By Claire Cloutier, contributing writer for Figure Skaters Online
Photos by Robin Ritoss

 

As Kirsten Moore-Towers and Mike Marinaro look toward Canadian Nationals in Saint John, New Brunswick, they have one thing on their minds. Points.

 

Following their sixth-place finish at Worlds last year, the duo had hoped to qualify for the Grand Prix Final this season. Of course, having a home-country Grand Prix Final in Vancouver only made this prospect more appealing. However, the Canadians fell short, finishing the Grand Prix season in ninth place and narrowly missing the Final. In both their Grand Prix events, they missed a higher placement by less than one point. So that’s what the team is thinking about now. Points.  

 

It was definitely a huge bummer, being a half a point away in both of our Grand Prixs, which would have made the difference for us to qualify for the [Grand Prix] Final,” Marinaro said ruefully. “That being said, lesson learned. We’ve been working the last two months on getting every single point we can. We’re not going to leave any half-points on the table in the future. Every point is critical. It was a tough lesson, but a good lesson learned moving forward.”

 

His partner echoed their disappointment. “We understand that, with the way the qualification goes for a Grand Prix Final, we are definitely not alone in this position. It’s up to us to do our job. And we didn’t always do it. So we definitely learned a hard lesson that we’ll try not to replicate in the future.”

 

Although it was discouraging to miss the Final, the team feels they put the extra training time to good use. “We did a good job of putting it behind us and taking the time that we wouldn’t have had, if we had been competing in Vancouver, to work on some of our weaknesses and try to really rip them apart and start from scratch so that you could see the improvement,” Moore-Towers stated. 

 

Moore-Towers and Marinaro said that this year’s Canadian Nationals will be quite different, with so many long-time Canadian skating stars retiring or taking the season off. Once they were one of the newer pairs teams at Canadian Nationals; now Moore-Towers and Marinaro are the veterans– and favorites.  

 

It’s different for us, for sure,” said Moore-Towers. “Because for all these years to date, we’ve both looked to our mentors for advice. But we both gladly accept the leadership role; we enjoy the role that we have within our own club. Of the six senior pairs at Nationals, three train with us. So we’ll have four teams from our club in the event. Every team, whether they’re less experienced than us or not, has something we can learn from.”

 

Moore-Towers and Marinaro’s goal at Canadians will be the same as always: To skate their best.

 

We try not to be results-oriented, but of course, we would like to have our first National title together,” Moore-Towers acknowledged. “In order to do that, we need to focus on each element, and we need to maximize all of our points. We need to get as many points out of each element as we can. So, our main goal is really improving from our past performances. And hopefully, should we do that, the result we would like will follow.”

 

Marinaro concurred. “Definitely, our biggest goal is to show improvement from November [when the team last competed]. If we can show improvement … then we’re going to be happy with our performance, however the results lie.”

 

But, points. What role will they play?

 

With the new +5/-5 GOE, we really need to maximize our strong elements,” Moore-Towers explained. “We know which elements we are capable of getting a +5 [on]. And we need to do so. We’ve seen in the Grand Prix season how these GOEs can really affect placements. How doing things to the best of your ability will get results.

 

And actually, we learned the reverse in Japan,” Moore-Towers continued. The team competed at NHK Trophy in Japan, finishing fourth. “We found in Japan, we didn’t have any major mistakes. But we had so many little ones that it kept us off the podium and ultimately out of the Final. We’re all learning with this new system. We know where we need to show our strengths, and where we need to minimize our weaknesses–and hopefully, get rid of our weaknesses.”

 

Marinaro added: “With the new system, there’s such a big range on every single element that there’s really no ‘break’ element any more. Every single element matters.”

 

One element that the team is still pondering is the jump combination in their long program. At Skate Canada, they went for the ambitious side-by-side double Axel/Euler/triple Salchow (2A/Eu/3S) combo that they’ve been using since last season. At NHK Trophy the next month, the team switched to a side-by-side triple Salchow/double toe (3S/2T) combo. They said they’re still working out the jump combo for the second half of the season.

 

It’s a little bit up in the air still. We had stopped training the Axel because Mike had a problem with his left heel that rendered him unable to train an Axel at all,” Moore-Towers said. “So, going into Skate Canada, it was difficult for us to feel confident [on the combo] because we didn’t have the numbers that we normally have. At Nationals, we’ll be doing triple Salchow/double toe/double toe (3S/2T/2T).

 

Moving forward in the season, we’re not sure yet,” Moore-Towers continued. “We’re going to experiment a bit, see which element gets us to maximize our points the most. We just don’t know if doing SBS 2A/Eu/3S, with a slight minus [in GOE], would give us more points than doing a 3S/2T/2T, with a plus. We’ll do trial and error a bit, and see what our coaches feel and what we feel is our strongest bet moving forward.”

 

So, it’s about the points right now for Moore-Towers and Marinaro. Specifically, getting the magic number of points to carry them to their goals at Canadian Nationals and beyond.