• Aly Leia Wein

In Conversation with Team Canada

Can you believe the second Grand Prix of the season is already happening?! Skate Canada International is always a highlight of the skating season for both athletes and fans alike, and there is just something very special about Canadian figure skating. Last week, we got to chat with some of the athletes competing at #SCI19 this weekend in Kelowna, British Columbia, via media conference call. From season goals to internet friend-inspired costumes and everything in between, read on to catch up with some of the Great White North's biggest and brightest stars on ice.

Note: these interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photo courtesy of Skate Canada.


EDGES OF GLORY: I wanted to touch on the last time Skate Canada was held in Kelowna (in 2014), and you guys placed 6th - I just wanted to know what were some of your favorite memories from then?

KIRSTEN MOORE-TOWERS: It’s funny that you ask that question because a couple days ago, Mike was saying he couldn’t really remember anything of Kelowna. It was a rough start for us - it was our first competition as a team, and I think we were both naïve as to how difficult our transition into being partners would be. We just try to leave it behind. I personally love British Columbia as if it were my home, so we’re excited to go there and spend some time and make some new memories! (laughs)

MICHAEL MARINARO: Yeah, for sure.

EOG: What are you looking forward to the most - outside of skating - at Skate Canada?

KIRSTEN: Ooh great question! I think Skate Canada is always a fun competition because the Canadian team is so big, and we’re making so many new friends on this team that we’ve known for a long time but haven’t spent a lot of time with. Worlds last year was a lot of fun with some of the younger skaters, and we feel a little bit like "mom and dad" sometimes. But the team is gonna be fun, we’re all there to support each other and cheer each other on, and I think that’s the best part of being a Canadian at Skate Canada.

Kirsten's Instagram: @kirsten_mt

Kirsten's Twitter: @Kirsten_MT

Mike's Instagram: @marinarosauce1

Mike's Twitter: @_MarinaroSAUCE_

Team Facebook: Kirsten Moore Towers and Michael Marinaro

Photo courtesy of Danielle Earl Photography, Skate Canada.


EOG: How do you feel coming into this year as the defending national champion compared to how you felt the season after your first national title in 2015?

NAM: The first time I won Nationals, that was pretty awesome - it was a great feeling. And then heading into the next season after that, it honestly started out not too bad, but then after Cup of Russia, it went downhill. I changed my skates, and at the same time, like convenient as it is, I started growing again. It just went extremely downhill, like Nationals was a complete turnaround from what I put out in my Grand Prixs. It was just a hard battle, and it was that also year where I moved to California at the end of that season, so that was kind of hard to deal with.

But for this season, we’re doing the exact same Grand Prixs as I did the year after I won my first title (laughs), Skate Canada and Cup of Russia, so it’s kind of like full circle. For me personally, I’ve kind of mentally prepared myself for a similar situation, but I just want to just keep looking forward and have the mindset of doing my best every day. Yes, the events are the same, but in terms of how I deal with the things that come my way, it’s a lot different, so I’m looking forward to this season for sure.

(Another reporter asks a question about Nam's costumes for this season.)

NAM: I’m gonna answer for both short and long, because this is a really funny story. (laughs) So I used to play Fortnite a lot - like every single day (laughs) - and I have this friend who lives in Detroit, and I’ve never met this person in real life, just always talking to her through the game Fortnite. One day I think we (my coaches and I) had just finished choreographing both programs, and now the discussion was, well what do I wear for the season? And then I think out of the blue, I just asked this friend, do you like sketch up costume ideas? And she was like yeah! And she pulled through with a couple of sketches, and my coach really liked them, so we kind of passed those designs off to the person who makes my costumes, and honestly, it turned out great.

The short we have it set - unfortunately, at Nebelhorn Trophy, we had to do a little bit of costume surgery after the six-minute warm-up. The concept was to have a maroon button-up shirt, and we had a black tie and a gold chain attached to the black tie. And it looked SO cool - I think it made me look pretty fly. (laughs) But unfortunately during the six-minute warm-up, whenever I jumped, I would choke myself with the tie, like I would yank on that tie, and I would choke myself, so we had to cut the tie off and the chain. But I’m going to meet up with costume lady again, and she’s gonna put that tie back on, but in a different way so that I don’t choke myself. But yeah, I think it’s a pretty funny story, like I’ve never met this person in my life, and she pulled up two awesome designs for my outfits, and I can’t wait to show them to the world.

EOG: Is your Fortnite friend going to come watch you compete and see the costumes she designed?

NAM: (laughs) She lives in Detroit, so I’m not sure, she might pull up to Nationals (in Mississauga), ‘cause it’s not too far of a drive I guess. She did an absolutely great job, and I would love for her to see it in person. I would also love to meet this person, so hopefully one day we’ll cross paths!

