Canada has a rich history of pairs figure skating teams dating back to 1954 when Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden won the first World Championships gold medal in pairs for Canada. Since then, Canadian pairs teams have won nine more World Championships titles, and it appears as if more international medals are on the horizon – even with current Canadian champs Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison sidelined with a season-ending injury.
The latest Canadian sensation is Kirsten (rhymes with ‘her’) Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch – second-year teams who are building a resume that much more seasoned teams only dream about.
In less than two years together as a competitive team, the perky eighteen-year-old Moore-Towers and confident twenty-six-year-old Moscovitch have earned a place on Canada’s National Team by finishing fifth at the 2010 Canadian Championships as well as a golden ticket to the Grand Prix Final next week in Beijing.
“We went into Skate America, and did not have the Grand Prix Final in our mind,” Moore-Towers confessed. “We just focused on our performances and we’re pleased that we pulled through in the end. We’re very excited for the Grand Prix Final.”
Moore-Towers and Moscovitch came together in the spring of 2009 after their former partnerships dissolved. Moscovitch was previously partnered with his younger sister Kyra, and the duo seemed poised to take the international scene by storm. After finishing fourth at the 2008 Canadian Championships, Kyra began having health issues that required her to end her skating career.
At the same time, Moore-Towers was preparing to make her competitive debut as a pairs skater with former partner Andrew Evans. After a tenth place finish at a Junior Grand Prix event in Mexico, Moore-Towers and Evans headed to the Canadian Championships where they ultimately finished in fourth place on the junior level. Their partnership ended quickly, however, after those championships.
Having trained at the same rink for several years, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch decided to have a tryout to explore the possibility of a new partnership.
“Kyra had an injury and couldn’t skate anymore, and Kirsten finished the year up with (Evans) and the partnership didn’t work out,” Moscovitch recalled. “I had done a bunch of tryouts, and when Kirsten became available, we did a tryout and it was a good fit.”
But it wasn’t the first time that Moore-Towers and Moscovitch had skated together.
“We used to play around together when we both had other partners,” Moscovitch said with his usual sense of humor. “We would switch partners sometimes during a session to try out different elements, and we had always done good stuff together just for fun. So when we tried out everything already worked very well.”
“I wouldn’t want to skate with anyone other than Dylan,” Moore-Towers confessed. “I tell people that all the time. We’re great friends apart from our partnership. I think it’s because he goes above and beyond to make sure that all of my needs are taken care of instead of just doing whatever he wants to do. I have never not felt safe in the partnership. He’s a funny guy who knows how to keep me happy, and our personalities just click.”
“Kirsten is a workhorse, and it’s inspiring to see. I’ve always prided myself on being a hard worker and I think that’s what kept me going in the sport,” Moscovitch explained. “Kirsten has been able to very quickly keep up with me. We push each other, keep each other motivated, and I would say that she has the biggest smile in figure skating.”
After a successful summer competition season, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were invited to fill one of the host spots at Skate Canada in the fall of 2009. A sixth place finish there gave the duo a boost heading into their first Canadian Championships where they finished in fifth place. As a result, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch earned a spot to compete at the 2010 Four Continents Championships where they finished in ninth place.
Over the summer Moore-Towers and Moscovitch, who train in Waterloo, Ont. with former Canadian champions Kris and Kristy Wirtz, focused much of their energy on improving the basics of their skating.
“We have been working hard on our second mark- working on our lines, our connection, but it’s a never-ending process,” Moscovitch explained. “It’s definitely been our focus this season, and it’s great to see that people are noticing that in our skating.”
Moscovitch has a long history with the Wirtz family, working with Kris’s deceased brother Paul before working with Kris and Kristy.
“I’ve been skating with Kris and Kristy for seven or eight years now, and I have developed quite a close relationship with them,” Moscovitch explained. “Not only are they our coaches, but on a side note, they are also my friends. Kris is a very over the top personality, and has a lot of energy. He has a lot of love and passion for the sport, and he’ll do anything for his students. On the other hand, Kristy is also very passionate, but she goes about it in a different way. They compliment each other very well, and they give us anything that we need.”
