February 18, 2014 2:12 pm
Updated: February 18, 2014 9:21 pm

For Olympic coaches, allegiance goes to highest bidder

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WATCH: There were some candid comments from Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir about their coach’s divided loyalty.  Eric Sorensen reports.

For Olympic athletes, the Games represent the opportunity of a lifetime to tighten a bond with country, an ultimate expression of patriotism.

But for Olympic coaches, most of whom are former international athletes themselves, allegiances once their playing days are over go to the highest bidder.

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Operating out of the spotlight for the most part, many former star athletes make their livings by coaching today’s Olympians regardless of the nationality of teacher or pupil (see graphic below for Team Canada’s breakdown).

That’s led to some obvious controversies.

There’s been grumbling here at home about Marina Zoueva, the Russian-born figure skating coach, for splitting duties between the Canadian pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and U.S. gold medallists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

But for the most part, there’s little discussion on the subject of former star Olympians putting their patriotism on the backburner to earn a living working for other national programs.

A prime example: Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu out-duelled Canada’s Patrick Chan to win the men’s figure skating gold last week. There wasn’t a single raised eyebrow when Brian Orser, a Canadian hero from the ’88 Games, greeted his student as Hanyu exited the ice.

Brian Orser, the men’s ice skating silver medalist in the 1988 Winter Olympics, sits beside Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 gold medallist.

ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

For their part, the athletes don’t seem to mind the arrangement much either, perhaps because of a common understanding that many will find themselves in similar situations following the end of their competitive careers.

Scott Moir, one side of the Canadian pair that won gold under Zoueva’s tutelage in the 2010 Games in Vancouver, suggested Tuesday the pair felt their coach for many years may have shifted priorities away from the couple in the months leading up to Sochi.

WATCH: Virtue and Moir discuss their delicate relationship with coach Marina Zoueva who they share with American gold medallists Meryl Davis and Charlie White

But Moir and Virtue still urged their coach onto the ice following the flower presentation.

Photographers spent several minutes shooting Zoueva with both the Canadian and American skaters in front of each flag. There was a group hug.

Looking on were the bronze medal winners, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia.

“She’s not in an easy position.” Moir said later.

Here’s a look at the number of foreign coaches on Team Canada, and where they hail from. You can find more details here:

TEAM CANADA'S COACHES

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