Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Virtue, Moir poised to make history at London worlds

Hometown heroes would be a first

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LONDON, Ont. -- Two pages of the world figure skating championships' souvenir program are dedicated to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's favourite London hangouts.

Virtue is partial to the cinnamon French toast at The Bag Lady for breakfast, while Moir heads to Cowboys on Friday nights for drinks and country music.

If you didn't know the Olympic gold medallists are aiming for their second consecutive world ice dance title this week, you could almost mistake them for the event's official welcoming committee.

"This is our city, this is our venue, there's no doubt about that," Moir said after Tuesday's practice in front of several hundred fans at Budweiser Gardens. "This is where we come Friday nights to watch the (Ontario Hockey League's) Knights."

The 23-year-old Virtue grew up in London and owns her own house not far from the arena. Moir, 25, comes from Ilderton, about a 20-minute drive north.

They can't turn a corner in Budweiser Gardens without spotting someone they know.

"You do get that extra smile or a wink from the volunteers," Virtue said.

During their post-practice media session Tuesday, Moir turned tour guide for reporters, asking: "Did you find some good place to eat yet or what? You need any suggestions?"

"Any spot in Ilderton is a hot spot, I can tell you that," he added, laughing.

But the odd lighthearted moment aside, the Canadians are all-business in their approach to this week.

"This is a world championships for us, we always want these bad, and at the end of the day, it's for us, we're the ones who work hard in training every day and we want that title," Moir said.

There have been just four Canadian world champions in the nine times Canada has hosted the event -- Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in 2001 in Vancouver; Kurt Browning in Halifax in 1990; Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini in Ottawa in '84; and Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul in Vancouver in '60.

There's never been a hometown champion.

"It seems like we're the luckiest kids ever," Moir said. "We have a home-country Olympic Games and to have a hometown worlds is a pretty rare opportunity for athletes like us. I never dreamed in a million years.

"It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. And if you've taken a drive out to Ilderton, you can see all the support -- the gold banners hanging all over -- it is fun. It seems like the community is really rallying around us so what more can you ask?"

Virtue and Moir are happy to have Canadian ice dance teammates Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje back on the ice. Weaver, from Waterloo, Ont., broke her left fibula when she fell into the boards in training Dec. 14.

"I guess you don't really understand what you have until it's gone," Moir said. "At nationals, we really missed them and not necessarily for competing -- it's always great because they always push us -- but more so in the (dressing) room. We have a great friendship."

Results at this worlds determine how many entries a country can have in each skating discipline in Sochi. If two of Canada's ice dance teams have results here that total 13 or less -- first and 12th-place, for example -- Canada will be granted three ice dance entries at the 2014 Games.

 

-- The Canadian Press

On the Tube

 

TODAY

Pairs Short Program, 3 p.m.

Pairs & Men's Short Program, 9 p.m.

THURSDAY

Women's Short Program, 3 p.m.

Women's & Dance Short Programs, 7 p.m.

FRIDAY

Pairs Free Program, 3 p.m.

Pairs Free & Men's Free Programs, 7 p.m.

SATURDAY

Dance Free Program, 4 p.m.

SUNDAY

Women's Free Program, 3 p.m.

Gala, 7 p.m.

 

All on CBC

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2013 D5

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