#Synchro

They just won their first gold medal of the season


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The Adult team JääLeidit was founded 17 years ago in Helsinki. (Credits: S.J. Photos - 2020)

"Synchro skating is just the best thing you can do!" Anna Vidal, captain of the adult JääLeidit team in Finland, smiles. With her teammates, they won the first competition of the season this weekend. Let's meet this very motivated team that has an enormous passion for our sport.

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Adult teams are often extraordinary, and that's undoubtedly why so many people are passionate about them. They are composed of former top skaters or just people completely passionate about synchronized skating.

Team JääLeidit ("IceLadies" in English) is for sure that kind of team. Composed of 24 skaters aged 24 to over 60, they are coached by former Helsinki Rockettes skater Satu Nylund. JääLeidit trains twice a week on ice and has off-ice training once a week. The team includes women who have been involved in figure skating in their youth and women who have only started the sport as adults. With their program “Better Together”, they are planning to take part in 5-6 competitions this year.


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To introduce this synchro team, let's meet Anna Vidal, the captain of JääLeidit. At 41 years old, she is skating her 8th season with the team. 

"I started my figure skating career by coincidence. I went to the Salmisaari Sports Center in Helsinki to meet my husband, who does indoor climbing. As I waited for him, I went to see what was happening in the ice rink downstairs. I have always loved to watch figure skating and wished to see some beautiful performances, but I saw something even better: I saw beginner adult skaters practicing moves on the ice. I never knew that adults could start figure skating from scratch. I wanted to join them immediately," she says.


A second family
Anna used to play ice hockey in the women's 1st division at a young age, so ice as an element was familiar to her. "I immediately contacted the figure skating club and got to practice the following week. I had a good motivation and the will to stay involved," she remembers.

"The team has become like another family to me, with which I can share everyday joys and sorrows. Whatever happens in life, my teammates are there and supportive. Friendship also extends beyond the rinks. Skating today is a big part of my identity, and I could no longer imagine life without it."


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Anna Vidal's 11-year-old daughter Emilia skates in HTK's MiniMints, a competitive synchro juvenile team. 

Team JääLeidit is from Helsinki, Finland, and is part of the Helsingin Taitoluisteluklubi (the same club as the Helsinki Rockettes and the reigning Junior World Champions Team Fintastic).

In Finland, ice rinks are open, and synchro teams can practice normally. "We only need to use masks when not on the ice. During competitions, the skaters have to follow strict rules. "We only get to go to the rink building for our performance, and we need to leave straight after that. In some competitions, we get to wait for our results and possible medals with captains and our coach. In other competitions, they send us home by post."

"But we are still happy that we have some competitions! Of course, we are afraid that the rinks will be closed again, but we will practice normally as long as possible and try not to worry too much."

Anna explains that at the moment in Finland, there are over 200 infections per day (Finland population is about 5,5 M). Finnish are asked to use masks at rinks (when not on ice), public transportation, shops, and other public indoor places. Most of the people in Finland are working remotely at home.

Traveling as a team to create wonderful memories
JääLeidit participates in international competitions abroad every other year. "This season should have been the year to travel to some nice competition, but because of Covid-19, we are not able to travel. We hope the next year we will be back on tracks," enthuses Anna.

In the previous seasons, the Adult team travelled to Mozart Cup in Austria and Skate Berlin Adults in Germany. "Quite awesome trips both. The Berlin competition, in particular, was special. We had developed as a team, and we won the competition. There was a good party after that! We also made friends with some Austrian adult skaters of the team Lemon Ice."


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The next competition for Anna Vidal and her team will be the 1st National Qualifications on Saturday, 21.11. in Jyväskylä, Finland. (Credits: S.J. Photos - 2020)

During the lockdown in Finland, the love for skating and the craving to be on ice was immense for Anna and her teammates. "We've learned to keep in touch by Zoom or Teams. Some of us were rollerblading, and also I bought off-ice blades. I just needed to glide. But like this year’s theme, we are better together! Nothing beats the feeling of skating and succeeding together."

JääLeidit's program has been ready for a few weeks now, and the team already had its first competition last weekend in Kerava, and they even won the event on Saturday. "We have grown together and improved for years, and we know our style of skating. The team spirit and motivation is very high in our team. We have fun together, and still, we want to learn more and keep developing together," says Anna.


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Each year, Adult teams as JääLeidit take part in three national competitions and in the Helsinki area regional championships.

"We wish this season to take part in at least one more competition if possible. One competition in December in Turku was already cancelled because of Covid-19, and some clubs won’t send their teams to competitions outside the area they live in. Fingers crossed that we’ll be able to compete!"

"I’m not surprised many adults want to be part of this big skating family"
There are lots of adult teams in Finland. About 30 around the country and even three all-male-teams! There is also the Masters category (ISU Adults) for former top synchro skaters. This division now has ten teams in Finland, including team Best Before, from the same club as JääLeidit. "Most of Best Before members are ex-Rockettes skaters. Our coach also skates on the team," she continues.

"Finland has many ice rinks probably because ice hockey is huge in our country and therefore there are many opportunities to use rinks. Skating is also included in our school sports during wintertime. Some of the adults have found synchro skating through their kids’ hobby. Synchro skating is just the best thing you can do. I’m not surprised many adults want to be part of this big skating family, too. Anyone can start skating. You may get a second family and motivation to train regularly."


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Team JääLeidit's new program “Better Together”. (Credits: Sari Niskanen - 2020)

One of the advantages of the Adult division is that there are many different levels of teams. It means that skaters can start almost from zero and get more skills as they go. The atmosphere is also friendly between teams. "We like to think of other adult teams as sisters and brothers, and we like to cheer each other," says Anna. 

Speaking of the difficulties, Anna explains that they "need to be among the top 12 teams nationally to get to compete in the final competition, or the season can be cut short. This year there is some kind of silver final competition, which is great progress!" Distance may also be a difficulty in some parts of Finland.

Sometimes adult teams also just get so small that it’s hard to keep the team up, and the skaters might need to find another team to continue skating synchro. And according to Anna, "the happy difficulties" are baby booms - "you never know who will get the next baby"!