They came back to the Olympic Games looking for a second straight gold medal. But despite posting a season best score of 114.66 in the free dance, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir settled for silver after a sterling final performance on Olympic ice.

“We knew that this was a risk coming back to defend a title,” said Virtue. “And that’s something we didn’t want to shy away from. As competitors we embrace that challenge and I think that’s what sport is all about. We still have that passion and that fire but no one said it would be easy.”

They became Canada’s sweethearts four years ago in Vancouver. And they celebrated this silver in much the same way they did the gold then. There was Moir jumping exuberantly onto the podium. There was a victory lap with the maple leaf held aloft. But there was also applause for the victors, American training mates and rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who claimed the gold medal by 4.53 points.

Because while the result may not have been what Virtue and Moir were hoping for, the two performances they gave here in Sochi certainly were.

“We sort of base it off how we feel in that ending position,” said Virtue. “We’re extremely satisfied. That’s the feeling we’ll take with us.”

“That was a great skate for us tonight,” said Moir. “We were technically strong and connected with each other on the ice.”

They also acknowledged that they felt the pressure to produce for Canada at these their second Games, versus the naiveté that helped them win in Vancouver.

“We felt it more this afternoon than yesterday,” said Moir. “On the one side I had to fight through a lot of the moments and really push and focus really hard tonight and all of a sudden I was in the ending position and it seemed to go by really fast.”

Unlike in the short dance, where the 2.56 point gap between them and Davis and White could be found in the level of difficulty assigned to a technical element, in the free dance both teams earned level fours across the board, perhaps making it a preferential choice about style. The two vastly different teams have consistently been at the top of their discipline, alternating world titles since their 1-2 finish at Vancouver 2010.

Now with three Olympic medals to their credit, having also won silver in the inaugural team event earlier in these Games, Virtue and Moir are the most decorated figure skaters in Canadian history. They’ve taken care to remember each moment of what is expected to be their final season, from their last international competition on home ice in Saint John in October to their last national championships in Ottawa in January to this, potentially their last competitive performance.

“We don’t know what our plans are for the future, “said Moir. “From an amateur standpoint, from a competitive standpoint… I think that’s somewhere in the back of our minds and we tried to push it out while competing. But in the kiss and cry it was special. We were able to look at each other and reflect on 17 years and what a journey we’ve had.”