Virtue and Moir question commitment of coach they share with White and Davis
By Nicholas McCarvel,
Feb 18, 6:15am EST
SOCHI – Ice dancing silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada expressed frustrations with their coaching situation a day after placing second behind Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with whom they share a coach in Marina Zoueva.
“There are moments where you take a step back and evaluate whether this situation was ideal,” Moir said in a press conference Tuesday. “We have to credit Marina. There were times when we weren't happy, and we sometimes felt that she wasn't in our corner.”
Moir commended Virtue for being “bold” in speaking with Zoueva at several times during the season, saying that the Detroit-based Canadians relied “heavily” on the support of Skate Canada over their coach.
Zoueva, a Russian native, has coached both Virtue/Moir and Davis/White for over seven years. Virtue/Moir were gold medalists at the Vancouver Games ahead of Davis/White.
“In an Olympic season, emotions are high and everything seems to hold so much weight,” Virtue said. “So I think that was a struggle, but I guess it made us evaluate our true goals coming into this.”
“Some odd things happened this year that hadn’t happened before,” Moir added, saying that for the “first time [Marina] wasn’t there.”
Virtue/Moir said that they felt as though Zoueva was supportive of them going into Vancouver four years ago, then her focus shifted to Davis/White leading up to Sochi.
Davis and White have not lost in nearly two years, winning two Grand Prix Finals, the World Championships and now Olympic gold. Virtue and Moir last beat them at the World Championships in 2012.
The Canadians, who helped Team Canada win a silver in the inaugural team figure skating event last week, did not give word on whether they’ll retire from the sport, saying they’ll have to “re-evaluate.”
Zoueva told NBCOlympics.com after the short dance Sunday that her full support was behind both teams, though she confirmed that she attended the U.S. Championships in January (and therefore not the Canadian National Championships) because she had more teams competing in the U.S. Zoueva also coaches Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani, who placed ninth in the ice dance competition in Sochi.
I don't blame your friend, the Princess of Wales over at the Toronto Star, for her disappointment.[*](Well, let me put it this way: if her expressions of outrage are honest, and not just a ploy to draw in readers, then I don't blame her, although she may want to re-evaluate her priorities and her pro-Canadian bias.) I'm a Michelle Kwan fan, so I know as well as anyone (and better than some), how it feels when your favorite falls short of Olympic gold (sometimes literally). But I expected better things out of you two.
I never thought your name would seem ironic, Tessa Virtue, but now it does.
If you were unsatisfied with the coaching you received, you should have changed coaches. Since you stuck with the coach you have, she deserves your respect. But the thing that is really ironic here is, although Zoueva is Russian by birth, her home base is currently in the US; how would you have liked it if the US had taken a page out of Russia's book and insisted that only American skaters could be trained on American soil? How would you have liked it if you had been summarily dismissed and forced to train elsewhere? Let's show some appreciation for the hospitality that the US has shown you.
As a nation, you Canadians have the reputation around the world--not undeserved--for politeness and humility. However, at this juncture I am forced to point out that, four years ago when Davis and White finished second to you in Vancouver, they were nothing but positive and supportive. If they felt disappointment, they kept it to themselves; if they had complaints or criticisms, they at least had the decency not to share them with the press. In other words, they allowed you to have that moment. As your competitors--but even more so, as your friends--they deserve the same courtesy from you. Moreover, I don't hear Chock and Bates or the Shibutanis complaining that Davis and White got more attention from your coach than they did, and since they all finished well off the podium, it seems to me that they would have far greater grounds to complain than you do. And even though Russia is probably the all-time Olympic champion in whining, I've yet to hear a peep out of bronze medalists, Ilinykh and Katsalapov. Are you really going to outdo the Russians in wangst? This is a sad day for Canada.
Now I understand why so many figure skaters retire from competition after winning Olympic gold; it seems like once you taste the gold, nothing else will satisfy you. If this is the way you're going to comport yourselves, I wish you had retired too.
I never thought I would have to play the Grouch Anthem for you two. This is a sad day for me, for ice dancing, and for North America.
I understand that my assessment of the situation is going to be suspect. I'm an American,[*](I'm not proud of it, I'm not ashamed of it; it's just a fact of life) so certain people, like Her Royal Highness Rosie DiManno, are probably going to automatically assume that I'm biased in favor of US skaters. I won't deny that I wanted the ice dancing gold for Davis and White, but I wanted the men's gold for Patrick Chan just as much. I can only hope that I've expressed enough admiration for skaters of all nationalities over the years to give myself some credibility.