Nam's Instagram: @namnamnoodle

Nam's Twitter: @namnamnoodle

Photo courtesy of @lynnneposts, In The Loop.


EOG: As you head into your first Grand Prix of the season, what are three things - either technically or artistically - that you would like to improve upon from Autumn Classic?

PIPER GILLES: Levels! We were actually very happy with our components at Autumn Classic - of course, they can always be better - but for us, it was making sure that the elements and the technical side can support the creative side, which we feel we’re very strong at. And really, we want to make sure that we’re pushing for the GOEs, and overall, the elements really needed to make more of a statement. We did some really great work on transitions and character over the summer, and like we needed to really work more on our elements - which we’ve done now - and we’ve kind of rethought some of the new things. The next one would be pushing the energy on our short dance. It’s a very, very choreo-based program, so Paul and I really wanted to come back after Autumn Classic and really hit the double-program days so we’re able to do programs tired, instead of just surviving one program. We don’t wanna survive, we wanna thrive and really make that impact right from the start, ‘cause the short has always been kind of not our strongest suit, and we don’t want people to think that at all this year! The third one is, I don't know...

PAUL POIRIER: I think speed? Sometimes we’ve tended to overcomplicate choreography at moments where the impact comes at the cost of skating really fast, in that way that really impresses people, so that was kind of recurring feedback that came out of the high performance camp and Autumn Classic, and so we’ve really tweaked some of the transitions where we’ve felt we’re really killing our momentum and figuring out ways to keep the speed up so that the program is just more impactful.

EOG: Your (Mack & Mabel) program music has been stuck in my head for like a month now, so thank you. (laughs)

PIPER: I think that’s a good thing?! (laughs)

EOG: (laughs) Yes it’s a good thing! I love it, it’s great, very catchy. So aside from the skating, what’s the best part about being on Team Canada for you guys?

PIPER: I think for me, it’s the joy it brings to other people. I think when you are on Team Canada, the exposure is a little higher and the reach of people you get to is a little broader, so I think it’s just kind of nice to be able to share your journey and life with people, or even inspire another generation. Because really what we’ve been all about with our partnership is we’ve always wanted to push the boundaries and take the sport in a new direction, so I think being on a wonderful team like Team Canada really gives us that opportunity to be ourselves, and I find that the whole country is really accepting of who we are, and they give us a great audience and platform.

EOG: There’s nothing like Canada!

PAUL: (laughs) It’s the best! WOO!

EOG: I have a very important question for Piper, and this is a question everyone wants to know, and I know you were unsure about it when we talked last - is Scout (Piper’s adorable puppy) coming to Skate Canada?!

PIPER: (laughs) No, I figured because it would be our first big international this season, I wanted to make sure we were 100% focused on the task at hand, because we are putting a lot of - not pressure, but we want to do well, and she’s (Scout) definitely not a distraction at all, but who knows what can happen - I’ve never traveled with her before. So I’d like to kind of travel with her around Christmas and kind of get a feel for it before she starts traveling with me (to competitions). But she’ll be at Nationals for sure and maybe at Worlds - ‘cause that’ll be an easy travel - but for the first one she won’t be there sadly.

Piper's Instagram: @pipergilles

Piper's Twitter: @PiperGilles

Scout's Instagram: @scoutmydoodle

Paul's Instagram: @pauldpoirier

Paul's Twitter: @PaulDPoirier

Team Facebook: Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier

Photo courtesy of François Roy, La Presse.


EOG: Liubov, what did you learn from (your time in) Cirque du Soleil that has affected your skating this time around?

LIUBOV ILYUSHECHKINA: I definitely learned some tricks for sure, and hopefully more of them are soon to come. I would say I’m very thankful the experience, the traveling, and the constant change of environment and the rink and the place and the people around, so I feel I am less reactive to change, which would be (good) for going to a competition, so I’m more resilient and easy to adapt.

EOG: Beautiful work, you can definitely tell a difference - especially with that lift that’s like a handstand! I know your partnership is fairly new - what ways have you found, personality-wise, that you two are alike, and what ways are you different as people?

LIUBOV: We get along very easy, and we are very similar on the ice - our movements match, our rhythms match. Out of the skating world, we are friends and we hang out. Some interests outside of the skating world are different, music-wise...

CHARLIE BILODEAU: I would add that personally we are different but comfortable, and in terms of the first time we did a tryout together, like in the first few minutes on the ice, we’d already seen that we have the same and natural way of moving on the ice, and there was something really special. Every day in training, we have the same goal - we have high expectations, and we know that whatever happens on the ice in competition or in training, well at the end, the goal is the same. We have different minds but we work really easily in training.

EOG: What are your goals going into your first Grand Prix as a team?

