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Stars on Ice Olympians excited to be back in Victoria after two dark years

When the skaters stepped off the ice in May of 2019, they couldn’t have imagined it would take three years to return to Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

When the skaters stepped off the ice in May of 2019, they couldn’t have imagined it would take three years to return to Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

Or that they would be skating in a Winter Olympics in front of a sparse, pandemic-restricted crowd this year in Beijing. This is a performance sport that plays off the crowd.

“It’s been a super difficult last few years with no ­spectators and we have been aching to perform for crowds again,” said two-time Olympian Michael Marinaro.

Or even to have events to skate in. That’s what makes the return of Stars on Ice so ­compelling this year, on several levels, after being forced to go dark in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. The 11-city 2022 Stars on Ice return tour concludes tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the ­Memorial Centre after ­beginning in Halifax with stops in most of the Canadian NHL rinks along the way.

“We were aching to perform for crowds again and we are having a blast and the reception has been tremendous across the country,” said Marinaro, three-time and reigning Canadian pairs champion with Kirsten Moore-Towers.

His skating partner agreed.

“It’s been amazing to be back in arenas and the crowds have been fantastic,” said ­Moore-Towers, silver medallist with Canada in the team event at the 2014 Sochi Winter ­Olympics.

“We can feel the energy, with which the fans feed our souls. We have been missing that and are so appreciative it has returned after Beijing being so bizarre, weird and uncomfortable and not feeling like an Olympics. After a difficult season, this tour has left us so fulfilled. This show is so much fun and there is something for everybody.”

The show is choreographed by three-time Canadian champion and Olympic medallist ­Jeffrey Buttle and features four ensemble numbers. It starts with AC/DC’s Thunderstruck and concludes with an Elton John medley finale featuring the cast in an eye-popping collection of costumes fashioned after famous looks from the career of Sir Elton. All the group number costumes were created by Canadian designer Mathieu Caron.

“It’s been a tough two years but we’re so happy to be back in person, and the response across the country has been incredible, and we are feeding off the audience” said Buttle, men’s individual bronze medallist in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.

“We wanted to return with something high energy and I believe we have. What better way to start than AC/DC and end with Elton John? And to end the tour in Victoria, which is our favourite location, in a great city with a highly knowledgeable skating audience.”

The veteran end of the 14-member cast is represented by iconic Canadian skaters Kurt Browning, 55, and Elvis Stojko, 50.

“I grew up watching Elvis and he inspired me,” said Marinaro.

“Now that eight-year-old kid is standing next to him on the ice and that’s surreal for me.”

Both Stojko and four-time world champion Browning can still bring it.

“I feel in great shape because I listen to my body,” said ­Stojko, three-time world champion and 1994 Lillehammer and 1998 Nagano Olympics silver ­medallist.

“The Victoria crowd is always fantastic and we love ending our show here.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com