Dusting Off Memories of a Synchro Competition – A Golden Anniversary

Another repost? Why yes, Darling. With edits and a slightly modified story – and photos from the 1990 Arborg Ice Show. In 1998, the term precision changed to synchronized skating. Plus, today marks 30 years since this accomplishment.

While it feels like yesterday, it was 30 years ago today.

It was the 1990 Interlake Regional Precision Competition at the Stonewall arena. The final competition of the season for our 16-member Arborg Junior team.

For some reason, synchro Regionals were usually held late in the evening. Plus every team had to be on the ice whether they won a medal or not. Since my parents were still married to the dairy cows, they couldn’t drive my older sister and me. Another team mate’s mom drove us. In figure skating – especially synchro with a 16-member team – carpooling was/is part of skating life.

Before the competition, before we left our team mate’s house, I remember eating pizza buns. And walking into the house just as our team mate’s mom pulled those pizza buns from the oven. Most of my memories revolve around food.

At the arena, I could smell that arena smell. Most skaters would agree arenas have a certain smell. We can’t describe it, but we own that smell. The smell of a changing room, well, that’s another story.

We walked into the changing room, and we missed “the board.” The board lists the categories, teams, and order of skate. After we dropped our stuff, someone said, “Did you see who we’re up against?”

The board was across outside our dressing room. I stared at the team name. Are you kidding me? We were one of two teams in the advanced category. But we didn’t celebrate that we’d receive a medal by default.

We were up against the St. Andrews Precise-ettes. The best team in the region. One of the top teams in the Manitoba.

One does not beat the St. Andrews Precise-ettes. Sure, we were the provincial champions. In Recreational C. They had placed at provincials too – in Novice. The previous season, they advanced to the Canadians. It was a thrill for the Arborg Junior team to guest skate in ice shows where we’d receive cool goody bags.

We were skating last in the competition after St. Andrews. As our team of 16 lined the hall, I watched St. Andrews skate their program through the chicken wire window in the door. And a Precise-ette fell. We started to trickle towards the ice when another Precise-ette went down. By that time, our team was at ice level. In time for another fall. I turned to one of my team mates with raised eyebrows.

St. Andrews looked shocked when they came off the ice. I was friends with one of the members, and we’d chat at competitions. And she looked crushed.

Our starting position was an “A.” Yes, “A” for Arborg. I don’t remember anything except bits and pieces. I’ve heard those are usually the best performances – when you remember bits and pieces or nothing at all.

I remember two things. All 16 of us speeding down the ice in a straight-line and performing a perfectly timed drag. And that we didn’t fall.

After our program, I believe within ten minutes we were back on the ice for the medal ceremony. But, the results for our category hadn’t been posted. None of my team mates knew whether we won silver or gold. Our coach, Joanne Hough, and our team manager were in the dark. It felt like the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary when the audience didn’t know until the medal presentation which Brian won – Boitano or Orser.

Each team placements were announced for other categories – although they’d been posted – and Stonewall skaters brought out medals. No shocking results. We were the furthest team on the ice for the medal deliveries.

Call it a miscommunication or an element of suspense, but in the advance category the medals were skated out prior to the team placement announcement.

And 16 faces fell. It. Just. Got. More. Interesting.

The gold medal was in front of our team. I glanced over at St. Andrews to see dowels with silver medals. Our team turned, whispering. Their team was silent and didn’t appear happy. Maybe there was a mix up. Or the people on dowel duty were waiting for an announcement. Murmurs could be heard throughout the arena. There was even a hesitation before the announcement of the placements.

When they announced the winner? I’ll never forget the screams. Our screams. The screams and cheers from our family and friends. From the corner of my eye, I saw Joanne pumping her arms into the air. One of my team mates behind me jumped about a foot off the ice. We were hugging, shouting, and laughing like little girls who just, well, won gold medals.

1990 Interlake Regional Precision Competition. (Source: Interlake Spectator)

We were still celebrating as the medals were being looped around our necks. Back in our changing room, our coach was crying and hugging everyone. It’d been an emotional roller coaster season – and it was capped off on a high note.

I remember getting home. My sister and I had a skating tradition if my parents weren’t at a competition or had to leave early. We would hide our medals under our shirts. Sometimes, we’d pretend the competition didn’t go well.

This time, we just said, we were up against St. Andrews and went downstairs. Our parents followed us and said, “And?”

My older sister and I looked at each other and whipped out the medal, and mom screamed. My dad said what he always says whenever we won a gold medal: “We’ll have to get those bronzed.”

And my sister and I giggled. Like girls who just won gold medals.

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