When Sarnia’s Michael Marinaro and partner Kirsten Moore-Towers won gold at the Skate Canada Challenge on Jan. 9, they did it with a videotaped routine recorded a month earlier.
“It was definitely difficult without having the judges there, the audience there, even the other competitors there,” Marinaro, 29, said the virtual competition.
“It was definitely a weird vibe but Skate Canada did an excellent job organizing all these hubs.”
Performing for a competition in an empty arena was a first for the two-time Canadian pair figure skating champions.
The choreography had to be precise, with extra emphasis placed on body movements and facial expressions to convey emotion, Marinaro said.
“We had to make a few tweaks to make it more acceptable to a camera as opposed to a live audience and a live judge,” he said. “At this point in our career, and having the experience that we have, skating in a venue with 10,000 people is definitely a benefit to us. It’s 100 times harder to skate it in an arena with five people there.”
A high-performance exemption from COVID-19 regulations allowed Marinaro and Moore-Towers to practice regularly through the fall and winter of 2020. But it’s unclear if the exemption will be extended under Ontario’s new stay-at-home orders. In fact, the entire upcoming skating season is in doubt.
The Canadian Nationals have been cancelled and the International Skating Union was expected to decide this week whether the World Championships will proceed.
Organizers have discussed the creation of a “bubble” for coaches and skates at the Worlds in Sweden in March, Marinaro said.
But four competing countries have travel bans to the Scandinavian country, which is struggling to contain a surge of COVID-19 cases, he noted.
And Canadian skating officials aren’t sure if they will send skaters, even if the event does proceed, he added.
If the Worlds are cancelled, Marinaro and Moore-Towers will focus on the Beijing Olympics in 2022, in what he suspects will be their last year of competitive skating.
“Next season, if the Games happen, will most likely be our final season, so we’re in the final 12 months of the career. It’s the final push,” he said.
“It’s obviously uncertain too, being held in China,” Marinaro added. “But we have to assume they are going to happen so we can be as prepared as we can to take advantage of that moment.”
If the Olympics are only postponed, Marinaro said, he and Moore-Towers would continue competing. But they’re not certain what they’ll do if the Olympics are cancelled altogether.
The pairs team has risen steadily in the figure skating world since finishing 11th at the 2018 Winter Olympics and sixth at the World Championships in Italy that same year.
Marinaro began skating at the Point Edward Skating Club at the age of four. By the time he was 10 he’d set his sights on becoming an Olympian.