Erin Banco's 2010 World Synchro Champs blog

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Team Finland 1 celebrates their scores in the kiss-and-cry area after the free skate.
Team Finland 1 celebrates their scores in the kiss-and-cry area after the free skate. (Mickey Brown)


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By Erin Banco, special to
(04/11/2010) - Erin Banco dishes about all the action at the 2010 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Colorado Springs.

Saturday, April 10
The teams arrived at the World Arena Saturday morning for long program official practices. Many of the teams had rocky performances, some teams falling several times. Team Finland 1, who was in first place after the short program, had problems completing their pairs element. The team chose to execute a pairs lift, with one girl being held on the knees of the other, but one couple stumbled several times and fell once.

The Haydenettes and Crystalletes both had strong, clean practices.

Long program themes
Both Marigold Ice Unity and Team France skate to Les Miserables, but the teams chose different cuts of music. MIU will skate its long program last. The team ends by holding two girls standing up in the air.

Team Czech Republic and Team Italy skate to Indian-themed music, the Czech Republic skating to the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack and Italy skating to Bombay Nights.

Zamboni incident
In between the first flight and the second flight of the long program, the Zamboni driver entered the arena without realizing there was a women patching up the ice in front of him. Fans in the stands started to scream at the man driving the Zamboni, but he did not realize there was a woman in front of him. The woman was pushed by the Zamboni, but not injured, as she finally got out of the way.

Free skate
Marigold Ice Unity did not disappoint the crowd tonight. Its much-anticipated long program proved to be a big asset for the team. MIU placed second overall and had the largest comeback from the short program.

The Haydenettes skated a flawless program and earned third place. This is the first time the Haydenettes have earned a medal at the World Synchro Championships. Saga Krantz said that in her tenure with the team, she has never seen the girls skate such clean programs back to back. The team was overcome with tears after it found out it had finally earned a medal.

Team Finland 1 took first place with a well-executed program. No surprise there -- Finland 1 was the favorite coming into the competition.

The biggest surprise
Canada 2 earned fourth place overall in the competition. Some spectators in the crowd were surprised to see the team ranked above Canada 1, which skated a strong, technically advanced program. Canada 1 had been favored to place in the top three teams coming into the competition. The team ended up placing fifth.

The falls
Quite a few teams had falls in their free skate performances, including Team Japan, the Crystallettes and Team Surprise. Team Japan started out an artistically strong program but had an unfortunate fall in its no-hold block. The team received an overwhelming response from the crowd despite the slip up.

The medal ceremony
Erika Hoffman, who has been a big part of the skating community since she was young, took the podium for the Haydenettes in the medal ceremony. Former Haydenettes coach Lynn Benson presented the medals to the team.

Friday, April 9
Opening ceremonies
There was a good crowd on hand for the opening ceremonies. Canada and the United States had the largest cheering section.

The ceremony began with an all-girl group singing the National Anthem.

Following the anthem was a performance by a local synchronized skating team. The girls, who were no older than 5 years old, skated to "When You Wish Upon a Star." There were a few mishaps in their two-minute performance -- girls intersecting through the wrong holes and gliding on two feet for most of the program -- but the crowd cheered them on anyway.

Young, local skaters presented the flags of each country before national and world champions from the Broadmoor Figure Skating Club took the ice. They skated three routines to music from Glee, the popular TV show.

The Haydenettes skated a strong run-through on their ice, as did Marigold Ice Unity and the Rockettes.

Tensions were running high backstage near the locker rooms, as all the top teams were preparing for their practices right next to one another.

Saga Krantz, a former assistant with the Rockettes, spoke with the coaches of her old team. Both Finland teams showed support for one another with their infamous "Suomi Finland" cheer.

What's with all the gloves?
Team Russia and Team Surprise both sported gloves on their official practice ice today. Team Russia wore black gloves, and Team Surprise wore one white, sparkly glove on their left hands; they skated to Michael Jackson.

Teams are eager to stay on schedule. The shuttles running back to the hotels are cramped. The Haydenettes had to wait for a second bus to pick them up.

Mix up in announcements
There were several mix-ups in the announcements for official practices. Marigold Ice Unity was announced as Sweden 1, and Sweden 1 was announced as Finland 1. The girls laughed if off, ignored it and stepped onto the ice with confidence.

Crystallettes behind the scenes
The Crystallettes had a strong short program practice.

Before getting on to the ice, they completed their pre-performance rituals. Walking through the chute, their coach, Shannon Peterson, reminded them that there was another team on the ice.

"Stay focused," she said.

The girls lined up and waited to take the ice. They were each wearing an identical necklace, a team necklace, which they hid inside the neck seam of their dresses.

