Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro feel the pressure after changes to Canadian figure skating scene. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Strong off-season has Canada’s Moore-Towers and Marinaro feeling optimistic

The Canadian figure skating scene underwent a dramatic change last season after several high-profile athletes left the team. It put a brighter spotlight on many of the skaters who remained, including the pairs duo of Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro.

Moore-Towers admits the new-look landscape created some challenges.

“Last year I personally really struggled with that,” she said Tuesday. “I put too much pressure on my own shoulders. It was not any external pressure, it was all from within. It really didn’t give us the results that we wanted.”

The list of departures reads like a Hall of Fame first ballot: Patrick Chan, Kaetlyn Osmond, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. Moore-Towers, from St. Catharines, Ont., and Marinaro, from Sarnia, Ont., did their best to help fill the void but struggled with inconsistency.

“It was disappointing a lot of times and we did see some positive results a few times as well,” said Moore-Towers. “Definitely for the most part up and down.”

Coach Bruno Marcotte feels some tinkering with the mental approach will pay dividends.

“It’s just being in the moment and to not worry about what’s coming ahead and to not worry about what just happened,” he said from Oakville, Ont. “I think the main thing is to be very on point and very precise on what we have to do.

“I feel the more we put the focus on what needs to be done, it (puts) the mind on the right track.”

After finishing 11th in pairs at the Pyeongchang Olympics, Moore-Towers battled through ankle woes at the 2018 world championship en route to a sixth-place result.

Last season, Moore-Towers and Marinaro won their first Canadian pairs title together. They also took silver at Four Continents and bronze at Skate Canada but settled for a seventh-place result at the worlds.

“This year our biggest goal is consistency in competition,” Marinaro said on a conference call.

Both 27, Moore-Towers and Marinaro changed things up in the off-season and they’re seeing early results. They returned to Southern Ontario from Montreal to continue working with Marcotte at Skate Oakville and were victorious at the recent Nebelhorn Trophy, a tune-up for the Grand Prix season in Germany.

Moore-Towers said they ramped up their off-ice workout regimen and focused on improving their triple twist — one of the most complicated and challenging moves in the discipline — over the summer. They essentially rebuilt the lift-and-throw motion, spending the first two months of the off-season just working on single twists.

Marcotte said both skaters kept an open mind.

“I feel like this off-season we did a big chunk of what needed to be done,” he said.

Progress was evident last month as they achieved their first-ever triple-twist-four — the highest difficulty level possible — during their short program in Germany.

“It was a long and very difficult process,” Moore-Towers said. “It was tough to change technique that we had done the same for 10 years for me and over 10 years for Mike … so we are pleased to finally reap some benefits.

“We know it’s not where it needs to be but we still see daily and weekly improvements on it so we’re hoping to keep raising the points that we achieve.”

Moore-Towers and Marinaro will represent Canada in pairs at Skate Canada, Oct. 25-27 in Kelowna, B.C.

“I feel very good about their level of skating right now and their level of performing,” Marcotte said.

Toronto’s Nam Nguyen (men’s) and Gabrielle Daleman (women’s) of Newmarket, Ont., will also headline the Canadian contingent of 18 skaters at Prospera Place.

Pairs duo Andrew Wolfe of Calgary and Camille Ruest of Rimouski, Que., are tabbed to skate at this week’s season-opening Grand Prix in Las Vegas.

Keegan Messing (men’s) of Sherwood Park, Alta., Veronik Mallet (women’s) of Sept-Iles, Que., and Montreal ice dancers Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen are also in the Skate America field.

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