by Katie Fiore and Grace Leonard
It was another eventful weekend in the synchro world! The ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships were held in Mississauga, Canada, featuring the best junior teams from all across the world. The caliber of skating was incredible, and made for an exciting and competitive event. After a lot of cheers, some tears and the intense watching and rewatching of programs, here are some final thoughts on the competition.
The Top 3
The old adage in figure skating that says, “You can’t win a competition in the short program, but you can lose it” once again proves true. Team Russia 1 (Crystal Ice) earned the top spot on the podium after a near perfect performance on Friday night, but it was not enough to overcome disaster the following day. This saying is even more prevalent in the cases of Team USA 1 (Skyliners) and Team Canada 1 (Nexxice). Both skated solid short programs and ended up in 8th and 7th place respectively. However, it was these middle of the pack placements that inevitably cost them a medal despite their extremely strong free skate performances. In the end it was the consistency of Team Russia 2 (Spartak Junost) that won out. After their “Oh Darling” Beatles short program they found themselves in a close second to their Russian counterparts, separated by only two tenths of a point. They rose to the occasion in likeness to Stravinsky’s Firebird (the theme of their free skate) and captured first in the free skate, along with the world title. They were the only team to earn above an 8 in every program component mark to total an event high cumulative PC score of 66.80. Their tech score of 40.69 was also above the rest. It was heavily contributed to by level 4 pair spins and a level 3 no hold with level 4 steps and an additional 2 points from the grade of execution.
Congratulations are also well deserved on part of Team Finland 1 (Team Fintastic) and Team Finland 2 (Musketeers), the silver and bronze medalists. All of their programs featured attack and layered choreography throughout. The ability of the young skaters on Team Finland 1 to convey a complex theme like time in a 4 minute free skate was especially admirable. As was Team Finland 2’s commitment to the challenging movements required by their intense ice queens free skate such as pair arabians and a creative intersection with extra duck under spirals.
The Moment Everyone’s Talking About
After an amazingly fast and intricate short program, Team Russia 1 narrowly led the pack by .21 heading into Saturday’s free skate event. They skated to “Prayer In The Night” by Amici Forever and conveyed the angels and demons theme well with their intense expression, gritty skating style and alternating dresses (half the team wore white on navy, while the other half wore black). “It looked like a free skate condensed into a short,” remarked an impressed spectator.
Sadly, the perfect ending was not to be. In a heartbreaking performance of their “Beethoven’s 5 Secrets” free skate, Team Russia 1 received 9 deductions due to falls, 4 of which happened in the angled intersection. It was every skater’s worse nightmare. As the last skater waved goodbye before hitting their final pose, most of the crowd rose to its feet in support of the team and what could have been. It’s bittersweet, but when Team Russia 1 skated cleanly, they showed moments of world champion greatness. They received a program component mark of 7.57 for skating skills despite the unfortunate circumstances. This is equivalent to the scores Team USA 1 and Team Finland 1 received, as well as the 3rd highest mark given in that category. On the technical side, they received level 4 calls for their no hold steps and pair spins. They also had the highest scoring moves in the field (6.4) and creative intersection (3.79) elements of the event.
The Pleasantly Unexpected
If there was a superlative for biggest surprise, it would have to go to Team Czech Republic (Team Darlings). Many people were dubious of whether they could hold their own in a short program flight with Team Sweden 1, Team USA 1, Team Canada 2, Team Finland 1 and Team Germany. But when the young Czech team took the ice on Friday night in flashy blue dresses and pants, they knew they were up for the challenge. They skated to Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Rolling In the Deep” with speed and sass, which put them in 13th place. The next day, they impressed once again, delivering their modern robot program with the same confidence. Despite a quick fall, they were one of only six teams to get triple twizzles called and received a partial standing ovation from the crowd. They were able to overcome the skilled Team Italy (Hot Shivers) in the free skate to notch a 12th place finish, but ended in 13th overall. Their successful weekend speaks positively to synchro’s international growth and the quick development of young teams, especially in Europe.
Our Team USA
The future of American synchro looks bright. When all was said and done, Team USA 1 (Skyliners) and Team USA 2 (Lexettes) finished in 4th and 7th places respectively. On Friday night, the Skyliners delivered a clean short program when it mattered most and received level 4 calls for their circle and no hold block. Although they experienced a minor setback when their pivot block and whip intersection were downgraded, they didn’t let the results affect their focus heading into day 2. On Saturday, their Last of the Mohicans free skate was skated with maturity and convincing emotion. They received positive GOEs for all of their elements, including a level 4 traveling wheel which earned them a whopping 7.36 points. It was the highest scoring wheel of the event (Team Canada 2 received an identical score for their wheel) and the second most valuable element of the day. Their free skate score of 101.73 held up, despite the efforts of 7 very competitive teams. Russia 2 eventually bested them by 4.76 and they finished in second place in the free skate and 4th overall. Making a 4 spot jump up the leaderboard is an amazing accomplishment and really showed the tenacity of the team. The Lexettes had an equally successful weekend, highlighted by a fabulous short program to a dubstep remix of Lindsey Stirling worthy of 5th place. They tallied up 57.34 points and received positive grades of execution for each of their elements. They were one of only two teams to get their level 4 no-hold block and steps called and they received a level 4 call for their circle as well. Based on their placement the night before and the draw, the Lexettes skated their free skate in the final group. They remained composed under pressure and performed well to music from Titanic. Aside from a quick fall in the angled intersection, they received positive grades of execution across the board. They finished in 7th place in the free skate event and 7th overall. Fantastic job to both of these teams, you made the USA very proud.
It was a great weekend for synchronized skating. Younger skaters pushing their limits in choreography, speed and the mastery of difficult elements, is exactly how synchro will become an Olympic sport. Congratulations to all who competed and we can’t wait to see what the senior teams have in store for us in Colorado Springs!