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Meet the coaches who helped put Virtue and Moir, French dancers on the podium


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GANGNEUNG — It wasn’t a podium sweep for Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, but there is no settling for gold and silver.

Only revelling in the achievements of their athletes.

Theirs is the world’s premier ice dance coaching program, bar none. They nurtured Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Olympic gold here, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France to silver. And they might have had that international sweep — their American duo of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were third after the short dance — but they stumbled through the free dance and were replaced on the podium by siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, another American team coached by the legendary Marina Zoueva. She would be the world’s other premier ice dance coaching power.

Virtue and Moir trained under her through Sochi, where they won silver. But when they decided on a comeback two years ago, they weren’t the same people or athletes they had been in Vancouver in 2010 or Sochi in 2014, so they started fresh in Montreal with Dubreuil and Lauzon, former elite level Canadian ice dancers.

“They’ve been rocks for us,” said Moir. “The first meeting that we had with Patrice and Marie-France, we threw everything at these guys. We had baggage, we had everything. You (Tessa) were in shape, I was out of shape. I had old, mental things I had to work through and they just handled it so classy.

“No, we couldn’t have done any of this without them. We wouldn’t have made it out of the very first summer.”

The school in Montreal is home to 17 ice dance teams. Virtue said they thrived in the supportive, team-oriented environment created by their coaches, that it was exactly what they needed.

“The technical proficiency, and balancing that with the story-telling that they do so well, it’s been such an honour to work alongside them for the past two seasons,” said Virtue. “We have learned so much from them.

“Scott hinted at this yesterday in the culture they created and the tone that they set, but with Gabby and Guillaume, Maddy and Zach and about 15 other incredibly talented teams, they’ve hit their stride and been able to find a way to give 100 per cent to each team and bring out the best of everyone’s individual style.

“It’s been a pleasure to see and we’re so proud of them. I hope they know, and hope the world knows really how unique and special it is for them to have four really strong teams at the Games.”

Special, certainly. Nerve-wracking as well. Dubreuil and Lauzon essentially perform each dance on the sidelines as it’s being done on the ice. It’s amazing to watch. They never stand still. They are basically nervous wrecks for hours on end. They couldn’t have been happier that it was over.

“Close to perfection for both teams,” said Dubreuil. “We’re super happy. Of course we came here, we knew one would win, one would be second. We hoped Madison and Zach could have stayed third but, you know. It was a real roller-coaster of emotion today. But when we look at how both teams performed and how they were trained, how they handle nerves and expectations, we’re super proud of them.”

And they wouldn’t feel any different if the placings were reversed.

“No. Same. Same thing,” said Dubreuil. “These kids, we train them five hours a day and we see them grow. We know what their goals are and we just support that. The competition is about them, it’s not about us. So, in whatever order is the same to us.”

After the order was determined, the six of them — four skaters and two coaches — huddled on the ice to give themselves a moment together. It was a quiet, private celebration of teamwork.

“I think we just took a moment to appreciate the work and all the passion that we’ve all put into this,” said Cizeron. “I think whatever the results are I think looking back at the past two years it’s been such an incredible journey and I think all of us are really proud of the team that we’ve been. So yeah, it was just nice to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of that.”