A number of Synchronized Skating teams have been climbing in the World rankings, shaking things up both nationally and internationally. While the following teams finished off of the podium at this year’s ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships, they achieved several breakthroughs this season that reflect a growing and competitive future for the sport.
ITALY’S 20 YEAR DREAM
Until this past April, Italy’s Hot Shivers senior team had never finished higher than 10th place at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships. In front of a crowd of over 8,000 enthusiastic spectators in Helsinki, Finland, the Italian team not only moved up to 9th position overall (174.41 points), but captured a coveted spot as one of the top five countries in the world.
Team Hot Shivers (ITA) at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
“When the Swedish association declared that they would not be sending any teams this season, a number of countries saw the opening and went for it,” said Gilardi. “I knew this was possible for us too…and my team was relaxed and focused enough to deliver two flawless performances.”
In their thirty-year history, the Italian team earned three top 10 finishes at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships, but their 2019 results represent historical milestones for both their organization and the nation.
“I was quite confident, but when you have been waiting more than 20 years for something to happen, your emotions are overwhelming,” said Gilardi. “People I never met before were stopping me at the arena and in the hotel lobby just to express their appreciation. There were skaters, coaches, judges and even parents of skaters from other teams...this was a big reward after many years of constant work.”
Success isn’t born overnight, and for Gilardi, part of the team’s breakthrough season can be attributed to the skaters’ long-term commitment to the organization. “The group has been together for two years, but I have a small number of skaters who have been with Hot Shivers since 2012; they are the engine of the team,” said Gilardi. “As long as there is a fluid transfer of information and commitment, the team can maintain the same level of knowledge and experience.”
The top five countries in Synchronized Skating are now Russia, Finland, Canada, USA and Italy. This result enables the Italian Federation to send two teams to the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships next season.
A NEW CANADIAN FORCE
Team NOVA (CAN) at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Since 2004, NOVA has been one of the most competitive synchronized skating clubs in Canada. During the 2016/17 season, head coach and choreographer Marie-France Sirois decided to capitalize on the success of the open team and make the leap to the senior category.
This season, the senior team came out to prove themselves on the World stage and not only won their first international competition at the Mozart Cup, but also beat the 2018 ISU World Synchronized Skating Champions, Marigold Ice Unity of Finland.
“[We] hit the scores [we] had trained for,” said Sirois, reflecting on the team’s Mozart Cup results. “Our win gave us the pat on the back we had been waiting for,” said captains Laurence Darveau and Tessa Sarret. “We knew that we were a high caliber team with the potential to rival the best in the world, but we just had to prove it to ourselves.”
When asked to characterize the group, Sirois said that musicality and solidarity are among NOVA’s top assets. “The number one strength they had was an impeccable work ethic. They were always willing to work in a positive mindset and sometimes asked to work more.”
Following Mozart Cup, the team went on to win the Canadian Championship title, earning their first trip to the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships where they finished in 7th position overall (209.01 points). “The team was very proud to represent Canada and took it seriously,” said Sirois. “[We are ready to] take the lessons learned and try to go higher and further.”
JAPAN’S NUMBER 1
Hailing from the Meiji Jingu Gaien Ice Skating Club in Japan, Jingu Ice Messengers wrapped up a record season, placing 11th at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships this past April. Head coaches Kazuko Shio and Tomoyo Kagayama began working with the team in 1999 and 2011, respectively, with assistant coach and choreographer Yu Hanamoto joining in 2016.
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世界選手権が終わり、無事日本に帰国いたしました???????????????? お陰さまで、今シーズンの目標を達成することができました。たくさんの応援本当にありがとうございました????♀️⚔️???? 来シーズンも新たな目標に向かって日々精進して参りますので、応援よろしくお願いいたします。 We just came back from World!!???????????????? Thanks to all the support, we achieved our goal for this season❣️and we are so grateful that we were able to have such a great experience in Helsinki with all the amazing teams!!! ????????????⛸⛸⛸ #synchronizedskating #worldsynchro #2019 #helsinki #figureskating #jinguicemessengers #teamjapan #ninja #nippon #farandaway #wssc2019 #thankyouall 4/28(日)、神宮アイススケート場にてシンクロチームのトライアウトを行います。 トライアウトに向けて、23(火)体験会を実施いたしますので、興味ある方はお気軽にご連絡ください。 On April 28, we are going to have a tryout for next season 2019-2020. If you are interested in it, feel free to contact us????????
