Olympics the next step for synchronized skating

CBC's Pj Kwong provides her thoughts and analysis following the world synchronized skating championships in Hamilton, Ont.

For die-hard skaters, coaches, and fans the sport has arrived

Team Canada 1, Nexxice from Burlington, Ont. (above) and Team Canada 2, Les Supremes from St. Leonard, Que. joined the ranks of the 23 other teams looking for podium hardware at the world synchronized skating championships in Hamilton. (Twitter)

The sound of the 8,000 fans in Hamilton's First Ontario Center was deafening as the Canadian teams took the ice on Saturday.

Team Canada 1 (Nexxice from Burlington, Ont.) and Team Canada 2 (Les Supremes from St. Leonard, Que.) joined the ranks of the 23 other teams looking for podium hardware at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships.

Nexxice headed to the free program in the lead, albeit a slim lead; only 2/3 of a point ahead of defending champions Team Finland 1 (Marigold Ice Unity).

Since the first world championships for synchronized skating were held in 2000, the only non-Scandinavian team to win the title was Nexxice, and that was in 2009. The team has been so close to the top for the last three years, coming away with silver worlds medals on each occasion.

Goosebumps for me are few and far between in skating. I am often so focused on the "what" and "how" that skaters are doing, that the way I experience a performance is almost clinical.

Nexxice's free program to Rhapsody in Blue was a notable exception. It was as beautiful a program as I have ever seen in synchro; lyrical, graceful and uplifting. For me, the four and half minute program seemed like it was over in a blink – my personal "outstanding performance benchmark."

One of Nexxice's coaches, Shelly Simonton Barnett shared with me: "They are what I would call an efficient team. They can get things done very quickly. I wanted to make sure that the program continued to challenge them."

Simonton Barnett and coaching partner Anne Schelter are great strategists in addition to coaches and choreographers, and it has paid off.

Nexxice skated first in the final group and would have to wait for the final four teams to skate. Their biggest threat, Marigold Ice Unity, also skated well and in the rarest of scenarios, posted a tie score with Nexxice. Both teams earned 143.67 but the Finns earned slightly more (.66) in the program components score, which includes choreography, skating skills and the like, and that broke the tie.

If ever there was an example that proved once again that the lead established in the short program, however small, can make all the difference. Nexxice took their second world title with a score of 214.73 while Marigold Ice Unity had to settle for silver with 214.06.

Team Russia 1 (Paradise, from St. Petersburg), came third, becoming the first Russian team to earn a world medal.

Honourable mention has to go to Les Supremes, whose sixth-place result doesn't tell the whole story of a team who has beaten higher-ranked teams internationally this season and whose skating skill has advanced to the point where they were within four points of Nexxice at the national championships. The crowd and I both agreed that they performed two great skates at worlds. Their time will come.

This also indicates that although Canada may no longer have a huge number of elite synchro teams, the talent that Canada does have is outstanding. The skating skill in figure skating's newest discipline has come a long way. There was a time, and it wasn't that long ago, where the gap between the top few teams and the rest of the field was enormous. This is no longer the case.

Synchronized skating is looking to be included in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and there is a good chance that will happen. The logistical issues have been worked out and the details identified in detail.

The proposal has already been favourably reviewed and will now be discussed and decided by the IOC Executive at a meeting to be held in June.

For the die-hard skaters, coaches and fans, regardless of the result, being considered for the Olympics can only mean one thing: synchronized skating has arrived.


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