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Skaters and coaches are left with uncertainty


Team Icicles Senior - GBR. (Credits: Ice Galaxy - 2019)

On Tuesday, the UK government announced that indoor skating rinks were forbidden by law to reopen with the latest easing of the lockdown regulations.

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July 4th was the date people expected rinks and other leisure venues to be given the go ahead to reopen but yesterday’s shock announcement brought disappointment to many. Rinks have been working hard to ensure that they can be Covid-secure in order to safely reopen but when this will happen is still unknown.

No official date has been given for them to reopen, although there are some hopeful suggestions that it could be late July with other leisure facilities. A petition for the reopening of the rinks has been created on the government’s official petitions site. Until then, skaters and coaches are left with uncertainty and, for the British synchro teams, missing more than just the ice.

“I guess we are all in the same boat. It’s more to us than winning. It’s the tightness and close relationships our teams have. I think everyone feels very lost and at the moment we have no clue what our future holds. But we’ve been working hard and are ready for whatever lies ahead.”

Dannii Hunt - Head Coach of Lee Valley London Skating Club

Many of the teams in the UK have been busy preparing for the season ahead, regardless of the circumstances. Team sports and group training is still not allowed, except for specified elite sports and so clubs have had to improvise. There have been innovative new training regimes and teams have been united through the media of video rather than their usual face-to-face contact. 

“We have focussed on flexibility with yoga and ballet and have also taken lots of dance classes in different styles from Show Tunes to hip hop. We’ve done whole Club sessions and have now started to work on new programs, building on them session by session and they are really starting to take shape. We have only managed to do this because of zoom and if anyone had told me I would be interacting with the teams like this in January, I wouldn’t have believed you.

I have been grateful to each and every skater that has turned up and tried their best in these strange times… We are all really looking forwards to being able to train together soon in any shape or form, be it on the floor, on wheels or on the ice.”

Sam Ozard - Head Coach of Altrincham Synchro Club

British Ice Skating has also created a series of online webinars on a variety of different subjects, from Technical Specialist Amanda Clinton explaining this year’s rules and Chris Buchanan teaching the importance of well executed steps and turns. Other notable sessions included Hayden Synchro coach Lee Chandler and Geneviève Rougeau from Les Suprêmes and a Q&A from Jess Holland and Sofie Ekstrom-Gabb of Nottingham’s Icicles Senior team.

Of course, for our senior and junior teams, expecting to compete at the World Championships next year and watching other countries go back on the ice has been a challenge, as explained by Emily from Nottingham Synchronised Skating Academy.

“First of all, I’d like to say that I hope everyone is keeping well and safe during these difficult times! I have been in Icicles Senior since we first formed in 2018, but had previously been in Icicles Junior for 5 years. It’s definitely a strange one to say how I’m feeling at the moment. Usually by now we would be training our skills over the Summer, ready for our annual summer camp. So, when I think of it like that it does feel disappointing, however, on the other hand, I like to look at the positives. 

It has given me, and the club, the perfect opportunity to train other aspects of our skating, that we might have usually overlooked. For example, all the other aspects that come into my skating such as; flexibility, conditioning, balance, and technique etc, have been given more attention, which I know will only make me and the team stronger for the future. It has also opened our eyes, into how we can use technology to expand our ways of training. We have quite a few skaters that commute to training and would have to travel for more than 3+ hours, which limited how often we could train together in a week. Whereas, now we know that we can also train through video call, it’s opened up a whole new opportunity for us as a team. 

I could sit here and say that we would be at a disadvantage, because other teams/countries are already back on the ice, but I think everything happens for a reason, and it’s not good to have that mindset. Obviously, I am very keen to get back to the ice, don’t get me wrong, but for now, I’m content and grateful to still be able to stay in touch with my team and coaches, and know that we’re safe.”

Emily, skater on team Icicles Senior
For now, there are many questions to answer regarding synchro skating and far too few answers. What the discipline does have, is a community of skaters and coaches, committed to the sport they love, banding together in the worst of times.

“We are all really struggling with the separation… From a coaching perspective, I think the major concern is not the initial return to the ice, we all have great skills exercises and drills, it’s more to do with the uncertainty for the rest of the season. Will we have competitions? Will the requirements change so we remain out of hold through the programme? How do we develop the routines whilst still social distancing? These are all challenges that every synchro coach around the globe is currently facing. 

It’s been motivational seeing some of the better know teams in Finland and Italy return and it has been great to be able to access online activities from individual clubs, the ISU and OneTeamMVMT. My skaters have all engaged with as many online classes as possible, including fitness, flexibility and psychology, as well as listening in to technical seminars too. I have some true synchro geeks in the Academy.

We’ve tried to keep everyone involved, often setting them weekly challenges to find clips of ‘them most interesting transition’ or ‘the most intricate steps in a NHE’. Some are still finding the distance from their friends difficult. The old saying of ‘you don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone’ springs to mind. Many have invested in inline skates and we are all busy investigating local places that are smooth enough to meet up for a socially distanced skate.

To all of my synchro family I would like to wish a huge amount of luck, moving forward into what will be the most strangest of seasons any of us has ever had to face."


Amanda Hembrow-Jones, British Ice Skating, Synchronized Skating board director and Head Coach of Sheffield Synchronized Skating Academy