Everyone's entitled to her own opinion. HRH DiManno is entitled to her opinion, and I am entitled to mine. Here it is:
The last thing I want to do is to take anything away from Virtue and Moir. What they accomplished in Vancouver was remarkable; not only in winning the gold medal but in creating one of those magical, transcendent figure skating performances that takes on a life of its own. Their free dance was a performance FOR THE AGES. No one who witnessed it will EVER forget it, nor would we ever want to. I'll be telling my grandchildren (if I ever have any) about the night I watched Virtue and Moir win ice dancing gold at the Olympics.
With that said, the fact of the matter is that Virtue and Moir lost a lot of momentum after the Vancouver Olympics. It wasn't entirely their fault; they had to sit out most of the 2010-2011 season due to injury, but ever since then, they just haven't progressed at quite the same pace that Davis and White have.
Conversely, Davis and White were able to build on that momentum that they built after Vancouver. As good as they were in the 2010 Olympics, in the four years since they have grown and progressed to a whole other level. In Vancouver it was sort of a battle between the "athletic" Davis and White versus the "artistic" Virtue and Moir. Not anymore; Davis and White have matured exponentially in their artistry and their emotional expression in the past four years, so much so as to become virtually unrecognizable. They've never lost their athletic edge, but now they're so expressive and so artistic that they make one actually forget how athletic they really are.
Let me give an example of how Davis and White have advanced their sport. The 2010 Grand Prix Series, which took place from October to December, marked the premiere of the short dance (a sort of amalgam of the previous "compulsory dance" and "original dance" portions of the ice dance competition). The first Grand Prix event that year was in Japan, and because the short dance was being contested there for the first time, it was hard to tell whether the scores coming out of it were good or bad because the benchmarks hadn't been set yet. Davis and White were the last to skate; prior to that point, most of the scores had been in the 40s and 50s, with the highest score at that point being 58.69. Davis and White scored a 66.97, eight points ahead of their nearest competitors. Granted, part of it was the luck of the draw, as it was pure chance that they happened to be competiting in the first Grand Prix event of the season.[*](Had Virtue and Moir not been out due to injury, they probably would have done the same thing.) Nevertheless, they literally set the new standard for the short dance.[*](In December they ended up winning the Grand Prix Final by an even greater margin of nearly nine and a half points overall.)
Virtue and Moir did a fantastic job in Sochi. Their free dance was very beautiful, very tender, unmistakably heartfelt. It was completely and undeniably up to the high standard of excellence that we've come to expect from them, and yes, taken by itself, it was probably worthy of a gold medal.
But as excellent as they were, they weren't breathtaking like they had been in Vancouver. Personally speaking, I didn't like the way the program was put together in terms of the music editing; it felt disjointed to me. That's not necessarily their fault, of course, but speaking entirely for myself, it took me out of the moment. The choreography had Scott kissing Tessa's hands several times, which was probably meant to be tender and sweet, but just came across to me as hokey (what are you supposed to be, Gomez Addams?) You can call it whatever you like, but whatever it was that won Virtue and Moir the gold medal in Vancouver--that je ne sais quoi, that indescribable wow-factor that pushed them over the top--they just didn't have it in Sochi.
Ultimately, it was Davis and White who created the magical, awe-inspiring, goosebump-inducing Olympic moment in Sochi, the performance for the ages. Their interpretation of Scheherazade--Charlie White as the profoundly frustrated sultan torn between conflicting desires, and Meryl Davis as the seductive storyteller entrancing him with her tales--was magnificent.[*](More than anything else, perhaps, I found myself watching Charlie's face throughout the whole thing. It just told the whole story.) So many figure skaters--individuals and teams--have skated to that music over the years that it's almost a cliché, and yet Davis and White somehow made it new again. They've worked hard for 17 years to become the best in the world in their discipline, and what they put forth in Sochi was the best of the best.
After I'm done telling my grandkids about the night I saw Virtue and Moir win the ice dancing gold in Vancouver, I'm going to tell them about the night I saw Davis and White win the ice dancing gold in Sochi. It was equally unforgettable.