In the minds of many fans, five-time Olympic medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are a perfect match both on and off the ice.
The ice-dancing champions have insisted that their two-decade-long partnership has been purely athletic, but that has not stopped fan-fiction enthusiasts from writing their own versions of the duo's gold-medal love story.
Their crackling on-ice chemistry has inspired dozens of romantic tales that envision Virtue and Moir as not only Canada's sweethearts, but each other's.
A recent search of fan-fiction website Archive Of Our Own found more than 160 works inspired by Virtue and Moir, some posted as recently as this week, while other serialized accounts have been kept up over years.
Since the Winter Games began, Toronto-based online storytelling platform Wattpad has seen a spike in Olympic-themed stories, of which romantic fiction about Virtue and Moir comprises a relatively small subgenre.
"Scott and Tessa have obviously captured the imaginations of lots of people," said Wattpad's Ashleigh Gardner.
She said "shippers" — a term fans use to describe supporters of fictional romantic pairings — use fan fiction as a way to explore fantasies about the two falling in love on the ice, dating and getting married.
"I think people like to imagine that their relationship is more than it is, and that they're a couple off the ice as well," said Gardner. "They want to see that chemistry that they've seen in their ice dancing, and they want to explore that further."
One 22,000-word epic story traces a fictional relationship from when they first met as children to them bracing for their final Olympics this year.
Another story called "This History of Ours" imagines Virtue plagued with regrets as she contemplates her ill-fated love affair with Moir, which she ended because she felt it disrupted their athletic harmony.
Eden Lackner, an English instructor at University of Calgary, said she is not surprised the relationship between Virtue and Moir has provided so much creative fodder for fan-fiction writers.
Lackner, who writes and studies fan fiction, described the fandom for Virtue and Moir as small but significant. Most of the stories are romances, Lackner said, and while some are erotic, she thinks fan-fiction writers are more interested in the skaters' personal relationship than their sex lives.
"I think with Moir and Virtue, a lot of it is that they have an incredibly compelling story, and ice dancing ... much of it is about telling a story too," said Lackner. "You have that chemistry, on top of the story of their athletic career, working together to provide something that people want to spend more time with."
It's not that fan-fiction writers believe Virtue and Moir are romantically involved in real life, said Lackner, but stories allow them to "fix that" and write their own happy endings.
"We're not really writing about them. We're writing about their public personas," she said. "Maybe they're not together, but we can write a story that they are."
As their Olympic ambitions fade into the distance, Moir told reporters in Pyeongchang that he and Virtue are hoping to devote more time to their personal lives outside skating.
"Relationship status, it's none of your business,” Moir joked, snapping his fingers in a zig-zag motion.
"I can say that the last two years I've been in a very committed relationship with (figure skating). And we're the type of athletes that dive headfirst into the whole process, and I don't honestly know where you would find time for that. And part of the reason maybe we wouldn't continue (competing) is to open up that side of our life maybe, and see where that goes."
— With files from Aleksandra Sagan in Toronto and Lori Erwing in Pyeongchang
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
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