Dusting Off Memories of a Synchro Competition – A Golden Anniversary

This is a repost, however, this includes photos from the 1990 Arborg Ice Show, Movie Mania.
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, Interlake *Precision Regional Competitions, were usually held in the evening. Plus every team had to be on the ice whether they won a medal or not. That year, my parents couldn’t drive my sister and I, and we went with another teammate. In figure skating – especially synchro with a 16-member team – carpooling is part of figure 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 teammate’s mom pulled those pizza buns from the oven. Most of my memories revolve around food.

The Stonewall Skating Club hosted the competition, and as I entered the arena, I could smell the “arena smell.” Most skaters would agree arenas have a certain smell. We can’t describe it, but we own that smell. The smell of changing rooms are a different story.

We walked into our changing room, missing the cork-board across the room, which displayed papers listing categories, teams, and order of skate. Where judges would display placings. After we dropped our stuff, someone said, “Did you see who we’re up against?”

I stared the name of the other team. There were two teams in the advanced category, but we didn’t celebrate because we’d receive a medal by default.

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

One does not beat the St. Andrews Novice Precise-ettes. Sure, we were the provincial champions. In Recreational C. They placed at provincials the previous season in novice, and they went to the Canadian Precision Championships. It was a thrill for the Arborg Junior team to guest skate in ice shows and receive cool goody bags.

We were last to skate 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 and we saw another fall. I turned to one of my teammates with raised eyebrows.

St. Andrews looked shocked when they came off the ice. We were shocked. I think everyone in the building was shocked.

We stepped onto the ice, skating in a block towards our starting position. An “A.” Yes, “A” for Arborg. I don’t remember anything except bits and pieces.

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 teammates knew whether we won silver or gold. Our coach, Joanne Hough, and our team manager were also in the dark.

The other teams in different categories knew their results. But the advanced category results were a mystery. The season prior, our team heard we won silver moments before stepping onto the ice. And I thought that was drama. This felt like the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. When the audience didn’t know which Brian – Boitano or Orser – won the gold until the medal presentation.

Skaters from the Stonewall SC were bringing medals out on dowels. I hadn’t looked at the results board and I didn’t know the other Arborg teams won a silver and a bronze in their categories.

Our category was the last to be announced and our team stood at the far end of the rink. Maybe there was a miscommunication or to add the 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 dangled in front of us. I glanced over at the St. Andrews Novice Precise-ettes and saw a dowel with silver medals. Our team whispered and turned to look at each other. St. Andrews was silent and didn’t seem happy like the previous regionals.

Was this a mix up? Were the skaters on dowel duty waiting for the placement announcement? Murmurs could be heard throughout the arena. There was even a hesitation before the P. A. announcer read the results.

When the placements were announcements, I’ll never forget the screams, our screams. The cheers from our family and friends. We were hugging each other, and we could see Joanne, pumping her arms into the air. One of my teammates leaped a foot off the ice.

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

We were hugging, shouting, and laughing as the medals were being looped around our necks. Of course, the first thing you do with a medal is look at it, turn it over. This was different. We sort of huddled and almost compared medals, as though we thought they’d look different. Giggling like little girls who – well – just won gold medals. The Interlake Spectator took our photo, and we went to our changing room – still in disbelief.

Our coach was in the room, and she was crying and hugging everyone. When she left, our team was buzzing. We talking about our synchro year, and winning provincials, one of our teammates added, “And our name was in the Free Press.” Manitoba’s largest provincial newspaper. It’d been an emotional roller coaster ride, and we’d capped off the season on a high note.

My sister and I – and eventually just me – had a tradition when my parents couldn’t make a competition. We would hide the medals under our shirts and sometimes we’d pretend the competition didn’t go well.

This time, we said, we competed 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 gold medals, and mom screamed. My dad said what he always says whenever we won a gold medal: “We’ll have to get those bronzed.”

My sister and I giggled.

Like girls who won gold medals.
Photos: Family archives
Newspaper clip: Interlake Spectator
(In 1998, the term “precision skating,” was changed to synchronized skating)