by Jacquelyn Thayer; photos by Danielle Earl
Canadian pair Margaret Purdy & Michael Marinaro capped off their junior international career with their best season to date. After taking gold at both JGP Lake Placid and JGP Croatia Cup, qualifying them for the Junior Grand Prix Final in Sochi, the team concluded their third trip to the World Junior Championships with a silver medal. Now they’re prepared to venture into the senior international scene with an assignment to October’s Skate Canada International in Saint John, New Brunswick.
“It was very exciting,” said Purdy. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work for many years and the whole last season we kept improving at each event. When we were our strongest at Junior Worlds, it meant so much to end our junior career on such a high note and set us up nicely to go on to the senior circuit.”
“Yeah, it meant a lot to us,” said Marinaro. “Ending on such a high note so that we could carry that momentum with us into the senior circuit this year, and kind of carry that momentum that we had going last year into this season.”
While the pair has competed at the senior level nationally since 2011, they’re preparing to adjust their overall image to enter the international waters.
“We definitely don’t want to go out there and look like the new junior team,” said Marinaro. “We’re working very hard to put out a very mature, senior, polished look. So we’re trying to fit right in there and push the envelope as much as we can.”
And to that end, the team is hoping their new programs – a short program set to “Unchained Melody,” and a long program to Casablanca – will contribute to that sophisticated look. Both programs were created by long-time coach and choreographer Alison Purkiss, and Purdy points to a few additional sources of help.
“We’re also working with some dancers and some world champions on our programs to help with presentation and skating skills,” she said, “so we have a lot of people helping us out this year to make us the best we possibly can.”
One world champion and Canadian legend has some experience with their long program’s theme.
“We’ve been working with Kurt Browning on Casablanca,” said Purdy. “We’ve seen him once so far and we’re going to continue to see him over the summer. We’ve been working on stuff with skating skills and also a lot of the presentation side to the program and the feel, and how we should be acting it. So that’s going to be very beneficial, and it’s already been helping us a lot, making us think about how to go at the program.”
The team’s focus in their work for the new season is for now towards strengthening their existing assets.
“For the technical end, no, we’re not really adding any new elements to programs,” said Purdy. “We’re just trying to perfect the ones we have and make them very good and clean and positive GOEs and everything.”
“Yeah, we’re not just trying to do any great, spectacular elements this year,” said Marinaro. “We’re trying to do everything altogether, and in a very nice package, and just to show off a really clean and nice program.”
The couple’s season will begin at July’s Skate Detroit, where several top North American-based pairs are expected to compete, to be followed by Summer Sizzle in Waterloo, Ontario, in August.
“Then we’re not too sure what we’re doing after that,” said Marinaro, “but hopefully we’ll have one more event between that and Skate Canada.”
The 2013-14 season will mark the seventh overall for Purdy & Marinaro as a team, making their partnership the second-longest among current Canadian pairs. The duo’s career began with early achievements including national bronze as novices in 2009 and the junior national title in 2010, and last year’s results highlight the success of their pairing.
“We just work very well together,” said Purdy. “We both get along quite well, push each other to our limits to be better and better every year. I guess we’ve just viewed it that you stick it out – if you have a bad event, it’s nobody’s particular fault, you’re a team, and we work through that together, and if we have a good event, we won it together. So we very much think of everything as a team instead of one particular person.”
That team-oriented mindset has also proven beneficial in their training environment at the Competitive Skating Centre of Strathroy in Strathroy, Ontario.
“We are the only pair team training,” said Marinaro, “so we train a pair session by ourselves, and there’s a couple of senior and junior ladies, novice and pre-novice, but for pair teams, we are the only team at this point.”
“It has its positives and its negatives to it,” said Purdy. “Positives are you have a lot of ice to yourself and a lot of time to work on things with your coaches and stuff. However, the negatives – you don’t have other teams there for you to be watching, and pushing you, so you have to be very self-motivated yourself. So we’ve learned how to be. So some days it’s harder, but it’s kind of what we’re used to, so it’s worked.”
“Yeah, we definitely learned to push each other,” added Marinaro.
And the team seized the opportunity to take in the World Championships in Purdy’s nearby hometown of London.
“We were there for most of the week, watching almost all of the events,” said Marinaro. “It was great to be a part of. We’d just got back from the Junior Worlds, so it was great to see what the senior Worlds was all about, to get a feel of it, and to hopefully be there for this season, to be competing at it ourselves.”
The team also spends time in London once a week to train at Revolution Conditioning with Maria Mountain, a familiar name to many skating fans for her work with ice dancers Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir.
“We go to her gym in London, and we do a combination of weights and cardio and stability, flexibility, for an hour,” said Purdy. “She also has some different gym programs and cardio programs for us throughout the week. And we’ve been going to her probably since – onto our third season, I think this will be, working out with her, and we have significant improvements. She has made us better athletes physically, mentally, and she’s great. Everything she’s done has put us where we need to be today.”
“Yes, we definitely owe a lot to her,” continued Marinaro. “She’s benefited us tremendously.”
While Purdy & Marinaro hope to build on last season’s success in the coming year, their goal for their first senior ISU event is simple.
“For now, we want to go out there and put down two clean skates, very strong skates that we can be proud of, and hopefully after the skates the results will come for themselves,” said Purdy. “We’re super-excited that our first senior international is in our home country. That will be exciting, to have our home crowd behind us, and if we can just put out two of our best skates, we can’t be disappointed with whatever results come of that.”