Covid-19: When will teams be able to train? Global update, country by country.


As many synchro teams around the world, Gold Ice Junior from Brampton, Ontario (CAN), looks forward to training on the ice again. (Credits: Sean McKinnon - 2019)

While some countries have announced a reopening of the ice rinks, allowing synchro teams to practice again and already prepare the new season, others are still waiting and remain in an uncertain situation. We propose today a world tour in some countries that count many synchro teams.

Australia: "No word as to when ice rinks will re-open"
In Australia, the lockdown process has been progressive for each state and territory. All states and territories were placed into varying levels of lockdown depending on the increase of COVID-19 cases, with NSW beginning their lockdown March 23. 

On May 9, the prime minister released a three-step plan that aims to reopen the economy whilst maintaining social distancing orders by July. The three-step plan is only a guideline and it is up to the governing bodies of each state and territory to implement each step. Australia currently has a total of 6,927 COVID-19 cases throughout the nation, with sadly 97 deaths. Of the confirmed cases, 6,000 people have made a full recovery with the current active cases at 660. Australia’s efforts to flatten the curve have come at a great economic cost following the bushfire disaster in early 2020, however the nation’s spirits remain high with a long road to recovery ahead.

Ice Storms - AUS. (Credits: Ice Galaxy - 2020)

For the moment there is no word as to when ice rinks will re-open. Ice rinks around the country have been closed for the last 6 weeks and will remain so until further discussions surrounding indoor sports have begun. Majority of the ice rinks are undergoing general maintenance and renovations until the time of their reopening. 

A lot of uncertainty surrounds Synchronised Ice Skating in Australia due to the strict social distancing laws that may continue into 2021. However, skaters and coaches around the country are adjusting and welcoming the implementation of on-line training so they can continue to see their friends, practice, and refine skills for the recommencement of the sport we all love.

Update by Mitchel Frencham and Sabrina Snoad 

Austria: Soon, synchro skaters should be allowed to practice individually
In the center of Europe, Austria acted early to tackle the viral pandemic, closing bars, restaurants, schools, theatres, non-essential shops and other gathering places more than seven weeks ago. That helped cut the daily increase in infections to less than 1% and keep deaths relatively low - with just 606 reported so far, according to Reuters.

More steps are planned. Skate Austria is currently working on a reopening plan, but it’s not finished yet. "Two rinks are open (Telfs and Gmunden). Single and pair national skaters are practicing since May 1st. Soon also synchro national skaters will be allowed to do individual practice, only 8 per session, and only 4 in the Dressing room at the same time. I can‘t tell you an exact date and how we will proceed, but the Austrian federation, especially our general secretary, is doing a tremendous job and is in contact with the ministry of sports to get the best out for all of our skaters!" said Theresa Katzlinger, member of the Mozart Cup Organizing Committee.

Canada: No dates announced yet
"Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been excellent during this difficult time. He has provided financial relief for citizens, and since the very beginning has emphasized the importance of listening to medical professionals, as this is to be taken extremely seriously," explains Alana Burke, correspondent for Jura Synchro in Canada.

On March 16th, Canada closed its international borders and ever since, citizens have been ordered to stay home and only go out for essential items like groceries and pharmacy. "The situation is extremely different in every province. Each Provincial Premiere has released guidelines in the current climate for reopening Canada’s economy. Presently, only essential workplaces are open, and some non essential stores are offering curbside pickup," she continues.

Nexxice - CAN. (Credits: Sean McKinnon - 2020)

No dates have been announced yet for the reopening of the ice rinks. "Skate Canada has just released a statement, lifting its suspension of activities, with limitations." Since each Province makes the decision on opening recreation facilities such as parks and arenas, no dates have been confirmed. "Therefore, it is not clear when our teams will get back onto the ice," adds Alana. Canada’s teams will probably be kept away from facilities for another few weeks until the curve flattens more.

"For the time being, teams continue working hard off the ice together and apart. It is truly remarkable to see technology work, and all the efforts going into keeping skaters engaged and working hard," says Alana living in Ontario.

Czech Republic: Practices with hold allowed
In this country in Central Europe, ice rinks closed shortly before the Junior Worlds mid-March and reopened on Monday 11 May. 

"We are allowed to practice with the whole team and we can hold each other. We could actually even compete if the number of people would fit into the 100 people (staff included) limit, but that is, for now, more for other sports. During practices, athletes don't have to wear masks, but coaches have to wear them (but this changes literally like every day)," explains Štepánka Parthonová, Jura Synchro’s correspondent in the Czech Republic.

Finland: Synchro teams on the ice from June
In Finland, the ice rinks are closed and only groups of 10 people at the most are allowed to gather. But Finnish society is reopening gradually. For example, the primary and secondary schools will open on 14th of May. "The government of Finland decided that the inner and outdoor sports grounds are opened in a controlled way beginning from 1 June," explains Marjaana Saartenoja, Jura's correspondent for Finland.

