For the better part of their career, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have been riding shotgun to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, patiently waiting for their chance to take the wheel.
That moment seems to have arrived.
With the towering flame at the Sochi Olympics no longer burning, Weaver, 24, and Poje, 27, have turned their attention to Saitama, Japan, where they are part of the 17-member team wearing the Canadian colours at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships.
For Weaver and Poje, this week signals both an end and a beginning – the end of another season, the beginning of what may become the defining chapter of their careers.
This time around, they are entering worlds as the de facto number one ice dance team in Canada. Virtue and Moir are passing on worlds this year, and while nothing official has been announced, the general consensus is the six-time Canadian ice dance champions and 2010 Olympic gold medallists will retire from competitive skating in the coming weeks.
Opportunity knocks for Weaver and Poje, and they are ready to walk right in.
“Everyone knew there would be a day when Tessa and Scott, Meryl (Davis) and Charlie (White) weren’t going to grace the competitive rinks but now that it’s here, it’s like ‘wait, what are we going to do now?’ It’s a little strange to not have them there on the list.
“We’re ready. I feel like we’re ready to take over.”
Not only are Virtue and Moir taking a pass on the world championships, but Davis and White, a month after claiming Olympic gold in Sochi, will not chase a third world crown in Japan.
These world championships represent the unofficial changing of the guard in ice dance, and Weaver and Poje, coming off a seventh place showing in Sochi, want to make sure they make their presence felt early on. For one week at least, Virtue, Moir, Davis and White aren’t putting up an imposing roadblock on the path to the podium.
“It’s going to be a free for all,” says Weaver. “I really do believe everyone is in this predicament where anything can happen.”
“We definitely want to make a great impression on the judges, because they’ll be wondering who will step up to the plate,” adds Poje.
It is unique a world championships as you will find, with the top two teams on the planet taking a rain check. But Weaver and Poje aren’t focused on who isn’t in Saitama. A world title is a world title. There won’t be an asterisk in the history books next to the 2014 world champions because Virtue, Moir, Davis and White didn’t compete.
As far as timing goes, Weaver and Poje know this is the chance they’ve been waiting for, and they’re ready to meet the challenge.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on being the underdogs, and we’ve been working so hard these past couple of weeks – we’ve been working so hard this whole season – because we knew this moment could be a reality,” says Weaver.
“We’ve been preparing our whole lives for these types of moments.”