For the current season, see 2017–18 synchronized skating season. For precision roller skating, see Artistic roller skating.
Synchronized skating is a discipline of figure skating where 8–20 skaters (depending on the level) skate together as one team. The team moves as a flowing unit at high speed while completing difficult footwork. Synchronized skating grew rapidly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and today there are approximately 600 synchronized skating teams in the United States.
The sport was originally called precision skating in North America, because of the emphasis on maintaining precise formations and timing of the group
Like any other discipline of figure skating, there are many different levels at which synchronized skaters can compete. These levels include: synchro skills (1, 2 or 3), preliminary, pre-juvenile, open-juvenile, juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior, senior, open collegiate, collegiate, open adult, open masters, masters and adult. Synchronized skating uses the same judging system as singles, pairs and ice dancing. The discipline is primarily judged on skating skills, transitions, performance, composition, interpretation and difficulty of elements. What makes the sport so unique is the incredible teamwork, speed, and intricate formations.
Each level performs a free-skate program that requires elements such as circles, lines, blocks, wheels, intersections, moves in isolation, and, at high levels, lifts. Teams are required to perform step sequences, ranging in difficulty with each level. In the Junior and Senior divisions, teams are required to perform a free-skate, also known as long program, as well as a short program. Generally, the short program is more technical in nature, where the free skating program is longer and provides an opportunity to showcase expression, emotion and interpretation.
The different levels are permitted to compete at different competitions. Synchro Skills levels can compete at any U.S. Figure Skating synchronized skating non-qualifying competition or a Learn to Skate USA competition. Preliminary, pre-juvenile, open-juvenile, open-collegiate and open-adult can compete at the same competitions as well the Eastern, Midwestern or Pacific Coast Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships. Teams at the juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior, senior, collegiate, adult or masters are permitted to compete at all competitions listed above. However, at their respective sectional championship a placement in the top four earns them a spot at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships. Junior level teams compete in a world qualifying competition where the top two teams attend the Junior World Synchronized Skating Championships. At the senior level teams compete at nationals for a spot at the World Synchronized Skating Championships, the top two teams attend.
As stated above, a synchronized routine may consist of straight line sequences, wheels, blocks, circle step sequences, or also moves in isolation. Moves in isolation are when one or more skaters separates from the rest of the group and performs freestyle type moves. For example, three skaters may separate and go into sit spins, while the rest of the team is in a circle formation. The three skaters will then join the group again and carry on with the routine. Novice, Junior, and Senior programs also include moves in the fields where the whole team does moves such as bellman spirals, 170 spirals, unsupported spirals, spread eagles or bauers connected.
- No Hold Element: The no hold element has the same qualities as a regular block. The only difference is that the skaters are not connected in a no hold block. The goal of this maneuver is to stay in perfect alignment while doing the footwork. The neater the block and the harder the footwork, the more points a team can receive.
- Pairs Element: This is a free skating move where one skater holds on to another. Different types of pairs element include spins, lifts, and pivots such as death spirals. Again, this element is really not a necessity for team skating, but it is seen at the Junior and Senior level. A pairs element can be used to boost skating skills and transition scores.
- Wheel: For a wheel every skater must rotate around a common center point. There are many different formations that teams can form including a two to five spoke or a parallel wheel. Each spoke (line) of the wheel should be straight and the skaters should be leaning into the center of the wheel. The difficulty of the wheel can be increased by adding footwork, changing the rotational direction of the wheel, configuration of the wheel, or traveling. Traveling is difficult because a lot of the time teams will get called for "assisting the travel" which occurs when a team member (usually towards the center) is doing footwork that is not around the center point that is being traveled, but rather they cut through it on a straight path and stop the flow of rotation in an effort to gain more distance up the ice. More often than not, assisting the travel can be spotted because a) a team member will look out of place (technically they are) and b) the wheel will whip or be very jerky in movement.
- Block: This is an element where the skaters are lined up in at least three parallel lines. Five lines is the maximum a block can have. The block should travel over the entire ice surface. The lines should be straight and evenly spaced. To increase the difficulty of the block teams can add step sequences, pivot the block, or change the configuration.
- Circle: There are many different ways to complete this element. Teams can have one circle, multiple circles, a circle within a circle, interlocked circles, or disconnected circle. The circle should be evenly spaced between the skaters and should form a round shape. To increase the difficulty of a circle a team can include step sequences, traveling, and changes of rotational direction. Assisting of travel can also be present in a circle, and is usually noted by a skater trying to cut through the rotation of the circle on a straight path; this will be noticeable with the same jerky/whipping motion of the circle.