CHARLIE: For us, of course, it’s important to make a good impression, but at the same time, we know we have a lot of mileage to do on every aspect. We have to work on everything, and we kind of focus on the long-term goal, so for this year we’ll make sure that every time we go out that we do better than the last time, and we will build on every competition. But it’s hard to tell really a concrete goal this year in terms of rankings or points, but of course, we want to be in Montreal for the Worlds.

Liubov's Instagram: @lubov_ilyushechkina

Liubov's Instagram: @IlyushechkinaL

Charlie's Instagram: @charliebilodeau

Charlie's Twitter: @BiloCharlie

Charlie's Facebook: Charlie Bilodeau

Charlie's Website: charliebilodeau.com

Photo courtesy of Skate Ontario.


EOG: You’re going into your second senior season together, so I wanted to know, what did you learn from your first senior season that you hope to apply this season?

TRENNT MICHAUD: I think one thing that we learned is just how it all works - it’s a completely different ballgame, everything is much different, so I think now that we have that behind us, we have a little bit more confidence and know a little more of what to expect.

EVELYN WALSH: And I think one thing about seniors is you can hear about it and how you should go about planning each event, but it’s completely different doing it, and it’s something that you have to kind of live through to understand how it all works. So we learned a ton last year, and we’re still continuing to learn this year about how to better prepare for each event and peak at the right time.

EOG: Trennt, you just launched Toe Pick Apparel, which is a clothing company that puts half its profits towards helping boys get involved in figure skating. Can you tell us a little more about that and what inspired it?

TRENNT: Yeah, so one of my friends - I used to compete against him a long time ago in pre-novice pairs and pre-novice men - his name is Matthew Power, he’s a coach out of Newfoundland. We kind of came up with it back in the summer a little bit, and then the ball started rolling more and more. It’s a clothing line, and we’re going to be having different sweatshirts and t-shirts, kind of everything, we have different designs and logos we want to do up. We’re trying to promote skating through having an apparel brand that’s like oh “toe pick,” people relate it to figure skating.

I just had four boys recently join figure skating in the town that I live in, and almost every parent didn’t want to pay for skates at first, ‘cause they weren’t sure if they (their kids) were gonna like it or not. So I sourced some used skates and old skates, and then they all tried it for a month-and-a-half, and the parents all bought them new skates after that ‘cause they loved it. So our goal is to be that bridge so that way if people want to try it - but the parents don’t want to go full out right away - then we’ll come step in, give them the skates for a few months for free, and then if they like them they get them for a really good discount, and it kind of sets them on their way from there. My first pair was actually white skates because my family was the same way, and where I was from, it was hard to get black skates anyways. So we’re just trying to help bridge that gap so that way we can get more boys in the sport to start dance and men and pairs grow.

EOG: So when you guys take to the ice at Skate Canada, what is one emotion you hope to elicit from the audience?

TRENNT: Passion. I think that both of our programs this year are still outside of the box for us - our long is more in our wheelhouse but still another step outside. But we’re really trying to show that year that we’re - even elements aside - stepping up our side of things and bringing the audience into our programs, ‘cause we find it easier to skate them that way, and we really just want to show people and let them enjoy our skate as much as we do.

EVELYN: Yeah we have a confined amount of time to tell that story, and I think if we feel it, then the audience will feel it, and so the more we can engage with those programs and connect with each other and the story we’re trying to portray, I think we hope everyone else feels the same way and can feel the passion we have behind these programs.

EOG: Well good luck and say hi to your adorable furballs for me!

TRENNT: (laughs) Of course!

Trennt's Instagram: @trenntmichaud

Trennt's Twitter: @trennt22

Toe Pick Apparel's Instagram: @toepickapparel

Toe Pick Apparel's Facebook: Toe Pick Apparel

Toe Pick Apparel's Website: toepickapparel.ca

Evelyn's Instagram: @evelynwalsh_

Team Facebook: Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud


Follow all these Canadian superstars on social media (links above!) and be sure to tune in this weekend as they take the ice in Kelowna, British Columbia, for Skate Canada International. For those in the USA, you can watch via the NBC Sports Gold Figure Skating Pass; for those in Canada, you can watch on TSN and CTV; and for those elsewhere, check your local listings. The ISU will be streaming the Grand Prix series live (and free) on YouTube for countries without broadcast rights - check that stream out here! For schedules, practice streams, results, and more, go to skatecanada.ca/2019-skate-canada-international.

All other photos and videos courtesy of Kirsten Moore-Towers, Michael Marinaro, Nam Nguyen, Liubov Ilyushechkina, Charlie Bilodeau, Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier, Evelyn Walsh, and Trennt Michaud.

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© 2019 | Edges of Glory by Aly Leia Wein | aly@edgesofglory.com