From Eight to Sixteen – The Story of a Synchronized Skating Team

Synchro skating isn’t about medals.

It’s about the memories.

Medals are a bonus though.

During the Arborg Skating Club‘s 1988/1989 season, our coach produced three successful synchronized (precision) skating teams. I was on the eight-member senior team, winning two silver medal. Two competitions, two silver medals. Not too shabby.

We won our second silver medal at the 1989 Interlake Winter Games in Arborg, Manitoba – our home club. Runners up to the Novice St. Andrews Precise-ettes, who were heading to the Canadian Precision Championships in Edmonton, Alberta at the end of March.

However, those winter games weren’t an advancer. Merely a trial run to gauge participation. The Winter Games were deemed a success, and Gimli, Manitoba would play host for the figure skating portion of the 1990 Interlake Winter Games. The advancer! The gold and silver medallists from each singles category – and the gold medal synchro team – would advance to the 1990 Manitoba Winter Games in Carmen, Manitoba.

Through the skating grapevine, our coach, Joanne Hough, heard – while the Novice St. Andrews Precise-ettes team were expected to win the 1990 Interlake Winter Games – they would pass the torch for Carmen to the silver medallists. According to the 1989/1990 rules, a team was prohibited from competing at the Manitoba Winter Games and the provincial championships in the same year. No doubt St. Andrews would rather compete for another ticket to the Canadians.

Ergo, we were aiming for that silver medal.

It wasn’t that simple. First challenge – our eight-member team. We were so small, two sets of sisters made half our team – and I was part of that half. The smallest team allowed at the 1990 Manitoba Winter Games was eight. That season, our coach wanted the maximum amount – a 16-member team.

However, it wouldn’t be the so-called easy breezy 1988/1989 season.

In September 1989, before fall skating school, we were on two missions: finding eight skaters and choreographing the beginning of our program in the elementary school gymnasium. We recruited three skaters from our middle-age Arborg team, however, one skater pulled double duty – skating on her former team and ours.

In the gym, while the 11 of us sashayed to “The Doctor” by the Doobie Brothers, “Thru These Walls” by Phil Collins, and “Come Dancing” by The Kinks, we’d pitch names of skaters with previous synchro experience.

Who wouldn’t want to compete at the Manitoba Winter Games? Yes, I’d already pre-punched my ticket to Carmen.

During fall school, we were still struggling to expand our team. Luckily, two former Arborg synchro skaters eagerly jumped on our team. However, our club was tapped out. We need more older skaters, preferably with experience.

A skater from Inwood joined our team. She had experience, plus Joanne was her coach. Okay, almost there. What did we think about approaching two skaters from Riverton?

And we were sixteen. But, there was another issue.

IMG_20151019_162419~2
The 1989/1990 Arborg Junior Team with our coach, Joanne Hough. Two team members are missing from this photo. I’m third from the left in the back row.

According to the rules for the Winter Games, members of the synchronized skating teams must be age seventeen or under. One of our skaters wouldn’t be able to compete at the Games because she’d be 18 years old. Plan B, of course, was the entire team would compete at the Manitoba Championships and the Interlake Regional Precision Competition.

If we didn’t make it to the Winter Games in Carmen.

But we were double silver-plated the last season. Runners up to the Novice St. Andrews team at the previous Interlake Winter Games. The unbeatable team. We were once eight, but now we were a powerful 16-member team. Why wouldn’t we win another silver?

Because life doesn’t happen as planned.

And we didn’t win silver and advance to the 1990 Manitoba Winter Games. We won the bronze medal.

In fact, we almost didn’t medal after placing fourth in unexpected compulsories. Expected, but not the ones we’d be practicing. But after the free program though – despite two falls – we placed third and won the overall bronze.

When the results were announced, I believe I was the only team member who cheered, and one of my teammates looked so sad. Looking back, one of our teammates won the overall bronze in singles, and I remember more about that medal ceremony than the synchro’s. On the upside, the medals look the same as the ones at the 1990 Manitoba Winter Games. They’re heavier and larger than other medals. Like an Olympic medal.

But that bronze pushed us. Those Winter Games were in January, and our season was far from over. We had work to do, and we worked hard. It wasn’t easy. There were tears, triple run-throughs, drills. And all worthwhile.

That February, we won the gold at provincials. And today – March 9, 1990 – marks 29 years since we won the 1990 Interlake Precision Regional Competition over the Novice St. Andrews Precise-ettes.

No one beats the St. Andrew Precise-ettes.

During the 1993 ice show – Aladdin on Ice – I skated an exhibition performance with the senior skaters and we reused some choreography from my former Junior team’s 1989/1990 season. But nothing can match the excitement of competitive synchro.

I’m proud to be part of the legacy of the Arborg Precision Team. Our team skated for two seasons, and we never left a competition without hardware – amassing five medals. For two seasons, there were enough skaters to have three synchro teams.

Two seasons doesn’t sound like a long time, but in synchro years those memories last forever.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: