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The skaters are known for their innovative lifts and intricate spins and can completely capture an audience with their elegance and chemistry.

The six-time Canadian champions have pushed ice dancing to new limits with their virtually unmatched mix of athleticism and art. They will need all of it to hold off reigning world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States, who also happen to be their training partners.

“We have the opportunity to make people feel something, feel some emotion, and then also we get to be just pure athletes, and from a pure technical standpoint do things really technically demanding, and very challenging,” Virtue said. “So it’s that balance between the two that we love. And we love to play with the limits and push ourselves.”

Their free dance for Sochi is to “The Seasons” by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov. After the passion and drama of last season’s “Carmen” program, this year’s free skate is more reminiscent of the romance and grace of their Vancouver Olympic free dance to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

“The Seasons” mirrors the story of their partnership, from their early success that included a world junior title through the more turbulent times. The final 30 seconds of the 4-minute program represents Sochi. Their final pose is an elegant bow, one last salute to cap a couple of wonderful careers.

It’s not easy, the two say, being the defending Olympic champions.

“I feel a lot more pressure this time because it’s almost as if anything other than a gold medal is a disappointment,” Virtue said. “I think that’s what people are expecting of us and I think that’s what we’re expecting of ourselves. And so that’s daunting. It’s a little bit scary and frightening, and sometimes I stop and think, ‘Why do we put ourselves through this?’

“But at the same time, you talk to someone like (former Canadian rowing star) Marnie McBean and she said to us, ‘No one can take your gold medal away from you from Vancouver. You will always be Olympic champions. It doesn’t define you and that’s not who you are.’”