Road To The Olympic Games


Moore-Towers, Moscovitch pair takes centre stage

An obscure pair at the beginning of the figure skating season, Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch seized on an opportunity to shine. Now they head into this week's national championships as favourites to qualify for worlds for the first time.
Last minute replacements at October's Skate Canada event, Dylan Moscovitch, left, and Kirsten Moore-Towers won a surprise silver medal, helping propel them into the exclusive Grand Prix final at the end of the year. ((Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images))

Here's a story perfect for television.

Dylan Moscovitch has to find a new pairs figure skating partner because his sister's career has come to an end due to injury. He's 24 and knows it's not time to pack it in.

So the Toronto native, who works out in Waterloo, Ont., begins an audition process late in 2008 that takes him through a total of nine different partners over about three months.

Some of them are close, but there's no magic, no feeling that this is the one.

Meanwhile, back at the home rink, local product Kirsten Moore-Towers and her partner Andrew Evans decide after the January 2009 nationals things aren't working out and it's time for a competitive divorce. She's available.

Moscovitch needs to stay on the ice to keep in shape and his hand in, so he skates with Moore-Towers a few times, a couple of spins as it were, and then it hits everyone: put Moscovitch together with the pretty 16-year-old blonde who has the competitive heart of a lion and you never know what might happen. The answer was right in front of both of them.

What happened was the birth of a top pair, one that burst on the scene this year to take two silvers in the Grand Prix schedule and qualify for the final at Beijing back in November, where they finished sixth (out of six) in a field considered part of a different talent universe before the run got underway.

"This year has been a whirlwind and we've already accomplished more than either of us with previous partners or by ourselves [in their first incarnation as singles skaters]," said Moore-Towers last week, after a workout at Waterloo under their coaches Kris and Kristy Sargeant-Wirtz.

"Now, going into nationals it is emotional, and intense, because we really want to do well. But on the other hand, we're working really hard already so we just need to skate like we've been skating."

For Moscovitch, the most old fashioned of values is the key to both what has happened now, and what can happen in the future as the long journey to the next Olympics in 2014 gets under way.

"We attribute most of our success we've had this season to working really hard early," he says. "We don't really take too much time off — we take enough time off — and in the spring we get to work quite early."

And the pair has been kept on track, keeping their minds "focused on the right things, instead of the distractions that come along with competing," he says.

"It's a journey, and a long journey hopefully, and we like to enjoy every step of the journey, so if we get too caught up in the placement we're not going to be seeing the whole big picture … improving on every skate."

Nicely put, but the sports world is filled with failed athletes who got up early, worked hard, and kept their eyes on the prize and away from distractions.

There's something more here.

Ready when the chance arrived

It is a story as old as the stage itself.

Down goes the featured performer and into the spotlight comes the young understudy to show what they can do. The audience is startled, critics are agog, and a star is born.

Figure skating may not be that simple, but it does have its moments of creative drama. Down the highway in Toronto last fall, at the prestigious Granite Club, Canadian champions and former world bronze medallists Bryce Davison and Jessica Dube were working out just a week before Skate Canada.

A jump. A sudden pain in the knee. Davison's season is over.

Canadian figure skating officials, originally planning on sending Moscovitch and Moore-Towers just to Skate America, add the pair to fill out the field at Skate Canada.

With only seven days of mental preparation, they beat the field, but for one pair, and follow that up with another silver in Portland, Ore., earning the right to go to Beijing for the Grand Prix Final where they were sixth.

Now, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are headed for this week's BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Victoria as favourites, one year after finishing well back (fifth) at the nationals.

Have they taken the time to sit back and realize this has been pretty amazing?

"I think to an extent we did, yeah, but it was kind of, for me, it didn't hit me right away," Moore-Towers says. "It didn't hit me until we got back from the Grand Prix in China.

"It's not that the Grand Prix Final was really a goal for us because at the beginning of the season we only had one Grand Prix lined up [Skate America], but as the season progressed, we're proud of what we've done, and just hope it keeps getting better."

Watching them at the final in Beijing, there are obvious things one noticed right away. Moscovitch is a full head taller (and eight years older now, at 26). Like any good pair, there is confidence and strength in the lifts and throws. He's strong as an ox.

Their solid background as singles skaters when younger holds them well, especially in the short program where they spend as much as 23 straight seconds apart.

And there are mistakes.

Moscovitch caught a pick on a footwork sequence and went down in the short program ("Whoops … I hate toe picks," he said to the camera in the kiss and cry — the young man seems imperturbable).

Moore-Towers fell on side-by-side triple Salchows in the long program, though they recovered well and put in, among other elements, gorgeous side-by-side sit spins, nicely together and with no travel.

Both scores were below season bests, and they were sixth.

Lots of work to do. Time to do it.

The marriage contract

Young skating pairs have to learn to act like old married couples quickly if they are to thrive.

That means being able to read each other's emotions, and after the inevitable arguments, skate away, count to 10 (or 200) and come back ready to go again.

"It's not always going to be sunshine and rainbows," says Moscovitch, who lists music, cars, snowboarding and martial arts as his hobbies.

"You are spending a lot of time together, sometimes in high-stress situations, and you are going to get on each other's nerves and you have to know whether you are going to bounce back and trust in each other."

His partner, whose hobbies include reading, going to the beach, running, shopping and scrapbooking, agrees.

"Dylan and I don't get along, of course, 100 per cent of the time, but we understand we are different people and we do disagree sometimes," Moore-Towers says. "But it's the ability to just take a small amount of time to maybe be a little bit angry and then snap right back and be the same as you were before."

Getting to the worlds will require a first or second at the nationals, and that's not a sure thing, even without Davison and Dube there, plus the retirement of another team, Annabelle Langlois and Cody Hay.

There are three other couples, especially Meagan Duhamel and her new partner Eric Radford, who can challenge them.

The numbers, however, are clear. With season's bests of 61.64 in the short and 117.24 in the long, if Moore-Towers and Moscovitch hit those (and remember there's a pretty standard 10 per cent bump for everyone's score at Nats), or even come close, the worlds in Tokyo seem a sure thing.

Unless someone else surprisingly pops on stage and into the spotlight, looking to sweep it away for themselves.

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