Sunrise teams in Russia train the next generation of synchro skaters


Sunrise-1 executing their brand element called the “cvetochek”, meaning “floweret” in English. (Credits: Team Sunrise-1)

"Skating synchro with team Sunrise – 1 was the best decision in my life". So began our conversation with Polina Vlasova, who has been skating in the Russian team for three years.

ADV picture
Multiple winners and prizewinners of stages of the Russian Cup, bronze medalists of the Russian Nationals 2018-2020 and 3x times winners of Leon Lurje Trophy (2018-2020), Sunrise – 1 is Russian junior team from Saint-Petersburg. 

Today, let's meet skater Polina Vlasova and her coaching staff. Polina used to skate in pair, but when her partner finished his career, Polina decided to try herself in synchronized skating. With her teammate Sofia Grinko, they are the two captains of the team Sunrise – 1. 

Sofia Grinko and Polina Vlasova are team captains of Sunrise-1. (Credits: Team Sunrise-1)

Sunrise is not the only team; it’s a family that includes one junior and three novice teams: Sunrise – 2Sunrise – 3 (Advanced Novice) and Golden Prize (Basic Novice).

Over the years of working with the teams, a large coaching staff has been formed, where each coach has their own and specific tasks.

Three main coaches work with Sunrise – 1 and Sunrise – 2 on the ice: Shikirun Tatiana, Govenko Natalia and Irina Jancen. Sunrise – 3 is led by Olga Sereda, the head coach of the youngest Golden Prize, and Tatiana Shikirun.

Pavel Drozd helps the teams not only improve their skating skills but also participates in the program creation. Two coaches are working with the teams during off-ice practices: choreographer Sergey Shtykov and general physical training coach Olga Belkina.

ADV picture
All these highly professional coaches have the mission to develop both the individual skills of skaters and a team-specific skating style.

Sunrise teams are characterized by soft and slight skating with deep edges and smooth work of the knees. They also present exciting programs which always full of details and new choreographic ideas. By the way, the creative spirit in the editing of the programs comes from Tatiana Shikirun. 

The coaches: Olga Sereda, Tatiana Shikirun, Natalia Govenko, and Sergey Shtykov (Credits: Team Sunrise-1)

Natalia Govenko, the coach of the teams, told us about Sunrise’s particularities that she highlights: “We try to adhere to the style of the St. Petersburg school of figure skating. The teams' entire ice coaching staff are former athletes of the team Paradise and students of Irina Yakovleva and Alexander Yakovlev.

Of course, while creating programs and working with our athletes, we build on our coaches' experience: clean body lines and hands, strong leg positions, precise steps and elements, beautiful posture, soft gliding, choreographic fullness of performances. Every season we try and come up with programs that differ from the previous one.

Skating by creating new images is interesting to the athletes themselves, as well as to the audience and judges. Another distinctive characteristic is the development and introduction of new transitions or modifications to the elements that no one has done before.”

Sunrise-1 indeed is a very creative team. Their signature element has become “cvetochek” (“floweret” in English), how they call it. For the first time the team performed it in their free-program of the season 2018-2019 “Ave Maria”, and they keep improving this gorgeous transition every season.

The idea of its creation appeared after watching the performances of the roller teams, which sometimes perform so fantastic elements in their programs. The coaches were also inspired by Russian dance groups, whose round dances are traditional and very spectacular elements. 

Sunrise introduced this remarkable circle idea on the ice. From last season, this element became very popular and many teams all over the world tried and repeat it. “We are very positive about it! We really want the creators of "floweret" to be known not only in synchro but also in the whole figure skating world.” – said Polina Vlasova. 

The performance at the 3rd Stage of the Russian Cup that took place in the middle of December in Togliatti was a real breakthrough for Sunrise-1. That competition was like a rehearsal of the Russian Nationals because all the strongest teams competed there, so winning second place was a good fit for the competition to come.

The last time Sunrise-1 took the Nationals silver medal was back in 2013 and the team’s dream to go to the Junior Worlds is so long-standing and especially important now. 

ADV picture
“The goal of this season was to qualify for the World Junior Championships 2021, which implies a good performance at the Russian Championship. Unfortunately, the Worlds were cancelled, so the Russian Nationals (held this week) are the most important competition for us this season.

We’re preparing in the usual mode: we work out and improve elements, pay attention to unison, expressiveness and emotions.” – told us Polina Vlasova. 

Team Sunrise-1 after the short program at the 3rd Stage of the Russian Cup in Togliatti in December. (Credits: Sunrise-1)

The challenges push the Sunrise teams forward. In particular, during this year 2020 marked by the pandemic. For example, in August, half of the athletes and coaching staff suffered COVID-19, and the rest of the athletes also could not train at this time, because they were in quarantine. 

According to Natalia Govenko, their strongest point is the training system developed by the coaching staff. Thanks to such organization of the practising process, they can prepare athletes for each their team and work productively in conditions of limited time. This system has been developed for many years, but Sunrise continue to improve and strengthen it every season.

Furthermore, due to a large number of teams, in St. Petersburg synchronized skating has become a very high competitive area, which is the engine of the process. Coaching three novice teams, the staff bring up a new reliable and skilled generation for the juniors in the Petersburg unique skating style.

Discipline, good organization of all team members (athletes and coaches) and mutual respect help the coaching staff to cope with a large number of athletes, each of whom requires an individual approach.

A crucial role is played by captains, who much help in working with teams. We are also assisted by sports psychologist Tatiana Svidlova, who works with the teams' athletes and teaches the coaching staff how to work with teenagers in sports properly. This complex professional approach makes the team stable and confident and indicates its development; undoubtedly, the team Sunrise-1 pretends to leadership at Russian and international level.   

The team Sunrise-1 makes a huge contribution to the development of synchronized skating in Russia, which keeps developing.

There is an increase in the number of young skaters preferring synchronized skating among other figure skating disciplines. More and more teams from different regions are formed, more and more teams of different categories take part in international competitions and perform there successfully. The geography of national competitions, as well as their number, is expanding. 

Sunrise-1 in the Kiss &Cry zone. (Credits: Sunrise-1)

For Natalia Govenko, interest in synchronized skating around the world is increasing: “There are more and more information resources dedicated to synchronized skating, which arouses the interest of viewers in our sport. High competition among the leading teams in the world results in an increase in the level of skill of the teams, creation of interesting programs, new images and elements.

This is very inspiring and motivating! You are waiting for the start of the season with excitement because you want to see new productions of the strongest teams! The ISU Technical Committee is constantly working to ensure that innovations in the rules stimulate teams' development and increase their level of skating. All this allows the sport to develop and become more and more progressive and interesting for athletes and the audience.”