As we mentioned in our article on May 6, groups of up to 50 people will also be able to gather from June 1, so the skaters can start to practice with the full team. "It is still unclear which ice rinks will be in use in the country and how tight the instructions will be. Will it be allowed for example to touch each other? The teams are still eagerly waiting for detailed information about the rules of the training," continues Marjaana.

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France: They are waiting the "phase 2"
What is the current situation in France?
Alicia Trompette, skater in the Senior team Zoulous and correspondent for Jura Synchro: The country has been divided into two parts: the green part which can be reopening little by little (certain parks and a few shops) and the red part where the reopening is not planned yet. The red parts are the regions where the virus is still very active and where hospitals have not a lot of space.

When can sports centers, in particular ice rinks, reopen? Is there a date announced?
High-level athletes and professionals in individual sports (such as gymnastics, for example) were allowed to start again training in small groups. In France, synchro skaters are not recognized as "top-level athletes" so we have to wait. All other team sports are still prohibited, therefore no scheduled date for the re-opening of the rinks for the moment. We may know more about it on June 2 during the second phase of the reopening.

Do you know in your country when the synchro teams can start skating together again?
For the moment we don't know when and how the French synchro teams will be able to train again. It is possible that the first ice training will be done in June, in small groups and without contact (only solo skating - or no hold).

Germany: Training in small groups
For the past 2 months, Germany has faced strict lockdown. "Recently some easings have been released by the government. The contact restrictions, as the hygiene and distance rules, will be extended and remain in place until 5 June," Shenja Li - Jura's correspondent in Germany. Shops may reopen - regardless of the sales area. Major events are prohibited until 31 August.

"Sport and training in mass and leisure sports is permitted outside. Training and competition details are regulated by the federal states. Some teams have started their training this week in small groups of up to 5 persons with no physical contact, but no ice training is allowed so far. It is not clear yet when the ice rinks for synchronized skaters will be opened again," continues Shenja. The planning for the next season is still uncertain.

Team Berlin 1 - GER. (Credits: Sebastien Muller - 2020)

Italy: A first ice rink will reopen
Some hard-hit countries like Italy steps into "Phase 2" from May 4th. Elisa Parini, our correspondent in Italy gives us more details: "It means we can go out for work, medical needs, grocery shopping, see our relatives up to sixth grade and the outside single sports may be practiced. These are the laws at national level, but all regions could modify them to add or lift restrictions."

Skaters are therefore eagerly waiting for the reopening of the ice rinks. For example, the WurthArena in Neumark/Egna (Trentino Alto Adige region) announced today that they will reopen! It will maybe allow some teams from the Trentino region to practice again. "If they guarantee an almost "risk free" environment and the adequate safety levels the ice rinks may open even now. Off-ice training can't be done inside the structure and changing rooms and bleachers cannot be used," adds Elisa.

"Technically the Advanced Novice, Junior and Senior teams - under the national interest of Italian Synchronized Skating Technical Commission - will be allowed to start training from the May 18," says Elisa. In the meanwhile, Italians teams continue to train from home to be able to get into the ice in the best condition possible as soon as it is safe.

New Zealand: Ice rinks reopen on Thursday
In New Zealand, there has been six and a half weeks of 'lock down'. Four weeks of which has been spent in the most severe lockdown level 4, which only allows citizens to leave the house for essential services. The last two and a half weeks have been in level 3, which is very similar to level 4 except with takeaways and online shopping. Overall there has been around 1500 cases of Covid-19 in the whole country, majority of which of recovered. Though there has sadly been 21 deaths to date. NZ can be very proud for the attempts at ’squashing’ the curve, as stated by an article from the Washington Post. There are currently between 0 and 3 cases per day. The nation moves into level 2 on Thursday this week, where some aspects of life are able to return to normal. 

New guidelines for level 2 are still slightly unclear, however at this stage a majority of the ice rinks around the country can start opening from Thursday. Many have been undergoing lots of maintenance during this rare time of emptiness. Social distancing and hygiene rules must be followed when they open their doors, and it is still unclear how public skate sessions or practice sessions will be executed. However, the rules for level 2 look indicate there can only be 10 people on the ice at a time, which may not be a realistic amount for rinks to open. 

According to Sport New Zealand, team sports are allowed to resume with groups of 10 or less once level 2 is entered. This makes it a bit tricky for synchro teams of 10 plus skaters. It is possible for teams to resume if they are able to follow these restrictions, however not very economical and assuming the rinks open. It is likely most teams will go back to training after the 25th of May when these rules are re-evaluated. But for now, everyone is very excited to be getting back on the ice when possible, even if it is just skating skills and a no hold block! Until then, Zoom training will continue for most teams. 

