By: Beverley Smith
Together only since the spring of 2009, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch have bounded up the international pair ladder at the speed of whiplash.
They were together only six months – with Moore-Towers having relatively little pair experience and only at the junior level – when they finished fifth at the Canadian championships in senior. Their next season was beyond belief.
They had originally been awarded only one Grand Prix event at Skate America, but got the call for Skate Canada too, when Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison withdrew after Davison suffered what proved to be a career-ending injury. Davison was a close friend to Moscovitch’s friend, so he stopped by the hospital to visit him on the way to Kingston, Ontario for the event. And then he and Moore-Towers, the last-minute substitutes, shocked everybody by finishing second, beaten only by a point, to a Russian team. On they went to Skate America and proved it wasn’t a fluke by finishing second there, too, to world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.
Those efforts, incredibly, earned them a trip to the Grand Prix Final, and then they won the 2011 Canadian championships. Very quickly, this team was on the map.
Moscovitch had been a promising pair skater with sister Kyra, who had to retire prematurely because of injury. And Moore-Towers, who had only reluctantly become a pair skater, split with her junior partner, Andrew Evans after only 10 months.
Coach Kris Wirtz remembers Moore-Towers as being amazingly talented and so he matched she and Moscovitch together “for fun.” No pressure. As a single skater who had idolized Olympic champions Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes, the chatty, feisty blond had mastered the triple Lutz by the time she was 14. She lost interest in that dream when she became a pair skater.
Moscovitch, eight years older and a foot taller than Moore-Towers, started the pairing like a big brother. After all, Kirsten and his sister Kyra had been best friends. Kirsten sparkles around (her hobby is to bedazzle everything in sight) and he makes her laugh. “I like the idea of there being someone else on the ice with you,” she said. “And what I like about it most is that it’s not just me. Even now when I watch the single skaters take to the ice for their warm-up, I’m terrified for them, being out there by themselves.”
She started with Moscovitch when she was only 16, so he took on the role of teacher. He’s a leader, anyway. He’s always had a fascination with martial arts and is now a teacher of Krav Maga, an Isreali military self-defence or counterattack system. It’s a sideline that he says gives him great mental focus. So Moscovitch not only taught Moore-Towers how to drive a car, he taught her pairs.
His sister, Kyra, was tall for a pair skater (she stood at his eyebrow level), and when Moscovitch started to skate with Moore-Towers, he marvelled that the first time he stroked around the ice with her, he could see. “It was pretty funny,” he said. “I didn’t have to look around her head. Everyone kind of laughed, because they could see my face. It was definitely an adjustment, how low I had to go for lifts. And the twist was a real kind of challenge for us to build it, with the timing. Kirsten also started [pairs] late. We had to rebuild everything. With throws, she had a different technique than me. It took time.”
His job as a teacher, he said, was more to allow Moore-Towers to come into her own. “It was kind of like me chasing a rabbit out there,” he said.
But it worked and everything developed, quickly. “We had a very different relationship then than we do now,” she said. “Now we are more equal.”
Moore-Towers recalls the nerves kicking in during their quick rise in their second season together. “When we started, Dylan really had to take on the role of calming me down and always making sure I was comfortable in my surroundings,” she said.
They have a productive relationship. They never yell at each other. Moore-Towers says that once or twice a year, they will have “a big blowout,” but that takes the form of a rational sit-down and a chat to hash out differences. They have a high level of respect for each other. Best of all, they have the same goals and work ethic.
They move across the ice at great speed and year by year, they have tried to improve their transitions and their performance level. They have charisma – like Canada’s iconic pair of the past, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, they look at each other as they skate – and they have mighty tricks, too. This season, they have set themselves an astonishing task by putting many of their most difficult elements in the second half of their programs: two throws (triple Salchow and triple loop) and all three of their lifts. The lifts all seem never-ending, definitely formidable. Their killer lift is their final one in the closing moments of the program when the going is toughest: Moscovitch lifts Moore-Towers from a lunge position, turns in one direction, then the other, all while Moore-Towers is in difficult and changing positions. His feet are sure. Their spins fly. They make it seem effortless.
They do not stand still, this team. At Skate America, they earned their personal best total score of 208.45, blasting their previous best of 199.50 from the 2013 world championships in London, Ont., when they were fourth. Yet it was early in the season.
They do not forget that in 2012, they finished fourth and missed a trip to worlds altogether. The next year, they finished fourth at worlds. The pair discipline can be like that, perilous and unpredictable. But this team has all the right tools.
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