by Jess Neuman and Morgan Sterns
From the start of our 2015-2016 season, the Fond du Lac Blades junior team had one main goal, a goal that was congruous throughout every member of the team, new and old. After three monitoring sessions and countless hours of practice, we achieved our goal of being named to Team USA and were beyond proud to have earned the opportunity to represent our club name and country in Switzerland. With a bittersweet goodbye, we left behind our other teams to represent us at the midwestern championships as we went to compete at the Neuchâtel Trophy.
After arriving in Zurich mid Tuesday, we adjusted to the time change by visiting Lucerne and Bern. The beauty of these cities was enough to keep us awake all day and attempt to fight jet lag. We finally made it to our hotel in Neuchâtel and were amazed by the view of the city below us.
Wednesday we had our first practice to get back in gear to compete. We met our team leader, Jeannette, at the doors of the rink and prepared to take to the ice. Though we were still tired from jet lag, we had a strong first practice in a rink overlooking the Swiss Alps and were excited to continue perfecting our programs over the next few days. At dinner we had fun trying to figure out the language and hoped that what was put in front of us was actually what we thought we were ordering.
For a new morning, we decided to take to the market for breakfast before another productive practice. We headed to the rink with our coaches and team leader ready to progress from our previous practice. With only an hour of ice we made the most of our time, working full programs and individual elements thoroughly. Upon returning to the hotel we packed up all our belongings and moved to the athlete’s hotel. We then enjoyed a traditional Swiss fondue dinner and called it a night.
Friday we woke up early and embarked to our final practice before official. Our first hour of ice allowed us to become more comfortable with the competition rink. We then skated through the zam doors into the other rink for the final hour of practice in Switzerland. Following practice we took a trip to the best chocolate factory in Switzerland and were enlightened to the ways of making chocolate. After almost getting lost on the trains, we found our way back in time for our Team USA dinner. At the dinner we mingled and got to know the other Team USA members from Skyliners senior and Chicago Jazz junior. We were ecstatic to have the opportunity to travel and talk with these teams as we are all representing the same amazing country. We then traveled as a collective Team USA to await the fate of the draw. Ending the day with a draw of skating seventh, we were ready to take on official the next morning.
Thanks to our great draw, we were able to get a good night’s sleep before short program official practice. After official, we knew there were some nerves to settle and small details to tweak. Following a quick off ice practice, we perfected our hair and makeup and then took to the warm up area. With some time to relax earlier in the day, we were in a different mindset and felt confident in the program we could put out. From the time we entered the locker room to the time we stepped on the ice to skate, we knew what we had to do. And that we did; with a short program score of 50.48, we finished the day sitting in second place behind our fellow American team, Chicago Jazz. Once receiving our draw of skating 5th in the free skate, we returned to the hotel and prepared for the next day.
The final day of the competition came, and we were all very excited to compete our long program to Pirates of the Caribbean. After a strong official we began prepping for competition. With hair and makeup done, we made our way to the impressive off ice facility and warmed up for our free skate. Sitting in second place, we knew there was a lot of pressure to keep our place on the podium, and gave it our all the stay there. We performed a clean free skate, earning a score of 85.76, and total score of 136.24, to put us in third place overall.
Being our first international competition, we were thrilled to be bringing the bronze medal back to our country, alongside Chicago Jazz who brought home the gold! The competition was an incredible experience and we are all honored to have had this opportunity. Now to catch up on all that school we missed…