Saint John, N.B. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir need no introduction when it comes to Olympic ice dancing, having won gold in Vancouver. But when it comes to the Sochi Olympics, Canadians will want to familiarize themselves with two more names: Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
Canada's other ice dancing pair – the one that lives in the shadow of Virtue and Moir – are quickly carving a name for themselves as a threat for the podium in February.
When Weaver and Poje skated to a personal best this weekend at Skate Canada, the surprising part wasn't their near flawless long program, or their second-place finish. It was how close their 175.23 point score was to the 181.03 Virtue and Moir won the competition with.
If this season turns into a sort of coming-out party for Weaver and Poje, it will be for good reason. They've had few opportunities until now to show their potential. The pair missed qualifying for the Vancouver Games by the smallest of margins – mere tenths of a point – and last year, injuries and surgery kept Weaver off the ice for most of the year. Not even they have a clear grasp of their upside.
But if their performance in Saint John indicates anything, it's that Canada could be looking at not one but two medals in the ice dance, if the stars align.
Weaver, 24, is Houston-born, but came to Canada in 2006 to skate with Poje, 26, who is from Waterloo, Ont. After putting the Vancouver disappointment behind them, the pair began revamping their routines with an eye to Sochi. However when Weaver fell during training last December, breaking her left fibula, those plans seemed remote. Skating with five screws in her ankle, Weaver mounted an unlikely comeback and the pair surprised with a fifth-place finish at last spring's world championships.
Their second place finish on the weekend suggests they have kept that momentum going. Virtue and Moir remain the clear-cut favourites for Sochi, but Weaver said it is nice just to be mentioned "in the same sentence" with the defending gold medalists.