beauty named Cassandra.

Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=15

Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=15

Proceeding into the bizarre, such a scene makes it clear that whatever relationship exists between the two is truly complicated. While Virtue comes across a little passive, future episodes will only begin to unravel the story that exists between these two.

Although the TV spotlight may add more pressure or expectation, it is an element that comes with being the world’s finest. Fans can only hope that the outcome of the series does not lead to embarrassment for the two. Although a thirty-minute program does not scratch the surface enough to reveal every aspect of their lives, it sets a unique precedent in Canadian sport.

Not since the hockey documentary The Game of Her Life in 1997 has there been such an in-dept view into the lives of world-class athletes. While modern television certainly incorporates its sense of drama and sex appeal, all methods employed to keep the viewer returning, the creative elements are such that one only hopes it enhances rather than tarnishes Virtue’s status as one of Canada’s female sporting heroes.

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