The end of another (synchro) era

You ever wish for a day to come and when it finally does, you wish you hadn’t wanted it to arrive so quickly? Yesterday was that day for me.

February 21 – the West Coast Challenge Cup – marked the end of another great synchro season. Now that it’s come and gone, I’m really sad it’s over.

The past five months, I’ve had the opportunity to skate with a new team in a new category with a new coach – to say it’s been an interesting experience would be an understatement – but not in a bad way.

We managed to collect some new hardware – two golds and a silver – and a respectable fourth place finish in Ontario against some of the best teams in the country. Although, a medal would have been the icing on the cake….

We pulled together this season to skate a fun, upbeat, Saturday night 90s throwback routine. And we had a hell of a lot of fun doing it.  

Not uncommon with any team, there were moments where the practices felt long and our patience ran thin. Muttered comments were occasionally made and dynamics were tested. We’re women, we have hormones and a lot on our respective plates outside the rink – we can’t help it.

A few gals experienced life changes, some planned, some not; others had hectic work schedules; some fell ill; others just had an opinion, myself included.

Yet, despite all of this, it’s moments like yesterday that matter. Moments where the differences and BS are put aside and we just skate. We skate for ourselves, we skate for each other, we skate for the sport – because we truly friggin’ love it.

Yesterday, we laid it all out and the results were reflective. We achieved our first 50-plus point score of the season and had more energy than any of our previous skates. We stepped off the ice feeling confident, powerful and united – like we had all achieved something great together because, well, we did. We topped the podium the same day we organized and ran the competition.

We all deserve to take great pride in our achievements. It’s something we may not have been able to pull off individually, but as a team, as Ice Evolution, we’ve proven ourselves to be unstoppable.

At the end of the day, we’re different gals from different walks of life and although we may not always agree on everything, we do share the same love for one thing: synchro.

It unites us in our passion, it’s the reason we get up at 4 a.m. with a smile on our face and head to the rink (coffee in hand, of course) and it’s the reason we return to the ice year after year, despite saying just months before that it may be time to take a “break”.

Having only been back on the ice for two seasons after a nearly 10-year hiatus, I can say that the past two years have really ignited a passion for this sport I thought I’d long lost.

I’m grateful to the two coaches who took a chance on me, allowed me to join their rosters here in BC and came up with fun and challenging routines for us to skate to. 

I’m grateful to the two managers who busted their asses, took time away from their families and made sure the team showed up where they needed to and on time, with a back up bag of extra essentials just in case. 

I’m grateful to the other gals on the ice who made me feel welcome and who have befriended me despite my quirks, sarcasm and propensity to swear. I’ve made some friendships on the ice that have further been strengthened off the ice and I’m truly appreciative to have met these awesome gals.

Although I don’t plan to skate next year (no, seriously), I know this won’t be my last season. It’s not a matter of if I’ll skate again, just when.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my three new shiny bits of hardware polished, my memories close and my skates sharpened and ready to go…. just in case.


Synchronized skating: Passion or obsession?

It’s great to have a passion for something, be it volunteering, binge watching Orange is the new Black on Netflix, cooking or knitting. For me, it’s synchronized skating. (What?)
For those of you who don’t know, synchronized skating is a team of gals (and sometimes guys) who perform a routine together. Teams can be as small as eight and as large as 20.
Over the course of 13 or so seasons as a synchronized skater, I’ve had the privilege of skating with many different gals from all different walks of life.And while we are all very different, we share a love of skating.
For us, it’s not just a fun thing to do – it’s a passion, it’s a way to embrace our inner competitive beast without feeling like a complete Neanderthal. A way to bring our inner goddess through carnival make up. A way to deliver a performance worthy of an Oscar without making the millions that usually comes with being an actress. Some might call it obsessed but for us, it’s merely dedication.
So, just how far does this obsession go? If you’ve dated a synchronized skater, have one in your family or you are one, you might recognize some of these behaviours.   