- Intersection: An intersection, also known as a pass through, is when the skaters skate towards each other in lines and intersect. The intersection can be two lines, such as an angled intersection, but can have three or four lines, such as a triangle or box. At the point of intersection skaters could do turns or free skating movements to increase the difficulty. The entry to the intersection can be made more difficult by intersecting from an angle or from a whip.
- Line: There are many different types of lines. Lines can be two parallel lines, one straight line, or a diagonal line. To increase the difficulty the team may pivot the line, change configuration, or incorporate retrogression into the line.
- Movement in Isolation: In this element some of the skaters are isolated from the rest of the team while performing free skating elements such as spins, spirals, lifts, vaults, or jumps. The free skating elements must be performed by a minimum of three skaters and a maximum of less than half of the team.
- Moves in the Field: This element is a sequence of movements that must include free skating moves such as spirals, spread eagles, Ina Bauers, and other flowing moves with strong edges, connected with linking steps. It must include at least three different free skating moves.
In 1956, the first synchronized skating team was formed by Dr. Richard Porter, who became known as the 'father of synchronized skating'. The 'Hockettes' skated out of Ann Arbor, Michigan and entertained spectators during intermissions of the University of Michigan Wolverines hockey team. In the early days, precision skating (as it was then called) resembled a drill team routine, or a precision dance company such as The Rockettes.
During the 1970s, the interest for this new sport spawned tremendous growth and development. As each season passed, more and more teams were developing more creative and innovative routines incorporating stronger basic skating skills, new maneuvers and more sophisticated transitions with greater speed, style and agility. Due to the enormous interest in the sport in North America, the first official international competition was held between Canadian and American teams in Michigan in March 1976. With the internationalization of the sport, it has evolved rapidly, with increasing emphasis on speed and skating skills, and "highlight" elements such as jumps, spirals, spins, and lifts that originally were not permitted in competition.
There are international synchronized skating competitions at the Senior, Junior, and Novice levels (with Senior being the most elite). The International Skating Union held the first official World Synchronized Skating Championships (WSSC) in 2000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. The top junior teams from around the world competed from 2001 to 2012 at the ISU Junior World Challenge Cup (JWCC), held in a different location every year. The JWCC were accompanied in 2013 by the ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships, to be held biannually in odd-numbered years with the JWCC in even-numbered years. Other long-running, major international events attracting elite teams at different levels include the French Cup, Spring Cup, Neuchâtel Trophy, Cup of Berlin, Zagreb Snowflakes Trophy and Prague Cup.
ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships
Main article: ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships
The ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships (WSSC) are the world championships for synchronized skating. Held since 2000, the WSSC is an annual event organized by the International Skating Union and attracts the most elite teams from around the world to compete. The top positions have been dominated by Finland with three different World Champions (Marigold IceUnity, Rockettes and Team Unique) and 19 medals and Sweden with the team (Team Surprise) with most World titles and medals for a single team. Other major countries include Canada with two gold, four silvers and five bronzes (for NEXXICE, Les Suprêmes and the now-discontinued Black Ice), as well as the United States with one silver and four bronzes (for Miami University and Haydenettes, respectively).
