Synchronized skating is a sport with its own levels of difficulty. It’s not just precision in moments, but also execution of difficult and creative moves that frequently earn high scores, much like in other forms of on-ice competitions such as figure-skating.
Last month, at the 25th edition of the Nova St-Hubert Synchro Invitation in Longueuil, skaters in nine divisions of the sport vied for gold in gala competitions that attracted numerous teams and appreciative spectators, well-wishers, and family and friends. Programmed to skate twice, each team was judged on two levels, the first at 0.5, the second in total.
The renowned Pirouettes de Laval’s pre-juvenile contingent scored 19.66 in the first phase and 17.45 in the second to reach the top of the podium where they were adorned with gold. Numbering 16, these U-12 skaters danced and dazzled for three exhilarating minutes to rousing cheers of on-lookers.
The not-so-well-kept secrets of the team’s top-level performance? Imaginative choreography and symphonically-synchronized teamwork that convinced the judges that they were the best.
“The principles on which they were judged included transitions, interpretation, skating skills, difficulty of elements, and ultimate performance. What you can witness in this sport, worthy of recognition, are speed, near-perfect teamwork, and detailed and difficult formation,” Luigi Massimo, whose two daughters train with Les Pirouettes at pre-juvenile level, stated to TLN by telephone.
Athleticism and artistry
“Synchronized skating tests style and technical skill. The Pirouettes achieved junior-level distinction by executing challenging movements on their way to gold, finally entering the record book, after five winless years. Last year they came in fourth,” Massimo added.
The popular international sport combines intense athleticism, elaborate on-ice artistry and, particularly at higher level, breathtaking speed. The Pirouettes are among ‘la crème de la crème’ of the synchro world. Provincial championships offer excellent opportunities to raise local awareness of the sport. Teams showcase 12 to 20 athletes skating at lightening speeds, one unit, in near-perfect harmony. Before competition, hundreds of hours are devoted to perfecting a routine, although the performance lasts only three minutes.
Coaches Vanessa Peloffy and Kaila Bertone focus on team confidence and consistency for two weeks prior to competition. Massimo specified that his daughters train two to three times per week, 5pm to 8pm, with a one-on-one teacher, in private classes.
Discussing costs in having his two girls participate in Les Pirouettes, Mr. Massimo conceded that it’s not cheap. “For Lea, it’s $3000 per year for lessons, besides the attire, and for Lisa who is one level higher it’s $5000, considering more lessons and more ice time.
Club Patinage Laval organizes all practices and ice time; provincial championships are overseen by each city. Coach Bertone, Canadian champion in Novice Pirouettes in 2010, and coach Peloffy, national champion (2016) for Nova Skating Club, are instrumental in team success, making decisions on all on-ice operations, including selection of team members, and choosing perfect music for the intense three-minute program.
Pursuit of excellence
“Finding the right music is critical because skaters have to connect with coaches. It’s the base for everything. If the music doesn’t work, if the judges don’t feel it, or the audience doesn’t get it, it’s recipe for failure,” said coach Bertone.
Coach Peloffy, winner of five national titles, said Les Pirouettes are committed to pursuing excellence. “They are taught leadership, accountability, perseverance, and commitment to teamwork with dignity, pride, and humility. Synchro skating isn’t only about wonderful speed; it’s elegance, discipline, beautiful figure, musical development, and fulfilling parents’ dreams to see their children gliding on ice like beautiful swans, to magical music in dreamy sensational dresses.”
Asked about his children’s commitment to academics, Massimo spared no enthusiasm in responding. “The sport brings discipline and teamwork. They do very well academically; they don’t suffer because of time on ice. They often bring their homework to the arena. I’m a parent supporting the organization through gathering sponsorships, getting the skaters media attention, raising funds for program development, and taking care of two pre-juvenile and juvenile teams. I have organized ‘The Bucket Kid’ – a fund-raiser at the Rockets game, Place Bell, for March 27, for pre-juvenile and juvenile teams. In return, the Pirouettes will be privileged to perform during intermission.”
Olympics on the horizon?
Launched as a ‘precision sport’ in 1956 at Michigan University by Dr. Richard Porter, Synchro Skating now counts over 600 teams in the U.S. alone. Canada, Hungary, China, Russia, Australia, Italy, Japan, Great Britain and numerous other countries presently field synchro contingents, reported to exceed 1000 teams world-wide. But the sport has yet to show its stuff on the world’s biggest sporting stage – the Olympics. When Synchro Skating becomes an Olympic sport, rest assured that skaters will sizzle, dazzle, and shine in glitter, gloss, and heart-warming winsome ways.