by Grace Leonard
This weekend 19 teams from 14 countries will compete at the 2017 Junior World Synchronized Skating Championships hosted, for the first time, in North America. The event will take place at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, a beloved venue for many Canadian synchro skaters as it annually hosts the popular Winterfest competition. This ice is familiar territory for Team Canada 1 and 2, having competed there only a few months ago to qualify for the world championships. In addition to the host-country favorites, teams representing Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the USA are expected to be especially competitive.
Team Canada 1- Nexxice
Just two years after their senior team won gold on home soil at the 2015 World Synchronized Skating Championships, the talented young ladies of Nexxice junior have the opportunity to do the same. Certainly inspired by the skaters’ feelings about competing at worlds in Canada, their short program is a fun mash-up of P. Diddy’s “Coming Home” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Hoping to improve on last year’s 8th place finish, their mature Saving Mr. Banks/Mary Poppins free skate is especially strong. The program has gone undefeated all season and led them to a silver medal at the Mozart Cup and a victory at the Canadian world qualifier.
Team Canada 2- Les Suprêmes
The reigning World Champions are certainly gearing up to defend their title on home ice. Their rock n’ roll “Seven Nation Army” short program and spies themed free skate are sharp and sassy. This season they took home gold at the Cape Cod Classic, Leon Lurje Trophy and Canadian National Championships. This team has stood on the podium for the past three years in and last year they owned it. Every skater says there’s nothing quite like skating in front of the home crowd, so here’s hoping these Canadian teams cherish the moment for all it’s worth. Regardless of the outcome, traveling Canadian fans can definitely expect a strong showing in Mississauga from their favorite teams.
Team Finland 1- Team Fintastic
Last year’s world silver medalists are surely going to be skating with their usual combination of attack and grace this weekend. Their short program is an emotional rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” a nice contrast to their quick ‘time’ themed free skate. Just a few weeks ago they won the Finnish national championships and prior to that snagged a gold medal at the second Finnish world qualifier and a silver medal at the French Cup.
Team Finland 2- Musketeers
Marigold Ice Unity’s junior team and last year’s 5th place finishers have also arrived in Canada looking for a victory. They have collected a range of medals this season with a gold at the first Finnish world qualifier, a bronze at the Mozart Cup and a silver at the Finnish national championships. Their creative programs and intricate choreography will definitely help them to stand out in a field of tough competitors. Their short program is “The Sunbeam and The Troll” and their free skate is fittingly themed ice queens.
Team Russia 1- Crystal Ice
This season Russia named a new junior national champion for the first time in years and it was Crystal Ice that stood on top of the podium. Their big win in January earned them the coveted title of Team Russia 1 for the world championships. Synchro fans are eager to see this young team take advantage of their prime slot in the short program draw and hopefully move up from last year’s 6th place finish. They’ve experienced success in the international circuit this season as well, bringing home a gold medal from the Spring Cup just a few weeks ago. Their short program is “Prayer in The Night” and their free skate is a compilation of Beethoven music played by the Piano Guys.
Team Russia 2- Junost
Don’t be deceived by their number 2 designation, this formidable team has traveled to Canada looking to be #1. Skating to “Oh Darling” by the Beatles for their short program and Stravinsky’s famous “Firebird” for their free skate, the Junost skaters are hungry to move up the world podium after earning bronze last year. In addition to the silver medal they earned at the Russian national championships, they also notched gold by 8 points at the ever-competitive French Cup in January.
Team Sweden 1- Team Spirit
The Swedish teams always put out crowd-pleasing performances and this weekend will be no exception. Team Spirit will be rockin’ out to “Seven Nation Army” for their short program and unleashing their inner craziness with a madhouse free skate. In Sweden, they took home silver medals from the first world qualifier and the national championships. Their gold medal win at the second world qualifier also awarded them the title of Team Sweden 1. Although they have placed middle of the pack at their international competitions this season, their score has increased almost every time. Synchronized skating is a very time sensitive sport that is all about peaking “at the right moment.” Never underestimate a team with forward momentum and consistent improvement, last year’s 9th place finishers might surprise us all.
Team Sweden 2- Team Convivium
Skating to “Revenge” by Miley Cyrus and a dark jungle themed free skate, Team Convivium is definitely looking to push back into the top 10 this year. Some of the most intense, back-and-forth competition in the junior division this season has been between Sweden 1 and 2. Team Convivium won gold at the first Swedish world qualifier, but fell to Team Spirit at the second. However, a few short weeks ago they found themselves on top of the podium once again and became the national champions. Internationally they placed behind Team Spirit at the Mozart Cup, but battled back at the Leon Lurje trophy to best them by .38 points. Although these teams will certainly be cheering each other on this weekend, it will be interesting to see where they end up.
Team USA 1- Skyliners
Momentum. This team has been building it all season and is hoping to ride it out to the USA’s first podium finish at junior worlds since 2011. Their reputation of picking up hardware at every competition precedes them and their gangster untouchables short program and Last Of The Mohicans free skate should leave a lasting impression. They have gone undefeated in the U.S. this season, winning gold at the Dr. Porter Classic, Junior World Team Selection Event, and U.S. Championships. Abroad, they won the Cup of Berlin and earned a bronze medal at the French Cup. Last year they got a taste of a world medal by placing 3rd in the free skate, but ended up in 4th overall. A good amount of team USA fans will be present in the Hershey Centre this weekend and an enthusiastic cheer section might be just what the Skyliners need to put them over the top.
Team USA 2- Lexettes
Looking back on the results, the world qualifying competitions were tight in almost every country this season and the U.S. is no exception. After several uncharacteristic falls in their Titanic free skate, the Lexettes ended up in 3rd at JWQ. However, based on their previous national and international success, U.S Figure Skating selected them to the world team. Only a few weeks later, the Lexettes proved their worth at the national championships where they earned silver overall after placing 1st in the short after a great performance of their Lindsey Sterling program. They placed 7th at last year’s world championships, but after a strong showing at the Mozart Cup and a gold medal to prove it, Team USA supporters are eager to see them move up this weekend.
The junior world championships are a unique event because all of the athletes execute such high-caliber skating and jaw-dropping performances and they aren’t even 19 years old. Reaching this pinnacle in your skating career at such a young age is an accomplishment in itself and we hope that everybody with a competitor’s badge this weekend remembers to enjoy the experience. We look forward to seeing some great skating and wish the best of luck to all teams!