by Emily Fitzgerald
The hills are alive with the sound of Team USA!
When you start synchro, you watch the senior division and hear all the stories about their international competitions and experiences, and you dream that one day that will be you. This is my first year with the Crystallettes, and my first international competition.
Our journey to the Mozart Cup started on Sunday evening; after two plane rides, dinner in Vienna, and a four hour bus ride we finally arrived in Salzburg.
Tuesday morning we set out to do one of our favorite things. We were very excited to have our first unofficial practice on the competition ice. It was nice to get our feet underneath us after a long day of traveling. After our unofficial, we finally got to go on the Sound of Music Tour! Our comical and chipper tour guide, Amelie, showed us the famous Abbey, gazebo, and fountains that were used in the Sound of Music. We had a delicious team dinner at Spaghetti & Co, and concluded our first day in Austria with a video and off-ice session.
Our second day began with an early breakfast at the hotel and an off-ice session before we got on the bus and drove to our second unofficial practice with our USA Team Leader Lois Long. We had a solid practice, putting the final touches on both our short and long programs. This is my first experience with team leaders, and I have to say the team leaders are so positive and helpful at practices. After a practice that left us feeling confident, we were off to a dinner with our coaches, team leaders, and our parents. I moved to Michigan from Maryland over the summer to skate for the Crystallettes, so as one can imagine I was very excited to see my mom that night. I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to share some of this experience with her. Any mom that would come all the way to Austria just to have dinner with her daughter is pretty amazing.
The last day of practice before we competed was upon us. Our third and final unofficial practice was successfully completed under the watchful eyes of our awesome team leaders; Colette Nygren and Lois Long, after which we traveled back to the hotel to await the draw. Katilyn Peterson and Victoria Lebryk were chosen to represent our team that evening and drew for us to skate second in the short program, right after the Rockettes from Finland. After a team dinner we went to bed ready and eager to compete our short program the next day!
Our performance on Friday was hands down the most fun I have had skating our short program all season. The days we spent in Austria had further bonded us as a team, and you could feel it. We had an amazing, intense energy that was intensified through the program as we interacted with one another. This was the first international performance for a lot of the girls on our team, and it was amazing to stand in the kiss and cry with them and take in the atmosphere of the moment as a team while we awaited our score. With a total score of 54.27 we entered second place behind the Rockettes (64.66). We ended up in fourth place after the short–less than two points behind our fellow USA representatives, Miami University (55.34). Our lovely team leader Lois Long drew for us to skate tenth in the long, after Miami. We were very proud of the performance we put out that night and the excitement only grew to compete our long program the following evening.
It is not so well known that we changed our long program after Porter; our once intense “Excalibur” piece was switched to an upbeat and fun “Smash” program. At just six-weeks old, we were very excited to debut this program for the first time at the Mozart Cup.
Our official practice was a little rocky, you could tell we were not entirely in the moment while we skated. After talking to our coaches and team leaders, we knew that we had to go out there and skate our hearts out. We had to show the crowd how much we loved our new program, and we had to trust ourselves and each other.
We returned to the rink that evening completely focused and confident–a completely different air about us than we had earlier that day. Finally getting to put on our beautiful new long dresses sealed the deal, we were ready.
We took our starting pose, and element by element, we soared through our long program. Although it wasn’t perfect, we were so happy to finally put our program out, and show the world how hard we had been working. With a total score of 158.97 we finished in fourth place just behind our fellow USA teammates representing Miami University. With room for improvement and a desire to achieve our goals we are definitely looking forward to getting back on the ice and training for Nationals.
People are right, nothing can compare to the sound of the announcer saying, “Representing the United States of America..”, and you can never truly understand that until you experience it yourself. My first international competition was an amazing experience and I am so thankful to have this opportunity. This past week gave me a whole new level of confidence and truly made me feel like I was a senior skater. I look forward to many more international adventures with the Crystallettes.