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Moir, not Virtue, forced off ice with injury

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada perform during the ice dance free dance at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Nice March 29, 2012.

ERIC GAILLARD/REUTERS

For the first time in a long time, the shoe was on the other foot.

Canada's Olympic and world ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have spent the past several years carefully managing Virtue's lingering leg injuries. But it was Moir on the trainer's table earlier this month when the two were forced to withdraw from the Finlandia Trophy.

"It was interesting," Moir said on a conference call Thursday, a week before their season debut at Skate Canada International.

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"I haven't missed a competition due to injury for quite a while, and it's not very much fun. It's not something I plan on doing again."

Virtue, 23, and Moir, 25, had to pull out of what would have been their season-opening event two weeks ago in Finland when Moir strained a muscle in his neck.

"We got stuck in a lift, I brought Tessa down on my head the wrong way and it jarred my neck so I wasn't really able to train for a couple of days," Moir said. "My physio team was worried that if I got caught in a lift, which obviously we would have to do, that I could herniate the disc.

"It was not worth it if I go there and I happened to get caught in the same position that I could be out for the fall or even the year."

Moir said his neck is 100 per cent healed, he's not feeling any limitations and their lifts are good.

Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., won the world title last March in France in their first solid season of training since 2008. Virtue has been plagued by compartment syndrome in her legs for years. The injury led to a pair of surgeries and kept her off the ice for the better part of two seasons. She gritted her teeth and skated through the pain at the Vancouver Olympics.

Three weeks after their scheduled debut, Virtue and Moir will open at Skate Canada, kicking off what Moir has dubbed "the 401 season," in reference to Ontario's Highway 401.

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The national championships are in Mississauga, while London, Ont., will host the world championships in March.

"It's definitely a funny feeling, seems like this year we're either in Russia or Ontario," Moir said. "It's been a while, I don't remember driving to very many Skate Canadas. But we'll definitely take it as a treat, we have some long trips this year, Four Continents in Japan, Sochi for (Grand Prix) Final if we qualify. . . they're not easy trips."

The dancers, who live and train in Canton, Mich., just across the border from Windsor, said while they enjoy competing at home, they have to be careful to treat the events like they would any other international competition. They'll stay in a hotel in both Windsor and London.

"It just helps get us in that mindset of being at a competition and taking the bus to the rink and getting in our little zone," Virtue said. "It's funny how far away from home you can feel even when you're just five minutes down the road but it's all part of it. It's part of our routine.

"Like Scott said we're going to enjoy the experience, really embrace being in a hometown crowd, with our friends and family close by. But really we have a job to do and I think we just need to set ourselves up as best as possible to make it feel like a normal competition."

Virtue and Moir will unveil two new programs in Windsor. Their short program is to "The Waltz Goes On" by Sir Anthony Hopkins, while their free dance is to "Carmen," an opera that Virtue admitted might be "overused" in figure skating, but is "classic and timeless."

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