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Canadian Olympic icons share their sporting and life journeys

  • Communications
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  • Feb 25, 2021
Canadian Olympic icons share their sporting and life journeys

Justin Duff, MBA '21, Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue at the 2021 MBA Leadership Event

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are Canadian sporting icons who set the world standard for excellence in ice dancing. Over the span of three Olympic Games, their dazzling artistry and stunning athleticism earned them places at the top of the podium. They were golden. They made it look easy.

Their journey together began as children, leading to a partnership lasting more than two decades.

As featured guests of the 2021 MBA Leadership Event, Virtue and Moir spoke about developing on-ice chemistry, mental preparation and teamwork needed to compete on the global stage. They also spoke candidly about almost giving up the sport, as Virtue recovered from surgery leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.  

The goal of this session organized by MBA ’21 candidates Morak Apampa, Kristina Weatherbee, Wasi Mesbahuddin and Mondira Chowdhury was to emphasize the importance of developing and applying strong leadership character.

“Between Tessa & Scott you could feel a deep sense of consideration for the other,” said Apampa, MBA ’21 candidate. “Driving to the rink everyday, they both were preoccupied with thoughts of how to make the other person’s life easier – “when you are putting someone else first, then chances are that they are doing that for you too, and that’s really were the magic lies”. Their success is an unmistakable story of selflessness and collaboration in its purest form.”

The two-hour question and answer event, partly led by Justin Duff, MBA ’21 student and former member of Canada’s Olympic volleyball team, featured numerous leadership and life lessons from their incredible journey.  

Always be accountable

While Virtue and Moir never had to give each other the “pull up your socks talk”, both stressed being open with one another as a means of creating accountability.

“A lot of that comes from communication and ensuring that we had the same overarching goal and purpose that was guiding us. In some cases, that goal might have been eight years down the road,” said Virtue.

Accountability also began in the gym where doing that extra rep and celebrating the little wins makes the hard work pay off.

“Trusting one another – and the process – helped to ensure we never got complacent,” said Virtue. “Both of us, equally, have this internal drive to be the best.  The accountability was a real, genuine, deep sense of wanting to be the best for one another. Additionally, we made sure we had the right support network surrounding us.”

Calming your nerves

Even Olympic champions get nervous. In fact, both Virtue and Moir admit to being incredibly nervous before each major performance. They often relied on key words, little reminders and cues to keep them in the moment.

“We always tried to create habits. Things that we could do every day, so our bodies and minds would understand what was going to happen,” said Moir. “Our coach would remind us to, “just get to the starting position”, stating then we would know what to do.”

Taking a moment to look back at your hard work helps to settle the mind.

“Reflecting on the work that has been done is a really powerful thing,” suggested Virtue. “You can get confidence by looking in the past and realizing that you’ve had so many achievements, and so many milestones to get to that moment. Sometimes your brain wants to pretend like you are not ready, but if you can tangibly point to things you’ve already accomplished, that can make a big difference.”

Being in-sync with your partner

On competition day, Virtue and Moir knew exactly what their partner was feeling or doing at every minute. This level of detail helped them support each other when their stress was at its highest.

“My number one priority was making Scott feel like he could take on the world. And I felt he did that for me, too,” said Virtue.

“In all of our successful skates, we started to really focus on being in sync with each other. That was our number one priority,” reflected Moir.

Take charge, but ask questions

Throughout her turbulent career fighting through injuries and navigating the ups and downs of training and competition, Virtue finally found joy in skating in 2017. She attributes this to her and Scott taking charge of their pursuit of gold at the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang. 

“In the end, I loved every minute of it because we were in control, and we were doing things in the way that was appropriately aligned with our values,” said Virtue.

While responsibility and accountability are important for pushing towards your ultimate goal, it can’t come at the expense of asking questions and being open to learning.

“Learn as much as you possibly can about the industry, about the business, about your colleagues, about the structure of whatever it is you’re tackling,” said Virtue. “Just dive in and don’t be afraid to ask questions, or to be a novice. That rookie mindset is actually the best place to be when you are chasing something, as you still have the ability to see it through a really beautiful lens.”