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Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skate during the ice dance free skate program at the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating finals at the Pavillon de la Jeunesse in Quebec City December 11, 2011.


Olympic champion ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir suffered a loss at the Grand Prix Final last month. They don't intend to lose again.

The Canadian pair will be back next week, at the national championships in Moncton, having made what Moir calls "some pretty big changes" to both their short and free dance programs they hope will boost the 2010 world champions back to glory come March in Nice, France.

It's not an abnormal thing for figure skaters to take out the pencils and revamp routines, especially at this time of year. Every bit of feedback from judges and elsewhere goes into the creative hopper.

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"We definitely wanted to capitalize on a couple more points from the Grand Prix Final and, in 2012, we see ourselves on top of the podium," Moir said.

Virtue of London, Ont., and Moir of Ilderton, Ont., changed a lift in the short dance, done to a fast-paced Latin rhythm, and a lift in the free dance, in which they skate to the music from the Audrey Hepburn/Fred Astaire movie Funny Face.

They've also changed some steps in and out of the lifts, to make the program stronger. "Hopefully, we will be covering a lot more ice with a lot more power," Moir said.

At the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City, the three-time Canadian champions received feedback that they had been standing too long in spots. They "renovated" the short dance to make it more exciting, especially toward the end of the routine when the pace of the music intensifies.

"We wanted to end with more of a bang," Moir said.

They took a lift from the middle of the program to more sensual rumba music and put it at the end. And because it's a rotational lift, done to fast-paced music, the lift should become more dynamic.

Virtue and Moir hope the change will bring them more execution points.

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In the free dance, they've kept the concept of a lift done on a curve, but Moir will not skate it on one foot any longer. The change gives them more speed across the ice.

This season, they've also made changes to the way they train, with an eye toward preventing the re-occurrence of injuries that sidelined Virtue for much of two seasons.

The plan now? Periodization training, the experts call it. Instead of training day in and day out, they train hard when they need to, and rest when they need to.

"This year, we really focused on putting the hammer down when the training needed to be tough and also taking our rest so that our bodies were ready for the hard times," Moir said. "That's really paid off. We've probably had our best training this year that we've ever had in our careers."

"We're enjoying the process more that was taken away from us," Virtue added.

Because of the new strategy, Virtue said she and Moir had time to work on basic skating skills, which are a part of each program.

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"Little things like that all add to the package," she said.

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