by Briana Shymanski
Over the last 20 years, Canada has found figure skating success on the world’s highest stage, the Winter Olympics. Since the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, Canada has medaled eight times in the three separate disciplines with 26 top ten finishes. Both statistics prove that Canada’s future in figure skating is bright.
However, many believe there is one discipline that is missing from Olympic competition.
“Seeing (syncronized skating) in the Olympics, would legitimize the sport a little bit because even now people say, 'I didn’t even know it was available, I didn’t even know that was a sport,'” said Janis Johnson, a coach with the Regina Synchro Skating Team. Synchro skating, a team figure skating discipline, was established as a sport in 1957 by Dr. Richard Porter in Ann Arbour, Michigan, but the International Skating Union only began holding a world synchronized skating competition in 2000. The Canadian Synchronized Skating Championships were first held in 1983.
Regina Synchro Skate consists of seven teams with the skaters ranging from four to 50 years old. The large number of skaters on the ice is what makes synchro skating a challenge, according to Heather Halliday, the club’s general manager and a skater with the adult team.
“(It’s hard) having to keep it together (and skating) the same distance apart,” she said. “You have people that want to go really fast, but you have to stay combined in that same (formation).”
The team aspect is what sets synchro skating apart from the other three figure skating disciplines of singles, pairs, and ice dance, though synchro skating borrows elements from all three. It includes the intricate footwork and artistry featured in ice dance. The spins and jumps are comparable to singles elements, and death spirals are lifts and both are pairs elements. There are also distinct synchro elements, like the block, wheel, and circle group formations.
While synchro skating took one step closer to being considered for Olympic consideration with its inclusion into the World University Games in 2007, it isn’t on the official list of seven sports that are being considered for the Olympic Games in Sochi.
Instead, the ISU is proposing a team event consisting of one female and one male singles skater, one pairs team, and one dance team. While the details are still vague, the team event would feature 10 teams and be held over three days. The individual scores of the skaters would be combined, and the top five nations would move on to a free skate round to determine the medals.
Synchro skating’s jump to the Olympics may still be a few years away, but for Regina Synchro Skate, the focus is continuing to promote the sport in the area. There are currently 13 synchro teams in Saskatchewan, including the seven from Regina. It’s a number that both Halliday and Johnson would like to see increase.
“We’re trying to get it to grow. We’re trying more initiatives this year to raise synchro awareness in the province,” said Johnson. The club is holding a competition March 11 and 12. “Some teams may not have an area to compete in, so (the competition) is a ‘come and give it a try thing,’” Halliday said.
Photo by Rich Moffitt