By Sabrina Snoad, Jura Synchro's correspondent in New Zealand

Russia: Restrictions eased gradually
"Yesterday, the President announced that Russia will begin a gradual exit from the self-isolation regime. However, governors have the right to independently regulate the dates and stages according to the epidemiological data of the region. For example, in Moscow, there is a lockdown till 31.05, but in Ekaterinburg people will be allowed to go out sooner - on 18.05 if everything goes well -," says Anna Negasheva, correspondent for Jura Synchro in Russia.

On Tuesday, a fire in a hospital treating coronavirus victims claimed the lives of five people in the city of St. Petersburg. This is the second fatal incident in days involving a hospital treating coronavirus patients. On Saturday, a blaze erupted in an intensive-care wing of a Moscow coronavirus hospital, killing one person. The BBC added that the cases also continue to rise in the country.

Team Junost - RUS.  (Credits: Eugene Simdyankin - 2020)

Spain: Total lockdown in Madrid region
Which is the situation in Spain?

Akemi Tsutsumi, Jura's correspondent: We were in total lockdown until last weekend, so we could only leave our homes to go to the supermarket or pharmacy, or to work if we were essential employees. This past week, we entered Phase 0 of the government’s de-escalation plan, so we have been allowed to go out for a walk or run near our homes once a day. This week, some provinces enter Phase 1, which allows people to travel within a province, and small businesses and restaurant terraces to open with limited capacity. Unfortunately, Madrid (where all Spanish synchro teams are based in) has been one of the hardest-hit regions, so we will not advance to Phase 1 this week. 

Is there a date announced for the ice rinks reopening? 

High-performance training centers, where we do some of our off-ice workouts, will be able to reopen in Phase 1 of the de-escalation plan, but the specific date of entering Phase 1 varies by province. However, we do not have any information yet on whether our teams will have access to these centers once they open. As for ice rinks, we do not know when they will be able to reopen. 

What about team training?

Unfortunately, we do not have any information from the government or our skating club on when we will be able to have practice together again. For now, we will continue to have online team workouts, and we hope that we will be able to return to the ice soon! 

Sweden: Ice rinks never closed
In this crisis, Sweden is the exception. The country never closed its schools but has put in place distancing and hygiene rules. Sanitizing gel is available in the stores, workers who can do work from home and vulnerable people remain protected in isolation. That's it.

However, the country is also hit by the virus. As of Monday evening, the Washington Post reported that Sweden had registered 3,256 coronavirus-related deaths and more than 26,000 confirmed cases.

"The rinks are open, although the teams are doing more off-ice sessions this time of year. There is a distancing of principle, especially in the dressing room. The synchro teams continue to train on the ice," explains Sébastien Muller, a Jura Synchro's photographer living in Sweden.

Switzerland: Group up to 5 people
In Switzerland, reopening began two weeks ago. Schools, shops and restaurants have been allowed to reopen since Monday according to very strict health restrictions. Only young children have started school in half class, the oldest will resume in June. Meetings of more than 5 people are prohibited.

The majority of sports centers are still closed in Switzerland, as are the ice rinks. However, sport can be practiced in small groups of no more than five people (coach included), all body contact is prohibited and the hygienic rules and distance must be respected.

UK: Confusion about what to do and when
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s long-awaited plans for reopening Britain’s economy ran into a wave of criticism because there is a lot of confusion about what the situation is. "Starting this week we are allowed to go outside as long as we social distance. Workers who are not able to work from home are being encouraged to go to work. There is some confusion about using public transport," explains Taryn Davison, UK correspondent.

"There is no date announced about leisure facilities reopening. Many ice rinks have melted their pads. Currently, there is no information about teams being able to practise outside together and exercise is restricted to household groups. However, there may be more information by Wednesday," adds Taryn.

USA: One of the hardest-hit countries
Each state has a different situation; for instance, New York is the biggest hotspot where most cases have been confirmed. Some states are beginning to re-open while others are still on lockdown since it's based on the state's local government. I live in New Jersey, approximately 20 minutes from New York, and both states are still in lockdown. We are hoping the situation improves enough to start reopening slowly and soon. 

Since each state is in a different situation, the sports centers and rinks will open according to their state's local government. We hope that they will reopen in June, but it is uncertain at this time. When rinks open again, there were will be new restrictions and best practices to ensure the safety and health of skaters. There has been discussion over limiting the number of skaters on the ice at one time and potentially skating in cloth masks. 

Teams are hoping to begin practices together in June, but exact dates are still unknown. Varsity teams that are affiliated with a university like Miami University of Ohio and Adrian College do not start team practice until they arrive at school in August. A majority of all the U.S senior teams have been doing online practices in the meantime to stay active and be ready the second everyone can start practicing together. 

Updated by Tara Tahil, Jura Synchro's correspondent in the USA

Adrian College - USA. (Credits: Daniel Klerfors - 2020)

Please note that given the rapidly changing situation, info in this article may have changed at the time of reading. This article will not be updated. For more details about the measures to be observed, contact the government of your country.