MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro say impostor syndrome cost them a spot on the medal podium at figure skating's prestigious Grand Prix Final last month.
The global landscape shifted with numerous post-Pyeongchang Olympic retirements, and so Moore-Towers and Marinaro know there's an opportunity to be among the best in the world. They just have to prove to themselves they belong there.
"People always say you learn more from the hard ones, and unfortunately it's true," Moore-Towers said. "It is a bummer when five minutes too late you realize your mindset wasn't correct. I think everybody goes through it, but it's unfortunate that that was the stage we went through it on."
Moore-Towers and Marinaro will defend their national pairs title this week at the Canadian championships, the selection event for the worlds in Montreal in March.
The Canadian team went through a mass exodus of stars after the Pyeongchang Olympics. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Kaetlyn Osmond, Patrick Chan, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford all retired. The departure of Duhamel and Radford, two-time world and seven-time Canadian pairs champions, was obviously significant for Moore-Towers, a 27-year-old from St. Catharines, Ont., and Marinaro, a 28-year-old from Sarnia, Ont.
A pair of silver medals on the Grand Prix circuit in the fall showed they were poised for big things. Their aim was the podium at the Grand Prix Final, but their brains got the better of them and they wound up fifth in Turin, Italy.
They questioned whether they belonged.
"Totally. Which seems silly, because we did qualify for the event at two very difficult Grand Prixs, it wasn't that we just got lucky with the events we were sent to," Moore-Towers said after Thursday's practice, clutching a water bottle covered in sequins. "But I think everybody runs into impostor syndrome every so often in their lives.
"It was such a bummer to finish the long and see everybody else skate and see the marks and what was attainable for us. It was really the kick in the pants that we needed."
While Canada had beaten a continuous path to the world championship podium over the past decade, the team was shut out of the medals at the 2019 worlds for the first time since 2007.
Moore-Towers and Marinaro and ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier would be Canada's best hopes for a medal this year.
Gilles and Poirier, who were also fifth at the Grand Prix Final, are in a similar situation as their pairs counterparts. Not only did Virtue and Moir retire after Pyeongchang, where they became the most decorated ice dancers in Olympic history, but Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, last year's Canadian ice dance champions and three-time world medallists, are taking the season off and could retire.
Gilles and Poirier, who captured their first Grand Prix title at Skate Canada in the fall, said they're finally feeling confident on the global stage.
"That's something that's taken us a long time to gain," Poirier said. "We spent a lot of time in our career trying to prove that we belong, when maybe we didn't necessarily believe it all the time.
"But I think we've really taken ownership of our ability and our strengths and what we are able to put out there that no one else can do, and I think that gives us a lot of confidence. At the (Grand Prix) Final, as much as we didn't get necessarily the exact number of place we wanted we really felt in the mix, like we belonged there, we felt like we were contenders. I think we feel we're in the mix for worlds, which is what really matters."
French dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who were runners-up to Virtue and Moir in Pyeongchang, handily won the Grand Prix Final, but just seven points separated second through fifth.
Gilles and Poirier, who are both 28, looked at their finish as a blessing in disguise.
"Because we weren't on the podium, we stepped back and looked at the program differently, and tried to figure out how to make it even better," said Gilles — their free dance is to Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now."
"We always say that sometimes by not getting that result, we make those changes. Because maybe if we were on the podium we'd be like 'Oh everything's fine' and then just coast, whereas this makes us hungry and know that we can't be satisfied with what we did that day."
In singles events, Nam Nguyen and Keegan Messing top this week's men's field. Stephen Gogolev, Canada's 15-year-old rising star, is skipping the event with an injury. Gabrielle Daleman, a world bronze medallist, highlights the women's field.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press