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Synchronized skating

Synchronized skating

Synchronized skating, a large and fast-growing discipline, consists of 8-20 athletes skating on ice at one time moving as one flowing unit at high speeds. This discipline of figure skating was originally called precision skating in North America because of the emphasis on maintaining precise formations and timing of the group.

Details

For a synchronized team to flow in unison, individual skaters must be competent at a variety of skating skills, including speed, footwork and ice presence. The team performs a program set to music, with required formations including circles, lines, blocks, wheels, and intersections. The teams are required to perform difficult step sequences involving a number of complicated turns such as twizzles, counters and rockers and simpler turns like choctaws. In Junior and Senior divisions, teams are required to perform two different routines; a short program and a free skating program. Generally, the short program is more technical in nature, where the free skating has a longer time limit giving more opportunity to showcase expression, emotion and interpretation. Teams in the senior division are also permitted to perform lifts in the free skating including pair lifts of 2 skaters that cannot be extended overhead, as well as group lifts consisting of three or more skaters which can be extended overhead to full arm height in a variety of positions.

A synchronized routine may consist of straight line sequences, wheels, 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. This may mean three skaters separating and doing for example, a sit spin, while the rest of the group do something such as a circle step sequence. The three skaters will then join the group again and carry on the routine. Junior and Senior programs also include moves in the fields where the whole team does moves such as spirals, spread eagles or ina bauers connected.

Competitions

There are international synchronized skating competitions at the novice, junior, and senior levels (with senior being the most elite). The International Skating Union held the first official World Synchronized Skating Championships in 2000 in Minneapolis, MN, USA, in which the strongest senior teams from across the globe gather to determine which is the world's best. Although in 1996 the first "World Challenge Cup" was held in Boston, MA, USA, it was unofficially the first competition to crown the world champion of synchronized skating (Team Surprise of Sweden). The top junior teams from around the world compete against one another in the World Challenge Cup for Juniors, held in a different location every year. Recently the top novice teams in the world have had an opportunity to compete against one another with the Leon Lurje Trophy which was held for the first time in the 2006-2007 season.

In the United States and Canada, there are several other recognized age and skill levels which are Beginner, Pre-Juvenile, Preliminary, Open Juvenile, Open Junior, Open Collegiate, and Open Adult in the non-qualifying devisions, or the devisions that cannot go to nationals, and Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice, Junior, Senior, Collegiate, Adult, and Masters in the qualifying levels. These are the divisions for USFS, or United States Figure Skating.

ISI (Ice Skating Institute) is another division that focuses on a more recreational form of competition. Teams can compete in the Tot, Youth, Jr. Youth, Teen, or Adult divisions as either synchro or formation teams, formation being the easier of the two since skaters are not allowed to pick up their feet while going backwards.

While most skaters participating in "synchro" are female, the rules allow mixed-gender teams.

History

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 the intermissions of the University of Michigan Men’s 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 1970’s, 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, spins, and lifts that originally were not permitted in competition.

Present Day

At the senior level, the best teams in the world as of the 2008 World Championships are Rockettes of Finland, Team Surprise of Sweden, Nexxice of Canada and Marigold Ice Unity of Finland. Other top teams include , Miami University Synchronized Skating Team of the United States , Les Supremes of Canada and the United States' Haydenettes.

Although not currently an Olympic sport, fans and participants of this fast-growing discipline have begun to strive for recognition by the rest of the skating and athletic world. In 2007 synchronized skating took one step closer to Olympic contention when it was selected to be part of the Universiade or World University Games as a demonstration sport. Countries from around the world competed in Torino, Italy with Sweden, Finland, and Russia coming out on top. Synchronized skating has been covered by Skating magazine since the sport's inception, is a varsity sport at several colleges such as Miami University (and many more are developing club-level collegiate teams without varsity status), and has already been reviewed for Olympic eligibility. Miami University has been a trailblazer in collegiate synchronized skating, fielding the first completely funded varsity synchronized skating program in the United States, as well as their coach Vicki Korn working towards gaining "synchro" NCAA status in the United States.

Judging

Synchronized skating competitions, like those in other disciplines of figure skating, are now judged using the ISU Judging System that was introduced in 2004. Each element is assigned a difficulty level, and that level of difficulty corresponds to a base value. Judges assign a grade of execution from -3 to +3, with 0 being the base value. Each grade of execution, or GOE, corresponds to a point value. For each element, the highest and lowest point values are dropped, and the rest are averaged. The sum of all the scores of the elements comprises the Technical Elements score.

A series of five categories comprises the Program Components score. Each judge gives a score for each category. The scores for each category are calculated in the same manner as the Technical Elements score.

The Technical Elements and Program Components scores are then added to form the total segment score. The team with the highest total segment wins the competition. For junior and senior teams with two programs, the scores of both programs are added together, with the highest score being the winner of the competition.

In the event of a tie, the team with the highest free program score will win the competition. The highest score ever recorded at a synchronized skating event was won by Team Surprise of Sweden at the 2007 World Synchronized Skating Championships in London, Ontario, with a total segment score of 222.24 points.

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