Canadian Olympian Tessa Virtue opens up about guilty pleasures and returning to the rink

If there's one word Tessa Virtue is familiar with, it's dedication, and she likes it served on ice. The Canadian Olympian has many awards to her name – she's a two-time Olympic medallist and three-time world champion – and after a two-year hiatus from the rink with her ice dance partner Scott Moir, she's back for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. And back with a vengeance!

With her family on the sidelines in South Korea and Scott by her side during the opening ceremony, the 28-year-old star opens up to Hello! about her day-to-day training, her strong ice-dancing partnership (the longest in Canadian history!) – and her off-rink guilty pleasures.

Ballet was your first passion as a child. What made you trade ballet shoes for ice skates?

While ballet still remains close to my heart, ice dancing has the added benefit of appealing to the fierce competitor in me. It was obvious when I was quite young that combining my passion for movement and physical expression with a measurable, tangible goal (climbing world rankings, aiming for a podium, etc.) was the best of both worlds. The main reason for choosing skating over ballet at age nine, though? I was already committed to a partner!

What’s a typical training day like for you?

Four hours of ice time, up to two hours in the gym, one hour of treatment - osteopathy, physiotherapy, massage, fascial stretch therapy - and up to one hour of mental prep work. It’s quite a full, regimented schedule!

Do you have any pre-skate rituals?

Since returning to competition, I tried my best to lose all of my pre-skate superstitions – and, let me tell you, there were lots of them! Athletes are creatures of habit, and in stressful situations it’s nice to feel you’re in control of something. Now, Scott and I talk through our program bit by bit, sharing verbal cues and focuses, and we hug! The hug allows us to synchronize our breathing, and ensures connectivity and unison.

Tell us what a skater’s diet consists of. No drinking we assume?!

Hopefully there will be some celebratory beverages consumed post-Games [smiles]. I work with a nutritionist and a naturopath, but mostly my focus is on protein, lots of vegetables, and proper nutrients at key times. I try not to deprive myself too much – it’s all about moderation! If I had one tip to give, it would be to start your day with hot water and lemon (coffee afterwards is a lovely reward).

What do you love to do and indulge in when you’re not training?

I have a major sweet tooth, and love pastries, pies, chocolate and candy, so indulging when I’m not training is usually dessert-related. Otherwise, recently I’ve been delving in to the design world, with collaborations with companies like Hillberg and Berk for jewelry, and BonLook for eyewear. It’s been so fun to challenge myself in new ways, and express my vision and aesthetic in the accessory world.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Lemon meringue pie.

Who’s your celebrity crush?

David Beckham.

Describe your style, and whose personal style you most admire.

I’d describe my personal style as classic and refined, with a bit of an edge. My love of fashion was instilled at a young age, thanks to my incredibly chic mom, Kate! Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly continue to be my style icons for their effortless poise and elegance.

How it that you and Scott have such great chemistry on the ice?

The chemistry and connection Scott and I share on the ice stems from a shared love of movement, musicality and storytelling. Off the ice, we are so incredibly different! That said, we have immense respect for one another, and always end up in laughing fits.

Will your family all be coming out to support you in South Korea?

While they were undoubtedly shocked by the news [of our comeback], my family has been nothing but supportive. My mom, Kate, and sister, Jordan, will be in South Korea to cheer us on live!

Do you have a favourite memory from the last two Olympics? You’re a veteran now!

The best part of experiencing the Olympics is always the friendships made. Team Canada has such an incredible group of fearless, courageous, fun, inspiring athletes – and we’ll be forever bonded thanks to the unique experiences we have the chance to share together.

What’s it like being out there on the ice during competition?

There’s a certain vulnerability to being centre ice, pouring your heart out for others to judge and criticize. But, sometimes, it feels like you’re floating – time stands still, your blades glide effortlessly, and you get lost in a moment. I suppose the latter is what we’re constantly chasing.

Rumour has it that you and Scott talk during performances ...

I’m so thankful I have Scott on the ice with me at all times! We do indeed talk throughout our performances, mostly to ensure we both stay present and in tune with one another. We share reminders and cues like “breathe,” “knees,” “together,” and a few words that wouldn’t make any sense to anyone else but help us refocus mid-skate.

What’s next when you finally hang up your skates?

I’m a few half-credits shy of my psychology degree, so that’s definitely on the docket. Especially as I’d really like to do an MBA! Beyond that, Scott and I will spend a little time touring and performing in various shows around the world – fun when the focus is entertaining fans instead of winning over judges. [Smiles]

What advice do you have for today’s little seven-year-old figure skaters or other kids looking to follow their dreams?

There are no shortcuts or secret recipes to success. It stems from passion and a whole lot of work! But, for kids in particular, it’s important to emphasize balance – and be exposed to a variety of sports and activities. Mostly, I want everyone to feel limitless.

Finally, how does it feel to be leading Team Canada into competition this time around?

Carrying the flag into the opening ceremony at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang is the highest honour of our career. To march with the Canadian team and represent a nation whose values stand for unity, fairness, equality, and diversity is to feel a sense of pride I simply cannot express in words. The team is ready, and we can’t wait to wear the maple leaf on our backs and in our hearts!

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