The Origins of Synchronized Skating
It’s a new discipline from the perspective of the establishment of solid structures and of real development worldwide. (Support of the International Skating Union (ISU) and the National Federations.)
The ISU, founded in 1892 in Scheveningen (The Netherlands), admitted that events could oppose teams of four skaters. But for a long time, this form of synchronized skating wasn’t deemed worthy of entering the competition.
Synchronized Skating began in the early 20th century in North America, but also in Europe thereafter.
It was relaunched in 1954 in the Great Lakes region of Michigan. An idea that grew from demonstrations of skaters during ice hockey games. American universities have created teams and the sport has codified.
The first World Championships were held in 2000 in Minneapolis, USA.
Introduction of the discipline in France
In 1990, Edith Ballester skating coach in Évreux and Rouen is invited to discover this sport in Finland and Quebec. She meets Les Pirouettes in Canada. A thunderbolt for this team sport, very technical and that brings a lot of fun in ice rink. A first team is created in Haute-Normandie, « Les Normandes. »
There are today about sixty teams in France.
For the anecdote, Edith Ballester is the mother of my very first coach, Valérie Ballester. How not to fall in love with this sport when you get to know it by the legacy of the one that brought it to France?
The outline of this sport
As in Figure Skating, the notation of this sport is based on two notes: on one side we find the technical note and on the other the artistic note. We add these two notes to get the final score. Depending on the categories, we can also find a short program and a long program to do. Each program will obtain its technical score, its artistic score, and its total, before adding the two programs together to obtain the final ranking.
In this sport, there are 5 basic elements of our discipline: the line, block, wheel, circle, and the intersection. From there, and depending on the rules that change each season and the choice of coaches, each element has a technical level to validate from level 1, the lowest, to level 4, the strongest. On some elements, level 3 is the highest.
Synchronized Skating Competitions are organized along the same lines as those of Figure Skating. On competition days, each team has the right to an allotted time on the ice, imposed by a specific schedule due to the draw. These are the Official Practices. During these, the team has the right to two passages of music and must present to the technical panel, here to pre-establish the technical level that the team intends to validate, each element of its program. There are so many criteria to take into account to ensure a level in a single moment, that the technical specialists are obliged to « make the tracking » to avoid misunderstandings.
We have 5 great Nations in our sport: Finland, USA, Russia, Sweden, and Canada. These are the only countries to have won World Championship medals and are eligible to enter a second team at this competition.
Synchronized Skating and the Olympic Dream
The IOC created an « economic » discipline for the 2014 Sochi Olympics: Team Skating. This event brings together nations that have won the most medals in all-category skating events (Ice Dance, Pair, and Individual) in previous seasons. Participating skaters will present their regular programs, but depending on the ranking in their event, will get points for their nation. The country with the most points wins.
This creation is an alternative to Synchronized Skating, which has been estimated several times too expensive because of its large number of athletes and supervisors. The elected representatives of our discipline are fighting to integrate our sport at the Olympic Games, trying to make it more and more popular with the public, to combine with our cause without denaturalizing our sport. Synchronized Skating was denied the Olympic Games gates of 2018 and 2022, but will continue to fight to integrate this competition. The process is working, it’s now enough to help it to its maximum, it’s our role at all.
For this and although Synchronized Skating is present on 5 continents, we must continue to develop it in countries where this sport is less popular.