Moore-Towers added, “I know that I personally need Kris and Kristy for different reasons. Kris is the energy- you’ll normally find him running around the rink like an idiot. That helps me push through tough training sessions. I trust Kristy so much because she was a pairs girl and she has been there. Any situation that I might encounter, she has probably already experienced and she knows how to help with it.”
“We’re getting marks that are competitive with the rest of the world so far this competitive season,” Moscovitch continued. “It’s reassuring that we are taking steps in the right direction and working on the right things. We just need to keep progressing forward.”
With choreographer Mark Pillay, Moore-Towers, a native of Waterloo, and Moscovitch, originally from Toronto, created their programs for the 2010-11 season. For the short, they selected Zorba’s Dance from the iconic 1964 film Zorba the Greek. To show a completely different style from their energetic short program, the duo chose selections from the Broadway musical Les Miserables.
“We have surrounded ourselves with a great team including choreographer Mark Pillay,” Moscovitch said. “We have great off-ice coaches and great dance teachers. All of these factors have contributed to making these programs the best that they can be.”
Earlier this season, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were once again invited to compete at Skate Canada in Kingston, Ont., just a few hours from their training base in Waterloo. In a depleted field, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch performed like seasoned competitors and nearly brought home their first Grand Prix title, finishing in second place and less than a point behind Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze from Russia who won the title.
“I think that we were happy to come back from a less than perfect short and win the long,” Moore-Towers said proudly. “To get the scores that we did, which were much higher than anything that we earned last season, was very satisfying. So even though we did not win, we were very happy with what we achieved at Skate Canada.”
With the momentum of a medal-winning performance motivating them, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch headed to Portland, Ore. for Skate America and a great chance to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
In Portland, the Skate Canada silver medalists performed even better than they did in Kingston, finishing in second place in both portions of the event behind former World Champions Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany. The second place finish clinched a berth in the Grand Prix Final in Beijing in their first full season on the circuit.
“We always come out and try to skate our best, and in Portland, even though it wasn’t our best, we were able to pull off the performances,” Moscovitch said. “Winning another silver medal was a great way to finish the competition.”
Heading to the Grand Prix, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch feel confident in their preparations, and simply hope to continue their journey on the road to improvement. Moscovitch believes, however, that he and his partner have the potential to make an even bigger statement in Beijing.
“We would like to improve the execution of our programs, making sure that we get all of elements done,” Moscovitch admitted. “Hopefully we will be able to earn higher scores than we have all season, and if that all works out, I know that we are capable of finishing somewhere around third place. I know that’s somewhat of a possibility, but for us, the most important thing is to achieve our goals in terms of improvement from last time.”
Moscovitch hopes to have some time to explore when in China.
“I always try to get out and embrace the culture of any place that I am fortunate enough to visit,” Moscovitch explained enthusiastically. “Beijing is one of those places that I have always wanted to see, and I want to try to get out to the Great Wall. I’m really excited to see another culture that I haven’t really experienced before.”
His partner, on the other hand, has other thoughts about the trip.
“I hate traveling,” Moore-Towers said with a playful pout. “I’m not a fan of change. I like things to be the same all the time. But I’m really trying to embrace where we are going, and I understand that I have an amazing opportunity that most teenagers don’t get. I get to compete for my country in China. Most people don’t get to experience that in their entire life, and I get to do it at such a young age. Of course, I’m excited. I want to get out and see the Forbidden City and the Great Wall while I have the opportunity to do so.”
The duo admits that success has come sooner than they had expected it might, and feel fortunate to be able to compete at such a high level so early in their pairing.
“I think the fact that we work well and have fun together is definitely one of the biggest factors as to why we have been so fortunate so far,” Moore-Towers said enthusiastically. “I don’t think that we expected for the results to come so quickly.”
