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

Skating isn’t all about the medals.

It’s about the memories.

Medals are just a bonus.

During the Arborg Skating Club‘s 1988/89 season, there were three successful synchronized skating (precision) teams. I skated on the eight-member senior team, winning two silver medals. Two competitions, two silver medals. Not too shabby.


We won the second silver medal at the 1989 Interlake Winter Games in Arborg hosted by our club. It wasn’t an advancer. Just a trial run to gauge participation. Those Winter Games were deemed a success, and Gimli, Manitoba would host the 1990 Interlake Winter Games.

The gold medal team would advance to the 1990  Manitoba Winter Games in Carmen, Manitoba. In theory.

Our coach, Joanne Hough, explained while the St. Andrews Precice-ettes would win the 1990 Interlake Winter Games, according to rumours, the Precice-ettes planned to pass the torch to the silver medallists. The rules prohibited them from competing at the 1990 Manitoba Winter Games and the Manitoba Precision Championships in the same year. No doubt, they’d compete at the provincials for another shot at 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 up half the teams. And I was part of that half. The smallest team allowed at the 1990 Winter Games was 12. Our coach wanted a 16-member team. Then we could split into lines of eight and four.

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 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 pitched names to Joanne of skaters with previous synchro experience who might want to compete.

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 had one-hour for synchro at 4 p.m. We were struggling to expand our team. While two former Arborg synchro skaters eagerly jumped on our team, 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 –  of course – there was another issue.

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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 seventeen or under. One of the Arborg girls we recruited wouldn’t be able to compete at the Games. The alternate plan if we didn’t advance to the Winter Games?  All 16 members would go to the Manitoba Championships.

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

And we didn’t advance to the Manitoba Winter Games.

We won the bronze medal at the Interlake Games after placing fourth in compulsories and – despite two falls – third in the free program and we didn’t advance.

When the results were announced, I believe I was the only team member who cheered, and one of my teammates looked so sad. Our team was standing at ice level, watching the medal ceremony for the singles event – one of our teammates won the overall bronze.

I remember more about that medal ceremony than the synchro ceremony. On the upside, the medals looked the same as the ones handed out at the Manitoba Winter Games. And they’re heavier and larger than other medals. And really pretty.

But, that bronze pushed us. The season wasn’t over. We had work to do, and we worked hard. It wasn’t easy. There were tears, triple run-throughs, drills. And all worthwhile.

Because at that February at Manitoba Precision Champions, we won the gold medal.

And today – March 9, 1990 – marks 29 years since we won the 1990 Interlake Precision Regional Competition over the St. Andrews Precice-ettes. No one beats the St. Andrew Precice-ettes.


But after our last guest skate in Winnipeg Beach, the 16 of us broke up as a team. None of us ever skated synchro again.

I’m proud to be part of the short legacy of that Arborg Precision Team. Our team skated for two seasons and amassed five medals, never leaving a competition without hardware.

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

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