2010 Olympic gold medallists and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have skated together since she was eight years old and he was 10. In early October, Virtue had surgery on her legs to reduce the pain and pressure associated with chronic exertional compartment syndrome, so the pair will not compete in Skate Canada. However, their book Tessa and Scott: Our Journey from Childhood Dream to Gold comes out next week.
Q: Tessa, you’re still on crutches. How are you feeling?
Tessa Virtue: Relieved, more than anything, because finally there’s an answer to the pain I’ve been experiencing. For years it was, “Oh, skate through it,” or, “Work on your breathing to get more oxygen to your shins.” We were actually planning on skating this season, and it’s funny because mentally I was really blocking out the pain, not admitting it to myself. It wasn’t until I met the new team doctor at our national team skating camp and she suggested I do some follow-up testing in Edmonton that we realized surgery was even an option. We considered, briefly, postponing it until after the season, but whenever we take the ice we always want to be at our best, and I think the last two years, training in that pain, I haven’t felt that.
Q: Is it the same kind of surgery you had in 2008?
TV: Basically, only last time they opened the anterior compartment, the shins, and this time they did the posterior compartment [the calves]. I already feel I’m further along in terms of recovery than I was in 2008.
Q: How bad was the pain off the ice?
TV: Enough so that 10 minutes into walking around the mall, I was looking for a bench. It’s not normal that a 21-year-old panics when she gets to an airport because there’s so much walking.
Scott Moir: She’s done a really good job, obviously, skating through the pain.
Q: Before now, you didn’t want anyone outside your immediate circle to know about the severity of the pain. Why not?
SM: It’s strategy. If judges thought she was fighting pain, they might watch for that. It could affect [scoring], definitely. We wanted to win the Olympics, and we thought we could do it without letting on about the pain.
Q: It must be disappointing to miss Skate Canada.
SM: We love to compete, and I feel like national champion is a title I want to get every year, so to see it going to another team is going to hurt. But there are bigger goals in our minds right now. If we can compete pain-free, we’ll be in way better shape anyway.
Q: In your book, you say you stopped communicating for a few months after the 2008 surgery. Do you mean you literally didn’t speak?
TV: We didn’t even send text messages. Isn’t that weird? This time, we’ve been diligently talking every single day.
Q: Scott, why didn’t you call her?
SM: I think I was scared to hear what was actually going on. A couple of times the doctors had said, “Maybe she’ll be back by this date,” and I’d get excited, then it was constant letdown. Also, I didn’t want to tell her, “I’ve been at the rink all day, training.” I was thinking that’s not what she needed to hear. But it was a mistake. Clearly. It took us a long time to figure things out, because we grew apart so much in those two months.
TV: A year before the Games we’ve trained for our whole lives, and we’re feeling awkward seeing each other.
Q: Why didn’t you just call him?
TV: Once we let it get past a certain point, there was no going back. We’re together all the time, so when two, three weeks go by and we haven’t talked—where do you start?
Q: Where did you start?
TV: I don’t think it was until we were back on the ice that we realized we’d seriously neglected the personal side of our relationship. We needed to fight through the competitions together, and that paved the way, but it took a long time for us to trust each other again.
SM: We saw a sports psychologist together, who does sports and also psych and marriage counselling. It’s kind of funny, because we don’t have a marriage, but that really helped in that time when I didn’t understand why we didn’t understand each other.
Q: How do you cope with the fact that people have a great desire to see you as a romantic couple? There are websites full of comments like, “They need to get married and have babies,” and you’re not even dating.
TV: [laughs] We don’t read that stuff, to start with.
SM: It is a compliment, I guess. Hopefully that means people are buying into what we do in our programs. But off the ice, we’re completely different.
Q: But as you explain in the book, there was pressure, even when you were younger, to do things as a couple off the ice, to create a public image of togetherness. Which sounds kind of fake.
TV: I think everything we do, whether in front of a camera or not, is genuine. What we do on ice is keep the mystery alive, but when we’re off the ice, when we’re doing interviews, that’s who we really are.
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