By Natalie Mack, news editor
Synchronized skating, which began in 1956 when a group of figure skaters decided to create a team, is exactly what it sounds like. A group of at least eight skaters, male or female, although it usually is mostly females, skating a routine where they are doing the same exact thing, in beautiful synchronicity. 20 years after the first team was created in 1956 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the first-ever synchro competition was held.
Although there are various competitions in the United States, the primary ones are Easterns and Nationals. Easterns occur somewhere on the East coast and involve all the different levels. Similar to the junior varsity and varsity concept, synchronized skating has several different levels which mostly depend on age and skill.
Although there are low-level teams to get children used to the idea of synchro, the first level that is involved in competitions is Beginner. Beginner teams are usually composed of younger, lower-level skaters. The team must have at least 8 skaters to compete. The next level is called Pre-Juvenile or “Pre-juv”. Pre-juv are usually composed of high-leveled, older skaters. However, the coach can decide themselves which level their team should be. Next is Open-Juvenile. Skaters on this team must be under 20 years old and must have passed their pre-preliminary moves in the field test: moves in the field is a method of testing to measure a skater’s skill level. After that, it is juvenile, which must be a team of 12-20 skaters who are under 13 and have passed their pre-juvenile moves in the field test. Intermediate is the next level up which is a team of 12-20 skaters that are under 18 who have passed their juvenile moves in the field test. Then comes novice, a team of 12-20 skaters, who must be under 16 with the exception of four skaters who can be 16 or 17, and have passed their intermediate moves in the field test. Next is Junior, with 12-16 skaters who must be at least 13 and at most 19. They all must have passed their novice moves in the field. The next level is Senior, which requires a team of 16 skaters that must be at least 16 years old and have passed their junior moves in the field.
The other levels of teams are specific to those enrolled in a college or university. First, there is collegiate, which is a team of 12-20 skaters that are enrolled in a college or degree program as full-time students. They must have passed their juvenile moves in the field test. Similarly, there is an open-collegiate that just needs to be enrolled in college. The other section is for adult skaters. Adult, open adult, masters, and open masters. Skaters on open adult have to be at least 19, 21 years for adult, 25 years for masters, and 25 for open masters.
Former member of the on-island synchronized skating team, The Island Waves, Amanda Mack, who graduated from Nantucket High School in 2021, has gone on to skate for the University of Delaware’s synchronized skating team. The UDSST competes at a collegiate level.
Mack reflected on how competing makes her feel stating, “competing for synchro makes me feel the greatest feeling of accomplishment. Hitting the ending pose and feeling the energy of your teammates and hearing the noise from the crowd makes me realize that all the hard work that I put into every practice, every workout, every day is worth it.” As Mack mentioned, there is truly a difference between competing alone and competing alongside others. It is such a special experience that should be transferred to the Olympics.
Several times a year, there are different competitions that these teams can register and compete at. From my experience, you often find yourself competing against the same teams in different competitions. Sometimes there are so many teams at your level that registered for the competition that the level your team is at is split up into different sections, or “flights” as we call them. Although synchro is a very competitive sport, each team has been very supportive of each other and we greet each other each time we see one another at a competition. Inter team bonds are real and create a positive environment that encourages competitiveness but also teamwork and solidarity.
The competitions are judged by a large panel of judges, usually around 10 or 12. Sometimes there are a couple of judges that judge every competition. Synchronized skating is truly a collaborative process where you can meet so many different people from different places. With that being said, I think that synchronized skating should be in the Olympics. Right now, only men’s and women’s singles and pairs are able to compete in the Olympics. I think that there would be many benefits to adding synchronized skating to the Olympics.
To start, synchronized skating is extremely fascinating to watch. Seeing a large group of people in beautiful costumes glide across the ice in sync is beautiful. In addition, synchro is such a bonding experience. Having teams that go to the Olympics will bring more people into the competition and a greater community. Not to use COVID as an excuse, but I do think that after that, we all need more people together more often.
In addition, Mack also reflected on how her small town team as well as her college team makes her feel “…at home. Whenever I’m on the ice with my team, I know that is where I am meant to be. It is the one thing in my life that I can always count on. No matter what is happening in my life, I can get on the ice with my team and everything just feels right again.” Imagine being able to carry this love for synchro into the Olympics. It blows away the competition of the traditional individual skating we’ve had in previous years of the Olympics.
Although I recognize that having synchronized skating in the Olympics would cost more, because it is an entire team with 12-20 skaters and seemingly strays from the individuality of Olympic sports, it is too amazing to not be recognized as a serious sport and one good enough to compete in the Olympics. Adding this sport to the Olympics could potentially benefit them as well. Being a new addition to the Olympics and a favorite among many, it could draw in large crowds, therefore, making more money. I also understand that writing in my high school newspaper about this topic will most likely not have a big effect. However, I do think that more people should be aware of the fact that synchronized skating does exist and is an underestimated, beautiful and entertaining sport to watch.