Canadian synchro skaters train in Breckenridge
April 1, 2010
Athletes have long trained at high elevation to gain a competitive edge. So, for four days, a synchronized ice skating team from Toronto will train at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge, in order to prepare for the 2010 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Colorado Springs.
The team, Black Ice, has qualified for the world championships for the last seven years and has always placed in the top six – often garnering gold, silver and bronze medals.
U.S. Figure Skating, the national governing body for the sport of figure skating, ushered in championship-caliber synchronized skating worldwide when it hosted the first championship in 2000. This year’s championship brings 24 teams from as far as South Africa, Iceland, Croatia and New Zealand to compete April 9-10. Out of the approximately 525 synchro teams in the United States, only two qualified to make it to worlds.
Synchronized skating is a team sport in which eight to 20 skaters perform a program full of speed, intricate formations, lifts and challenging steps.
Black Ice established itself 18 years ago. It is made up of 20 skaters, 16 of whom will compete in this year’s Worlds, ranging in age from 15 to 31. The average age is 21.
The core group has been together for five years, which coach Cathy Dalton attributes to the team’s success (and, in fact, one of the women has been on the team for 15 years). Dalton has coached the team for all 18 years.
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She decided to come to Breckenridge to help skaters adjust to higher elevations than Toronto. In Colorado Springs, they will compete at 6,035 feet above sea level.
“We know (training in Breckenridge) will help,” Dalton said. “We’ve definitely looked into it. There are a lot of studies with alpine skiers.”
However, while in Breckenridge, the skaters won’t be able to participate in fun activities like skiing and tubing, due to risk of injury.
“It will feel like a bit of a holiday … but it will be a challenge for our administration staff to keep the girls focused when they’re in Breckenridge,” Dalton said, laughing, and adding, “but they’re pretty focused.”
The team’s practice sessions are open to the public. Practices usually begin with run-throughs of the routines, and then the skaters practice sections of routines.
Since its inception, synchro has stepped up to a technical level that “rivals that of ice dancers now at the world level,” Dalton said. The sport now includes lifts similar to those in cheerleading (without the tossing, due to the danger of blades). And the speeds skaters reach are incredible. “Some of our new skaters cry (because) they don’t want to go through the intersections at that speed.”