We love talking about synchro. Nonstop.
Whether it’s a colleague asking about a weekend competition or a new friend asking what the hell the sport is all about, we love to talk about it. I, for one, love when people don’t know what it is and I get the opportunity to explain it to them. I’ve mastered the art of telling them it’s like synchronized swimming, but on the ice and without the high cut bathing suits, nose plugs and gelatin.

We also love watching synchro, over and over again.
Whether we’re at a competition or sitting at home in our pjs drinking wine searching YouTube, we love watching synchro videos. Programs from previous years are constantly brought up at practice, we post videos to our Facebook of other teams and share videos of our competitors amongst team members on the regular. To the untrained, un-synchro-obsessed eye, the programs may all look the same but to us, they couldn’t be more different.

We love playing detective and researching steps, moves, lifts, arm holds and transitions. For the parts we really love, don’t be surprised if we pause, restart or screen shot the video just so we can make sure we fully understand how something was executed. It’s a beautiful competitive sport, we can’t help ourselves.

We’re really, really committed to practicing our moves.
 When we hear our program music at a grocery store, friend’s party or a club, we’re not afraid to bust out our moves – arms, heads, chassés  and spirals included. Because, the program looks just as good off the ice as on, right?

A bit of advice: if your friend is a synchronized skater and begins doing program moves at a party, be sure to give her a few feet of space either way or you may end up with her foot in your face while she stumbles across the floor practicing her 135.

When it comes to our old program, we’re like elephants – we never forget.
You think we’ve got good memories for practicing our current routines? You should see us bust out the moves from our juvenile years when our skirts were shorter than Rebecca Black’s career, our scrunchies were the accessory of the decade and  we were thrilled to leave grade three gym class early on a Friday to head to a competition.

I doubt I’d find a synchronized skater on the planet who hasn’t skated to either a disco routine, Sweet Caroline or Pirates of the Caribbean who can’t recite, at the very least, circle steps or an intersection move.

We secretly love competition hair and make-up.
Back in the day as young synchro stars, it took hours to wash the craft sparkles from our hair. We’d complain and whine about finding them for days after yet happily put them in again the following weekend for the next competition.
As adults, layering on sparkly make up, adding fake eyelashes, cheap earrings and offensively bright lipstick is all par for the course. While we may half-kid about the number of showers or bottles of shampoo it’ll take to scrub ourselves clean of the competition evidence, we secretly love it.
And don’t forget the helmet hair. If we all knew then what we knew now, I’m sure many of us would have been more diligent in buying stock in Dippity Do gel.

We’re sticklers for details… when it comes to skating.
Should our arms be on a 45 degree angle or straight up? Is it open palm or closed fist? Should our spirals aim to be 45 degrees higher than our bodies or 48? Does the arm change happen on five, six, or between the two counts?

We constantly ask questions and clarify arm placements, holds, under cuts and counts of music. We can tell you exactly what direction our heads should be facing at each beat in the program, whether  stretch or tuck on our mohawks and the exact moment in the program our expression changes from over-the-top happiness to dark and mysterious. 

But ask me where I saved that all important file at work or who starred in the recent James Bond movie? Pfft. I haven’t  a friggin’ clue.

We bitch about skating, but at the end of the day, we really, really do love it.
Sometimes, we like to complain. Be it a bad practice, a snarky comment from a tired team mate, a fall during competition or unfair judging, we sometimes let our emotions get the better of us and end up in a full-fledged rant to whoever is willing to listen.

While we can sometimes complain about the sport, deep down many of us feel more at home on the ice than anywhere else. 

It’s a place to exercise, connect with people who truly understand why you’re crazy enough to get up at 4:50 a.m. for a Saturday morning practice and a way of feeling as though you’ve accomplished something. For me, there’s no greater feeling than stepping off of the ice after a great skate knowing we laid out everything we had. Well, except winning a gold medal.

Oh, for those of you who are still trying to figure out what the hell this synchronized skating is all about, here’s one of the best teams in Canada at a recent competition. Happy watching!