Moscovitch added, “We’re still kind of taking it all in and taking our success in stride. Our goal every competition is to come out and enjoy every moment, not put expectations upon ourselves, and let the chips fall where they may. Reaching this level of success already is a pretty amazing feeling. You work your whole life to reach this point, and all of the sudden you’re there. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s also very exciting and extremely motivating.”
As the only Canadian pairs team heading to the Grand Prix Final, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are instant favorites to win the Canadian Championships next month in Victoria, B.C.
“The way I see it, it’s likely that (reigning Canadian Champions Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison) will not be competing, so the door is wide open,” Moore-Towers explained. “There are a lot of teams in Canada that are good and who are capable of winning a national title. Maybe we will feel pressure there, but I am hoping that we go in with the same attitude that we’ve had at all of our other competitions together which has worked for us. We’ll just have to depend on our training to back us up.”
But like the Grand Prix Final, winning the Canadian title is not the primary goal for Moore-Towers and Moscovitch.
“Winning Canadians and making the world team has been on our radar all season, but as much as we train hard, we don’t go in with the attitude that we have to win,” Moscovitch explained. “If it were to happen, it would be extremely exciting to be able to represent Canada at the World Championships and would be a real honor to be there. We’re hoping for that, but again, our main goal is to focus on improving our performances each time we go out and compete.”
When she isn’t figure skating, Moore-Towers loves to be with her friends and family, has a minor shopping addiction, and keeps herself sane by running.
“You can ask Dylan, I refuse to run with other people,” she said with a serious tone. “It is my ‘me time’, and it really helps me to clear my head.”
Moore-Towers has a ten year-old sister named Katie who ‘does not like skating at all’, though she supports her older sister’s career. Moore-Towers’ father works at a steel company and her mother works as a manager in the field of accounting.
“I often say that I have the best parents in figure skating,” Moore-Towers insisted. “They are strictly supportive, and there is nothing that they tell me that I have to do in skating. They put no pressure on me, and I am very lucky in that respect.”
Moore-Towers has a few credits to complete to earn her high school diploma, and due to her travel schedule, she is currently taking courses through an online school.
“I do have classes every week with assignments due every week,” she explained. “But all of the classes are recorded, so if I miss one, I can look back. I’m big on scheduling, so I like at the beginning of the week, I know what I have to get done and can work accordingly with my schedule.”
In his free time, Moscovitch has a passion for martial arts, and has been practicing krav maga, a self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces.
“I’ve been doing it for about two and a half years now, and I am a certified instructor also,” Moscovitch said enthusiastically. “I do it about once a week or once every other week, but during the competitive season, I can’t fit it in to my schedule as much.”
In addition to his former partner, seventeen-year-old Kyra, Moscovitch also has two other siblings- a sister Natasha, who is twenty-four and with whom Dylan competed on the juvenile level in ice dance, and a brother Mischa, who is nineteen and is a tennis player.
“Kyra is very supportive,” Moscovitch explained. “She and Kirsten are best friends, but she is now back in Toronto finishing up high school. It was hard for her at first to adjust from being a skater to having so much free time on her hands. She has become very supportive, and she is very proud of us.”
Moscovitch’s mother is a midwife who is originally from South Africa. His father is a native of Montreal and works as an engineer designer. The two met in a very interesting way.
“My mom was working as a nurse,” Moscovitch explained. “And she was part of the delivery team at the birth of my cousin. That’s how my parents met.”
Though school is on the horizon for Moscovitch, he has chosen to put it on hold for now to fully devote his time to skating.
“With skating, I don’t have a lot of free time,” he explained. “I am also (the Wirtz’s) assistant coach, so it keeps me quite busy. I will probably go to school at some point, but it’s just not something that I can fit in right now.”
Moore-Towers and Moscovitch will compete this Friday in the short program at the Grand Prix Final in Beijing. The deciding free skate will be the final event of the competition on Saturday. The Canadian Championships begin on January 21st, in Victoria, B.C.