|2016||Budapest, Hungary||Team Paradise||Rockettes||Haydenettes|||
|2015||Hamilton, Canada||NEXXICE||Marigold IceUnity||Team Paradise|||
|2014||Courmayeur, Italy||Marigold IceUnity||NEXXICE||Rockettes|||
|2013||Boston, United States||Team Unique||NEXXICE||Haydenettes|||
|2012||Gothenburg, Sweden||Team Surprise||NEXXICE||Haydenettes|||
|2011||Helsinki, Finland||Rockettes||Marigold IceUnity||Haydenettes|||
|2010||Colorado Springs, United States||Rockettes||Marigold IceUnity||Haydenettes|||
|2009||Zagreb, Croatia||NEXXICE||Team Unique||Team Surprise|||
|2008||Budapest, Hungary||Rockettes||Team Surprise||NEXXICE|||
|2007||London, Canada||Team Surprise||Miami University||NEXXICE|||
|2006||Prague, Czech Republic||Marigold IceUnity||Team Surprise||Rockettes|||
|2005||Gothenburg, Sweden||Team Surprise||Rockettes||Marigold IceUnity|||
|2004||Zagreb, Croatia||Marigold IceUnity||Team Surprise||Rockettes|||
|2003||Ottawa, Canada||Team Surprise||Marigold IceUnity||Les Suprêmes|
|2002||Rouen, France||Marigold IceUnity||Team Surprise||black ice|
|2001||Helsinki, Finland||Team Surprise||Rockettes||black ice|||
|2000||Minneapolis, United States||Team Surprise||black ice||Marigold IceUnity|||
ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships
Main article: ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships
ISU Junior World Challenge Cup
Main article: ISU Junior World Challenge Cup
|2014||Neuchâtel, Switzerland||Team Fintastic||Les Suprêmes||Musketeers|||
|2012||Gothenburg, Sweden||Team Fintastic||Musketeers||Les Suprêmes|||
|2011||Neuchâtel, Switzerland||Team Fintastic||Musketeers||Team Braemar|||
|2010||Gothenburg, Sweden||Team Fintastic||NEXXICE||Musketeers|||
|2009||Neuchâtel, Switzerland||Team Fintastic||NEXXICE||Musketeers|||
|2008||Rouen, France||Team Fintastic||Gold Ice||Musketeers|||
|2007||Nottingham, Great Britain||Team Fintastic||Les Suprêmes||Chicago Jazz|||
|2006||Helsinki, Finland||Musketeers||Team Fintastic||Chicago Jazz|||
|2005||Neuchâtel, Switzerland||Musketeers||Team Mystique||Gold Ice|||
|2004||Milan, Italy||Musketeers||Team Mystique||Gold Ice|||
|2003||Kungsbacka, Sweden||Musketeers||Burlington Ice Image||Les Suprêmes|||
|2002||Zagreb, Croatia||Ice Image||Spartak-Leader|
Katie Ledecky swims in her second NCAA Championships this week. Could it be her last college meet?
Ledecky, a Stanford sophomore, is expected to race in a relay Wednesday and three individual events starting Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. Whether Ledecky turns pro after the NCAA season-ending meet has not been discussed, according to Stanford.
“I don’t have a strong feeling about it [whether she should turn pro] one way or the other,” said NBC Olympics analyst Rowdy Gaines, who will call the meet on Friday and Saturday for ESPNU and ESPN3. “I’m not one of those saying she has to stay in school, that it’s ridiculous to turn pro. But I’m not the one that says she should turn pro, and it’s not going to be a bad thing. She’s going to be great no matter what.”
Ledecky did no interviews leading into NCAAs, according to Stanford. The Cardinal are favored to repeat as team champion.
Missy Franklin, after winning four gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and six at the 2013 Worlds, turned pro after her sophomore season at Cal-Berkeley. But Franklin’s sophomore campaign ended one year before the Rio Olympics, while Ledecky has two years until the Tokyo Games.
Ledecky is one of a host of stars at this week’s meet, joined by co-Olympic 100m free champion Simone Manuel (Stanford), Olympic 100m breaststroke champ Lilly King (Indiana) and Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker (Cal-Berkeley).
OhioStateBuckeyes.com will live stream finals Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. ESPNU and ESPN3 have coverage Friday and Saturday. A full schedule is here.
Ledecky is expected to race the 800-yard freestyle relay on Wednesday before starting her individual slate with the 500-yard free on Thursday, the 400-yard individual medley on Friday and the 1,650-yard freestyle on Saturday.
NCAA meets are contested in 25-yard pools versus 50-meter pools at major international meets like the Olympics and world championships.
As a freshman, Ledecky swept the 200-, 500-, and 1,650-yard frees, albeit tying for the title in the 200 with Mallory Comerford.
Ledecky’s schedule is different this week, swapping the 200 free for the 400 IM as her Friday event.
Ledecky swept the pair in the same evening at the Pac-12 Championships last month, clocking the fastest time this season in the 200 free and the fastest time ever in the 400 IM. Franklin’s record in the 200 free from 2015 — 1:39.10 — is more than a second faster than anyone else in history.
Swimmers can enter no more than three individual events at championship meets. Ledecky didn’t contest the 1,650 free at Pac-12s, so when she added it for NCAAs (as she did last year) it meant she had to drop one of the 200 free and 400 IM.
“If I know [Stanford coach] Greg [Meehan], he probably would have left that [decision] up to Katie, especially after Pac-12s,” Gaines said. “Why not do something that she’s the best in history?”
Gaines doesn’t believe the decision could lead to Ledecky focusing any more on the 400m IM on the international level. Ledecky has never contested it at a U.S. Championships or an Olympics, worlds or at the Pan Pacific Championships, which is this year’s major meet in Tokyo in late August.
“I think this is kind of a yards thing, a little bit of variety,” for college swimming, Gaines said.
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