Synchronized skating: future Olympic sport?

By Kyle Rougeau
October 28, 2004

Lori Iannella

Where it all began

Synchronized skating is not a sport that comes to mind when people think of figure skating. People see the word synchronized and immediately have an impression of a bunch of prissy girls in skating dresses jumping and spinning all at the same time. To the contrary, this is a sport on the rise and is far more complicated than the word synchronized could ever suggest.

Teams consist of 12 to 20 skaters. There are eight distinct competition levels within the U.S. Figure Skating structure. The two levels that are the most competitive and award the most glory are the levels of senior and collegiate.

Synchronized teams are required a short program that must include five required elements and a free skate program that is longer but has no specific required elements. The free skate however contains numerous elements and transitions. The teams are judge on both programs with two sets of marks. First marks are for the elements performed and the second set is for presentation.

Required elements consist of intersections, circles, blocks, spins and moves in the field sequence.

The team is connected to one another the vast majority of the time through different types of holds such as a hand-to-hand or shoulder-to-shoulder hold.

Intersections can be a very dangerous element especially with higher-level competitors. The intersection is an element where one part of the team passes through the other part of the team, preferably at a high speed. It is how the intersection occurs that gives it the level of complexity.

Another element would be circles, which consist of the team in a revolving circle with intricate footwork and a variety of holds. There can be an added element of difficulty by having the circle travel. Yes, the circle can travel up, down, left or right across the rink as it revolves in the shape of a circle while the skaters perform footwork and switch their holds.

However new this sport may sound to the reader it has actually been around for years. In 1838 the Oxford Skating Society in England practice “combined figure skating” in groups with up to 12 skaters.

It was not until 1954 when Dr. Richard Porter started the first modern synchronized skating team in Ann Arbor, Mich. The International Skating Union never officially recognized the sport until 1994 when it was finally considered a discipline of figure skating. The sport has grown from one team in Michigan to over 450 teams registered in the United States nationwide.

There are numerous schools that have embraced this sport for collegiate competition such as the University of Delaware, Michigan Sate University, Boston University and Princeton University.

The competition has grown more intense with the rising popularity. In 2000 the ISU held the first World Synchronized Skating Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where 21 teams from 16 different countries participated. The Olympics has used Synchronized Skating as a demonstration sport and is considering it for official competition in the near future.

For further information check out the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) at or Synchronized Skating Magazine at

Experience as an Ice-Lantic

Before my Thursday was accompanied by the word thirsty they consisted of several hours of practice at the Wall Ice Arena in New Jersey with my Synchronized Skating team known as The Ice-lantics.

When I was in the seventh grade a girl by the name of Sophia Marrow asked me if I wanted to participate on a skating team. For several years prior to this moment I was a competitive single free style figure skater and I thought I knew everything about the world of figure skating. I was wrong.

Before I knew it I was on the ice with nine other girls trying maneuvers I had never imagined. Until that moment I had never heard or seen a Synchronized skating team before.

Synchronized skating is exactly what it means. There are from 12 to 20 girls that perform synchronized elements within a program. In a brief summary Synchronized skating is like the Rockets on ice. The difference is the maneuvers performed by synchronized skaters are much more intense than girls standing in a straight line holding shoulder to shoulder as their legs kick high into the air with perfect unison at Radio City Music Hall.

The Ice-lantics started back in 1997. It started off with 10 girls, myself being one of the original members, and has grown to multiple teams competing at different levels.

During my fours years as a team member I have done much traveling. The competitions we attended were spread out along the east coast. Besides traveling across this country my team was lucky enough to compete internationally as well.

With a synchronized skating team comes a certain code of conduct that must always apply. At competitions we were always expected to be at the utmost respect for our competitors and always amplify sportsmanship.

Through out my experience as a synchronize skater I have learned much along the way. More than the usual reply of teamwork skills, I learned compromise and respect on a much higher level.

Our coaches always told us how our team can only look as good as the worst skater. It was hard skating with people that had different abilities than your own. Picking up someone else’s slack is never fun. This is where compromise and respect really begin to take effect.

Along the way I have also realized that skaters are the most determined and strongest of athletes there are. I know you are thinking right now to yourself that this is a lie and begin to laugh.

Stop laughing and let me ask this question. Has anyone reading this article ever seen a girl get sliced or stabbed in the back of their calf with the blade of an ice skate? Well I have on multiple occasions.

Accidents like this happen but not often. At the North Regional Competition held in Lake Placid, N.Y., I witnessed a girl accidentally slice the back of another team member’s calf that she was skating next to. Of course this was not on purpose. The fact is the skater was injured and as the blood flowed from her wound down to the cold ice the music was immediately stopped. With that a paramedic jumped onto the ice to manage the injury. After no longer then a five-minute timeout the girl had her injury wrapped so she could finish out the rest of her program with the team. Afterwards was when she finally received the treatment needed, which resulted in multiple stitches.

Another incident similar to this actually happened to one of my team members, Renee Stanko, at a competition in Rhode Island. She was a member of one of the younger teams at the time, separate from my team, when the event occurred.

It was towards the end of the program with roughly less than a minute left Stanko loss balance and fell to the ice. As she fell two team members accidentally skater over her hand slicing one of her fingers wide open.

The maneuvers performed are at high speeds so when someone falls there is no stopping and usually things such as this can and do occur.

She popped right back up with blood on the ice and dripping down her hand. Competition can be intense with anywhere from a 100 to several 100 people watching so to stop for an injury usually does not happen often. She ended the program without a tear. Walking off the ice Stanko finally realized the damage down. An ambulance was called and her finger was stitched back together.

Do not be discouraged by the injuries because accidents happen just as in any other sport.

Synchronized skating is a great sport to participate in and I would recommend it to anyone. I have had so many great experiences and memories with my team that I encourage anyone to go out and further explore this aspect of skating. With the rise in popularity synchronized skating will soon become an Olympic sport and much more.

Posted to the Web by Lori Iannella

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Kyle Rougeau

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