Scott Moir, Kaitlyn Weaver Support Gender-Expansive Ice Dance, Pairs Teams

Canadian ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver says that as an LGBTQ person, her sport has never fully reflected her lived experience.

Skate Canada last month dropped the requirement that a domestic ice dance or pairs team must include a man and a woman. From next season, skaters in pairs and ice dance – until the Canadian championships, but not beyond – must be only two skaters.

Canada, the first country to make such a move, plans to push for an international rule change at the next International Skating Union congress in 2024. Among the biggest proponents of the change are Weaver and two-time Olympic ice dancing champion Scott Moir.

“There are so many different ways it can affect young people,” Weaver told The Canadian Press. “But as an ice dancer, and especially as a queer person who grew up not knowing that she was queer, to see different stories and different partnerships represented, different kinds of identities on ice, would be very liberating for me.”

Skate Canada president Karen Butcher said the purpose of the change is to make the sport gender-inclusive, “so it doesn’t matter how you identify, if you’re a skater, you’re welcome.”

“We would like to be leaders in the sport no matter what and we believe this change is the right thing for more skaters in Canada and by extension around the world to be able to enjoy skating and have more opportunities,” she said. He said. “Why not examine it and see what changes can be made? If we’re not constantly looking at how to improve our sport, we’re going to die.”

Weaver, a two-time Olympian with partner Andrew Poje, said Canada’s rule change was “the story of the figure skating world” and was pleasantly surprised to see Russia’s Maxim Trankov, who won gold in pairs at the 2014 Olympics with Tatiana Volosozhar, support the move.

“Max said, ‘Why not? A skater is a skater, and if you can do the elements, who’s to say it’s different?’ and I think, coming from Russia, that’s a big statement,” Weaver said.

More opportunities for women

Moir and partner Tessa Virtue became the most decorated ice dancers in history when they won Olympic gold in 2018. Moir, 35, who now coaches the Ice Academy’s satellite program in Montreal, said because there are far more female skaters than men, removing the gender provision could would have a great impact on the retention of girls and women in sports.

“Seeing so many women who want to ice dance and don’t get the chance because that partner doesn’t come or whatever,” Moir said.

He added that he and Virtue had a true 50/50 partnership on the ice, where the strength of their elements came from the two of them equally.

“We have a really unique opportunity in skating where you have a balance of grace and athleticism, where body type or body build, the pure science of what traditionalists would call an advantage, I don’t really see that,” Moir said. “I see the fact that we have an opportunity to tell a new story and have a new look.”

Potential blowback

Moir noted there could be a backlash and hopes the skaters don’t pay the price or face harassment. The news that artistic (formerly synchronized) swimming will now allow two male swimmers per team in the team competition has caused quite a stir recently.

“I think it’s funny. It’s small-minded, isn’t it?” He said. “Regardless of your background or however you identify, you should be able to participate in sports and learn the lessons that [sport] offers.”

Moir said he believes the best skaters in the world right now are women. Women roll triple shafts. Kamila Valieva of Russia became the first woman to land the quadruple jump at the Olympics last year, at the age of 15.

“It’s going to be tough to compete with that female-female team,” Moir said. “I’m happy I didn’t have to compete against Tessa Virtue and the Tessa Virtue team.”

While teams at this week’s Canadian championships will see only the traditional men’s/women’s doubles, both Moir and Weaver said they hope the rule change will be reflected in next year’s fields.

Weaver worked with the U.S. pairs team of Anna Kellar, a non-binary trans athlete, and Erica Rand, who were hoping to compete at the U.S. Nationals, but U.S. rules still dictate that the team must consist of a man and a woman.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the stories we tell, [but] I think there’s room for a lot more,” said Weaver, a three-time world senior medalist. “Kids can’t be what they can’t see. And if we can make room for everyone, I think our sport and our country will be much richer for it.”

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