“We were very pleased that we received the highest place in the recent years [at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships], other than our 10th place finish in 2010,” said Shio and Kagayama.
Team Ice Messengers (JPN) at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
In addition to their successful competition season, the team had a unique opportunity in December, 2018 to perform on the Japanese television show, “World’s number 1 meets Japan’s number 1.” Jingu Ice Messengers trained with two-time World Champion, Miki Ando in the lead up to their on-screen debut. Pitted to perform against Finland’s Marigold Ice Unity, the Japanese team described the experience with surprise and honor.
“To be honest, we thought it was some kind of a joke at first because we never expected to be able to share the ice with Marigold Ice Unity,” said Kagayama. “We were so honored to have this amazing opportunity...it was definitely a highlight of the season! Since synchro is still a little-known sport in Japan, we hope synchro will attract more people in our country who watched the show,” said Hanamoto.
SPRING CUP SUCCESS FOR SWITZERLAND
Team Starlight (SUI) at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Not many teams are able to move up from a mixed age category to senior, but Switzerland’s Starlight team not only rose to the challenge, but in their first year at the senior level, they qualified for the World Championships. Captains Sabrina Aeberli, Nina Zuber and Gabrielle Roux dit Buisson reflected on their inaugural senior season.
“We had this big dream to compete in Helsinki, [but that meant we had to] learn new elements, and for the first time, [compete with] two programs,” said Aeberli. “[About competing at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships] is just incredible, overwhelming and happy. There are no more words, just happy,” added Roux dit Buisson.
Earlier in the season, the team attended the ISU Spring Cup where they finished in 9th place with 126.03 points overall. The highlight of competing in Milano came down to the little details, including the moment they learned the team had qualified for Worlds.
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????What a successful weekend @springcupmilano ????!!! The Starlight Novice Team had a clean skate, they flourished out on the ice. For their first international competition they reached amazing 43.54 points! The Starlight Team set the highlight for the weekend by qualifying for the World Championships in Helsinki ????????????????????????. The team has been working tirelessly on reaching the set qualification points. For their strong short program, they earned well deserved 40.47 points. Powered by the success of the previous day, the Starlight Team presented an elevating free program. Knowing that the qualification for worlds was just inches away, everyone waited tensely… 85.56 points a total of 126.03!!! The team broke out in cheers, tears and relief! They had highly exceeded the qualification goals ???????????? Hard work pays off ???????????? #synchronizedskating #passion #succeedtogether #greatestshowman #laschicasdelcable #imasurvivor #worldchampionship
“When I saw the scores, I thought, ‘No that can’t be true,’ but it was and I just started to cry,” said Zuber. “The whole weekend was amazing. The weather was nice, the food was good. We saw the amazing Nexxice and our Novice team was there with us as we skated perfect programs,” said Zuber and Roux dit Buisson.
USA’S SILVER SKYLINERS
Team Skyliners (USA) at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
This past season, the Skyliners Synchronized Skating organization fielded six teams with more than 270 skaters. Seventeen years in the making, the senior team earned their first ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships berth in 2018. This year, the group took home silver medals at both the Zagreb Snowflakes Trophy (191.38 points) and the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships (218.14 points).
The real breakthrough for the team happened at their National Championships in February, where they took the lead after the short program competition.
“To be able to put out the skate that we had been building towards all season, and one that achieved one of our biggest goals, was a really indescribable feeling for us as a team,” said Bialo on their short program performance. “The six weeks between Nationals and Worlds are challenging...[but] our skates and success at Nationals boosted our team morale immensely and gave us a big motivational push in practices during that time.”
While the Haydenettes of Lexington, Massachusetts secured their 27th National title, the Skyliners silver short program provided the group with momentum, where they went on to finish in 8th place at the 2019 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships (204.06 points).
“The week after Worlds, we immediately began training for next season,” said Bialo. “We plan to work as hard as we possibly can for the opportunity to have that same feeling at Worlds in the US next season.”