The summer Olympic Games have synchronized swimming, even synchronized diving. But the winter games are once again taking place without the inclusion of synchronized skating.
The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday, July 18, issued its plans for the 2022 winter games in Beijing, and synchronized skating was not on the list of events.
Synchronized ice skating, or “synchro” as it is affectionately called by many skaters, is the fifth discipline of figure skating, along with men’s singles, women’s singles, ice dancing and pair skating.
Teams are made up of 12 to 20 skaters, and usually 16 are on the ice together at one time. As a team, they skate to music and create geometric shapes in a program—skating connected to one another and unconnected. It is the only skating discipline not included in the Olympics.
West Falmouth resident Stephen Murray competes on the Haydenettes, a team based in Lexington. The team is a 26-time national champion and five-time world bronze medalist. He started his synchro career with Icing on the Cape, a local team based in Bourne and Orleans, in 2007. He switched to the Hayden organization in 2010, working his way up through the lower level teams and becoming a Haydenette in 2016.
Discussion of synchro’s Olympic bid began in 2014, with hopes that the sport would be included in the 2018 Olympics.
That bid was unsuccessful.
In response, the Haydenettes coach, Saga Krantz, joined other coaches by focusing on advancing the caliber of the sport in the US, in hopes of seeing it in the Olympics one day.
According to Mr. Murray, “She pushes us hard every practice. She always demands the best from us, even if it has been a rough practice, because that’s what we’re here for, that’s what we do.”
As disappointed as he was to hear that synchro’s second Olympic bid was denied, Mr. Murray said he was not too surprised.
“We need to be more widespread; we need to be more known,” he said.
He said he also feels there is a stigma toward synchro.
Many within the wider US Figure Skating community think that “If you can’t do singles, you can’t do ice dance, you can’t do pairs, you go to synchro.”
However, as synchro has grown, the skills needed to be a synchro skater have encapsulated those that are needed to be a singles, ice dance or pairs skater, Mr. Murray said.
The refinement of what it means to be a synchro skater has increased the credibility of the sport, Mr. Murray said. “We need to get over the idea that doing synchro is what you do if you can’t do anything else,” Mr. Murray said.
Icing on the Cape skating director Alyssa Norton echoed Mr. Murray’s feelings on the stigma toward synchro. She feels the sport is “undervalued,” which is unfortunate as “many skaters put their whole heart” into the sport, she said.
Ms. Norton joined the Icing on the Cape coaching staff in 2013 and has since seen tremendous growth in the organization. Icing on the Cape attract skaters from all over Cape Cod and the South Shore. Recently, a few skaters from Nantucket have joined the teams.
The large number of athletes on each team is frequently mentioned as an obstacle to the community’s Olympic hopes. The IOC is hesitant to include a sport that would significantly increase the already large number of athletes at the Winter Olympics. To accommodate this, there have been discussions about reducing the number of skaters from 16 to 12; however Ms. Norton worries that having fewer than 16 skaters at a time will cause the sport to “lose its magic.”
“When you see 16 skaters on the ice doing the exact same thing at the exact same time, there’s nothing like it,” Mr. Murray said. “I’ve been competing in this for 12 years and there are still programs that I’ll watch and get the chills because it’s just that incredible what you can do with that depth of skill and what stories you can tell and what feelings you can portray. When you get the music right on the note with the lifts or the pivoting block, it’s something you can’t describe, unless you see it for yourself.”