NOTE: This will be the last of my in-depth previews (aside from my look at Team USA in a few days). I will start my general Olympic blogging today.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
Canada's great medal hope in the ice dancing competition comes from Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They have been skating together for more than ten years, and have an enviable connection with each other. They train in Michigan with American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
In 2006, Virtue and Moir were competing internationally on the junior circuit, but they placed third at the Canadian nationals and were made the Olympic alternates. The won the world junior championships that season. By 2008, they won their first world medal - a silver. Unfortunately, Virtue was suffering from a shin injury and would need surgery that year - they had to miss the 2008-09 Grand Prix season. But they came back strong; they won Canadian nationals, came in second at Four Continents, and made it onto the world podium with a bronze.
This season, Virtue and Moir won both of their Grand Prix events and came in second in the Grand Prix Final to Davis and White. They have had a few minor stumbles, though, but I wouldn't expect it to affect their Olympic competition. Expect the cheers to be loud when this pair takes the ice in Vancouver. They have all the skills to be the best in the world, and their artistry is sublime. They aren't quite as overtly dramatic in their free skate as some other pairs, but I don't think that will hurt them, because what they do is beautiful.
The Programs: Their Original Dance is still among my top three favorites of the season, although I believe it's inferior to Davis and White's. It's a flamenco and it truly allows them to show their dramatic flair. Hopefully Virtue has her wardrobe straightened out as the long skirt appeared to give her some trouble at Skate Canada. The free dance is very beautiful. Again, I'm not sure it's my favorite, but it should score very high.
Latest Performance: The Canadian championships were low-pressure (for them), but perhaps the most important competition was the Grand Prix Final, where they lost to Davis and White.
Strengths: Everything. I just think they have such an ability to come across as passionate without beating you over the head with it. Their connection is so evident. And their lifts are creative and out of this world (although I think they've had to do some tweaking to ensure they don't get a deduction at the Olympics).
Weaknesses: They can't make any little mistakes here - the competition is so steep.
I think it's awesome when: They skate with their quiet maturity. They don't need any hokey tricks or anything to get attention, because they are so good.
Outlook: I count five, maybe six, "great" teams here in Vancouver. That means that three amazing teams at least will likely be left off the podium. Virtue and Moir have medalled in the past two worlds, have loads of experience, and will be skating in front of the home crowd. I have a feeling that this momentum is going to swing them onto the podium. I'm not sure if that means another North American team will have to lose out or what. Ice dancing is a tricky one.