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Ice dance gold medalist Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir embrace during victory ceremonies Friday March 26, 2010 at the World Figure Skating Championships in Turin, Italy. (Paul Chiasson/Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)
Ice dance gold medalist Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir embrace during victory ceremonies Friday March 26, 2010 at the World Figure Skating Championships in Turin, Italy. (Paul Chiasson/Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Figure skating

Canada cheers for Virtue and Moir to mix business with pleasure Add to ...

Some of the funniest e-mails that Olympic dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir get these days go something like this:

"Just give in and date."

"You're in love and we can see it and quit fooling yourself."

This makes them laugh. They are business partners, they say, and nothing more, but speculation about their personal life runs wild as people watch their intimacies, dancing to Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony. How can they work so closely and not feel a butterfly or two?

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Apparently, it's easy to do, and not so easy to explain. "People always ask you are you like brother and sister? Are you like a married couple?" Mr. Moir says. "It's really original and it can't really be explained."

They insist their working relationship is their first priority. And they've kept it that way for the past four years.

"But ... we've really grown together personally," Mr. Moir says. "And that's really been a help when you get on the ice and you look at each other, you really do feel comfortable. It's a lot easier to skate."

They are two people learning how to appear as one - and they do it extremely well - which is what makes their dancing so special.

"It's been a little bit of a challenge, especially the last couple of years, but it feels really great right now and we can skate together if we're like this," he says.

Ms. Virtue says they know exactly what the other has experienced. "And we're able to get on the ice every day and be productive and work together, no matter what is going on," she says.

But how can they separate business from something else, especially when they dance so closely, cheek to cheek? If they are just friends, do they ever fall into giggling fits when they hit a romantic pose? They say no - they are serious about what they do. Their palpable passion is for the art of it.

But once this year, something unusual did happen that would surely delight their fans and the senders of those e-mails who are cheering for more than Olympic gold. They came out of a lift, and were quite close to each other. Then Ms. Virtue got really close.

"We actually kissed and it was so funny," Mr. Moir says. "Because then we went to do the move the next time and she ..."

"We couldn't look at each other," Ms. Virtue says, laughing.

"You couldn't look at me?" Mr. Moir says. "It was an accident. We joke around a lot."

"We kissed for the first time in 13 years," she says.

They first "dated" when Ms. Virtue was seven years old and Mr. Moir was nine.

"We got over that divorce pretty quickly," he says joking. "We actually started talking."

They were pushed together at summer camp, set up by Mr. Moir's cousin and Ms. Virtue's sister.

"We barely talked. We could barely hold hands. We would probably giggle back then. ... Never got that first kiss. Maybe that's why I had to break up with you," Mr. Moir teases.

The breakup wasn't executed with much courage. Mr. Moir's little friend dialled her up and Mr. Moir blurted: "Tess, I don't want to go out with you any more."

"And he hung up the phone," Ms. Virtue recalls.

Mr. Moir says he doesn't think the business relationship they currently share would necessarily scare them off dating each other in the future. Then he adds: "But I don't see that side of it. That connection was never really there after seven and nine. I think she's kind of broken hearted sometimes." Another teasing joke.

Mr. Moir's aunt, Carol, thought it was cute they were so close, so she got them out on the ice. From that, grew an Olympic and world champion.

It will be really odd, Ms. Virtue says, when their dancing career is finished. They experienced a mild measure of it last season when Ms. Virtue was injured and could not skate for two months.

They joke that when they are old, they'll be taking ballroom dancing together.

"So we'll be hanging out for sure, and I can't imagine not being in each other's lives in some way."

******

FIRE AND ICE

British couple Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, 1984 Olympic ice dance champions, wrote in their autobiography Facing the Music : "The worst thing was the constant attempt to impose on us a false identity. We couldn't understand the interest in a romance that was non-existent." But it was good for their careers, and they knew it. When asked when they would marry they'd always say: "Not this week."

Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, the 1984 world pair champions, did such sizzling routines together many thought they must be a couple. But they never were, and are happily married to others.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, 2010 Olympic pair champions, were forbidden to date as competitors, but after Mr. Zhao suffered a serious Achilles tendon injury before the 2006 Olympics, Ms. Shen took care of him. And after finishing their free skate that won the 2007 world championship, he got down on one knee and proposed. She said yes.

Beverley Smith

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