Once upon a time…
A nine-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl became ice dance partners, and in the boy’s own words, “Something really changed in my life when I started to hold onto the hand of a beautiful little girl.” The boy gave up his early dream of being a professional hockey player, and the girl gave up a spot in a prestigious ballet program—all because even as children, they were committed to each other. The girl was the boy’s first kiss; the boy became the girl’s best friend.
As the years went on, they faced highs and lows. She endured painful surgeries to keep skating with him, and while she recovered, he trained with sandbags because he didn’t want another partner. They won Olympic gold in their home country, becoming Canada’s sweethearts in the process, but four years later, they came home with a silver medal instead of the repeat gold they were chasing.
They took a couple of years away from the sport, but they couldn’t stay away from the ice—or from each other—for long. As the boy said, being close to the girl was “the whole reason [he] wanted to come back to skating.” They decided to return to the sport they loved with a new mindset and a new focus on telling their own story, on making it “personal” this time around. They fought to choose their own music—music that reminded the boy of the girl whose hand he first held 20 years before. And they fought to become the best once again—to bring home the gold medal that eluded them in 2014.
They faced tough competition, and despite winning a gold medal with their teammates, they needed to have the skates of their lives to win individual gold. They began with a world record, but their fiercest rivals set the bar high with one of their own. Stepping onto the ice as Olympic competitors for the last time, they knew they had to do something magical in order to win. But instead of waiting for a fairy godmother, they created their own magic—the boy singing their song to the girl as they danced across the ice, capturing the hearts of everyone in the crowd, captivating the world, and catapulting themselves to the top of the standings and the medal podium.
And they lived happily ever after…
Or so we all hope, right?
The story of Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir reads like a fairytale, and it often looks like one, too. Just take one glance around social media during these Winter Olympics and you’ll find everyone from passionate ice dance fans to people who’ve never heard of a twizzle and journalists to celebrities caught up in the question of just how much of this fairytale is real.
That question isn’t new to me. Eight years ago, I watched Virtue and Moir share one of their now-famous quietly intimate moments before they took the ice for their gold-medal-winning skate in Vancouver, and I immediately did what so many have done over the last two weeks: Googled “Are Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir dating?” For the next eight years, I followed the ups and downs of their career and their totally platonic “business partnership” largely on my own, but after the one-two punch of their steamy and romantic performances in the figure skating team event, I suddenly had not just my friends deep in this rabbit hole of fandom with me, but seemingly the rest of the internet as well.
There is no joy on Earth quite like watching the rest of the world embrace something you’ve loved for almost a decade. It makes you feel less alone when you see people around the world on Twitter, Tumblr, TIME magazine, and even TV news networks voicing the hope you’ve had for eight years: Will this fairytale have the ultimate happy ending?
For most of us, that question is asked all in good fun. We know it’s their lives, and we know they don’t need to share any personal details with us. So why do we do it? Why is everyone suddenly “shipping” a couple of Canadian ice dancers?
Because in the words of Once Upon a Time, “Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.”
The world is a mess right now, so we look for beauty where we can. The news is depressing right now, so we look for happiness where we can. When it seems like all we see are stories of grief, hatred, and anger, it’s human nature to want to latch on to those rare stories that make us feel hopeful—stories that make us believe in love.
And that’s what Virtue and Moir have done not just in every performance at these Olympics, but in every practice and every interview, too. They’ve made us believe that in a world that is so often divided, there are people who truly move and breathe as one person. They’ve made us believe that love—whether platonic, romantic, or somewhere in between—can truly conquer all.
We may never know the answer to that question I Googled eight years ago, and that’s perfectly fine with me. What matters is that for a couple of weeks, they’ve allowed us all to get lost in a story filled with warmth and light in the cold and dark months of winter.
They’ve allowed us to believe in the possibility of a happy ending, and for a couple of weeks, that’s helped a very broken world seem like a slightly more perfect place.