There is a scene from the recent Marvel flick, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, when protagonist Peter “Star-Lord” Quill shimmies up to the all-business, green-skinned Gamora and says:
“When are we going to do something about this unspoken thing between us?”
What unspoken thing?
“This Cheers-Sam-and-Diane-guy-and-girl-on-a-TV-show-who-dig-each other-but-never-say-it-’cause-when-they-do-the-ratings-would-go-down sort of thing?”
Gamora is having none of this. She denies the existence of this “thing.”
“Well, that’s a Catch-22. Because if you said there was, it would be spoken, and then you’d be a liar. So by saying there isn’t, you’re telling the truth, and admitting there is.”
Thus sums up the enigma of ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada’s most darling double-Olympic Gold non-couple. The only people not speaking about that unspoken thing between them are Moir and Virtue themselves, who have remained achingly coy about their relationship status. Yet watch any performance and that thing screams: “sex on ice.”
Moir and Virtue won ice dance gold at the Olympics in South Korea on Tuesday, their second gold in the category since Vancouver 2010. It was a technically brilliant performance, made all the more moving for the knowledge that the win will mark the beginning of the pair’s retirement from the sport.
As international interest piqued, their relationship non-denials have grown more vague. According to an article in Time, Virtue conceded: it’s “complicated.”
Both have dated other people throughout their career, but admitted finding love off the ice has been difficult.
During a radio interview with Toronto’s KiSS 92.5 in 2014, Moir said: “It’s tough. I’m just kind of on the outs of one (relationship) and it’s tough.”
The problem, however, didn’t appear to be Moir’s long-simmering affection for his ice dance partner of 20 years, but rather the gruelling hardships placed on any elite-level world athlete.
“We’ve been so focused on training for the Olympics, and for the last while I would have been a terrible girlfriend,” Virtue said. “I was so narrow-minded about the Olympics and that’s all I was thinking about and that took up all of our time. I guess that’s what this next phase will maybe offer. I will have a bit more time.”
Moir and Virtue “shippers”—online fans who are invested and enthusiastic about a possible budding romance—cotton on to weird clues to prove the pair are privately dating, chiefly an off-the-cuff remark about Virtue’s sleeping habits during one interview; plus, surely it’s impossible to fake that kind of chemistry.
Many have also suggested that their ambiguous off-ice relationship is cynical. From Sam-and-Diane to Ross-and-Rachel, every sitcom writer knows that the best way to keep an audience hooked is to reel out sexual tension for a few seasons. Fans will tune in for years waiting for that one, perfect, explosive pay off—the moment when two characters we’ve invested in finally decided to declare their love. Or simply hook up.
But any good screenwriter knows that resolving that tension also spells the beginning of the end for the show itself. Just as an infatuation is destroyed by a relationship, fantasy gives way to reality: the day-to-day routine, the dull motions that can make for a meaningful life, but a much more difficult story. Nobody wants to see who buys the milk.
Shortly after they won gold, one user on Twitter wrote: “I like to imagine Scott Moir trawling shipper Twitter threads about him and Tessa Virtue and suddenly thinking, ‘Oh… my god… I DO love her. I… I have all along.” And then racing through Olympic Village to tell her.'”
That is the movie ending everyone would love to see for Moir and Virtue.
The truth may actually be more complicated. It’s impossible for the average person to grasp just how brutal Olympic training would be for a pair that has won two gold medals eight years apart. The relentlessness, the pursuit of perfection that level of physical accomplishment requires is, quite simply, superhuman.
These two, teamed up by Moir’s aunt, at the age of seven and nine have been practicing almost every day for hours at a time—for 20 years.
First and foremost, Moir and Virtue are athletes, and like all high-level performers, their relationship must be fraught with blood and tears, injury, intensity, sacrifice and heartbreak. That kind of regimen and history speaks to an intimacy that already rivals most married couples, regardless of whether or not they have sex.
No one knows what happens between two people in the dark. The truth is usually more uncomfortable and messy than the fantasy, if more wonderful. Forget the Facebook-style status update or the reality TV show: Moir and Virtue have a relationship that transcends mere romance. In their dedication to their art, they’ve created something truly eternal.