As the most uncertain of skating seasons dawns over the horizon, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro have found a silver lining in these challenging times.
Now back on the ice tuning up for a season that has more questions than answers due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the two-time Canadian pair champions are staying optimistic and looking forward to picking up where they left off when the 2019-20 season was abruptly halted in March.
“We’ve been back on the ice for a while now, and we’re getting ready as best we can,” says Moore-Towers from their training base in Oakville, Ont.
“We’ve always known what our goals are, and we know we are capable of achieving them. The time away really gives you a chance to think and evaluate how you can improve. It’s easy to remember why we’re here and why we are doing this.”
“Right now, we are not exactly sure which events we are training for, but eventually that opportunity is going to come, and we want to be ready for it,” adds Marinaro.
Coming off a 2019-20 season in which they captured their second straight national title and added a pair of silver medals on the ISU Grand Prix circuit, the tandem is preparing for a new season as they normally would.
Right now, uncertainty is the new normal.
“Regardless of the state everything is in, we have to believe we will compete somewhere,” says Moore-Towers.
“That is the mindset we take into training each day, so when that happens, we will be prepared. We only have a couple of years left in our career, so we want to spend our time doing what we enjoy doing.”
“With all the uncertainty, we are just looking at taking a couple of steps forward each day,” adds Marinaro. “We’re just trying to grow together and improve. This time away just reinforced that we have to enjoy the process here and reconfirms that we love what we do.”
Even during these trying times for our world, Moore-Towers and Marinaro prefer to look at the glass as half-full.
After all, sometimes perspective, as painful as it may be, is a gift.
It has been almost seven months, just after the quarantine started in March, since Marinaro put in a FaceTime call to his grandmother, Charlotte Jones, an avid skating fan and one of his biggest supporters. On the call, Marinaro noticed his grandmother was having some difficulty breathing, but he didn’t give it more than a passing thought.
It would be his last conversation with her.
The following day, Charlotte Jones was taken to hospital and, one day later, on March 31st, she passed away from complications of COVID-19.
Just like that, she was gone.
“It was unexpected, and a huge loss for our family,” says Marinaro. “It really did put things in perspective. Sports took a back seat. This whole situation over the past few months is so much bigger than sport.”
“It was a loss for Mike, and I agree, it really did put everything in perspective,” adds Moore-Towers. “You realize what is truly important in life.”
“It was a low time not only for Mike, but for a lot of people, but it’s been nice to see people sharing their gifts and talents around the world. I saw a lot of positivity with people coming together in a way I hadn’t seen before.”
When the quarantine was first implemented, Moore-Towers and Marinaro, like many others, figured the hiatus would be short-term, perhaps only a few weeks. As time went on, both knew they had to find things to do with their surplus of spare time.
“I did a lot of teaching,” says Moore-Towers, adding she was grateful that Skate Oakville conduced virtual sessions to keep skaters active, both mentally and physically. “I was joking I was excited for quarantine to end, so I could be less busy. It gave me the gift of understanding where my passions lie and what I’m good at.”
Marinaro took advantage of the time off to get outdoors and spend some time with Mother Nature.
“After being locked up in an arena for the past 25 years, I had a chance to get outside during the quarantine and do a lot of camping and outdoor activities that I don’t normally get an opportunity to do,” he says.
Marinaro also took up Frisbee golf.
“I’m still not very good yet, but I’m trying to get better,” he adds with a laugh.
Along with their newfound perspective comes the reality that they are likely heading into the twilight of their competitive careers. Moore-Towers and Marinaro feel there is still some unfinished business to take care of and they don’t want the moment to pass them by.
And in these dark times, they’ve found a beacon of light.
“We’ve always had a clear, concise idea of who we are as athletes and as a team,” says Moore-Towers. “When that is stripped away, you start to think of these other things that will determine who you are as an athlete to complement who you are as a human being.
“We’ve been working on this our whole lives. But suddenly, everything you’ve been working for is unclear. This time has given both of us the opportunity to be well-rounded individuals and understand what we want to do when this is all over.”
But for now, that can wait.