It was clear the girls were nervous, their legs jittery and shaky. They stretched their legs and arms and gave each other back massages.

Peterson led the team in a relaxing breathing exercise.

"Breath in...1, 2, 3 and out...1, 2, 3."

The girls wiped off their blades with the same green towel and jetted on to the ice with enthusiasm that would send them through almost two full consecutive performances.

"Just remember our checklist," Peterson said. (The team had a checklist of elements to focus on in their practice.)

One of the team's chaperones discretely slipped back into the chute, out of view from the practice. She has a daughter on the team.

"I never watch -- I always get too nervous," she said.

The chaperone said the team has been extremely focused throughout its time in Colorado Springs.

"They are so in the zone," she said.

Despite staying focused, the Crystallettes have found time to say "hi" to the teams with which they connected at their international competitions -- Italy and Australia.

Unofficial practices are underway here at the World Arena in Colorado Springs. The first teams entered the rink early this morning for warm-up at 8 a.m. The top contenders for this year's competition will skate last at official practices and in the last flight in the competition tonight.

Team boxes
Each team competing this weekend made team boxes to give to the other contenders. The boxes are lined up on display on the concourse level of the World Arena. Inside the boxes are good-luck notes, candy and other assorted gifts. The outside of each box is decorated according to long program theme. Spectators can go to the concourse level of the arena near Section 218 to see the boxes.

Fans travel far to watch their favorite teams compete
Natalia Swartz, a senior who skates for the Haydenettes junior line, the Lexettes, traveled to Colorado this weekend to cheer on the Haydenettes. She said this trip was a gift from her parents for graduation. Natalia has always wanted to compete at a world competition, but her team fell just shy of traveling to Sweden for the 2010 World Junior Challenge Cup. Natalia brought along her mother and sister to Colorado as well. She said her sister does not mind spending a family vacation in Colorado because she loves watching skating, too. Natalia's sister, Jenn, competed with the Colonials on the Team USA junior line in high school.

Sylvie Kadamien, who skated with Team Australia last year, traveled to watch her team compete. Several Team Australia members said they are looking to place higher than their 19th-place finish last year.

Team Australia has been away from home for nearly two weeks, practicing for a week and a half in Minnesota before traveling to Colorado Springs. The team members said they have been "eating a lot and traveling to Target" in between practices. They also had a chance to go to a Denver Nuggets basketball game.

Difficulty of steps
The first flight of teams at official practices included Croatia, Australia, France, Netherlands and Germany. These teams executed mostly Level 3 step sequences, and almost all of their no-hold blocks were Level 3s. The top contenders will be attempting Level 4s.

The buzz
A lot of spectators are anticipating the last flight of Friday night's short program to be one of the most competitive flights this competition has seen in a long time. Most of the chatter seems to be revolving around Marigold Ice Unity and its performances. They will be skating to "I Wanna be Like You" by G. Burns for the short program and Les Miserables for the long program.

Merita Mullen, who coaches Team Excel, a junior line out of Boston, Mass., said Marigold's long program "moved her to tears" when she watched it during unofficial practices.

The other team creating some chatter among the fans is the Crystallettes. The Crystallettes have not been to this competition since 2004. Many of the Team USA fans are rooting for them to place in the top half among the 23 total teams competing.

Thursday, April 8
All 23 teams took their official practices at the World Arena and World Arena Ice Hall extremely seriously today, as they should have. They were "in the zone," focusing on the looming task at hand -- competing at the 2010 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships.

It was into the rink to warm up, into the locker room and onto the ice to practice -- no lingering in between. No time to stop and look at the "awesome" new merchandise being sold at the rink.

The cheering from the fan sections did not faze the skaters. All the parents and fans of the teams showed up to the practices to support their friends and family. There were dozens of people in the stands. (Usually, at smaller competitions, the judges are the only ones to show up.)

The teams took the ice wearing a variety of things. They wore gray spandex pants and black tank tops, dresses adorned in gems...and then there were Japan's outfits. Japan's official practice outfits won the prize for most elaborate. The all-girl team wore glittery, sequined tops that looked like disco balls.

Girls (and a few boys) from around the world settle their nerves in their own unique way, some warming up on and off the ice to popular musical selections from their countries. Others unwind by sitting outside the rink, soaking up the 60-degree weather while gazing at the peaking mountains in the distance.

For the most part, the teams keep to themselves, supporting each other with high fives and pats on the back after successful run-throughs. The parents, however, are having no problem mingling with other countries' parents. They gather in the hotel lobby bars and restaurants for drinks.

Thursday night, the teams congregated in the lobby of the Cheyenne Mountain Resort and Spa before heading to the draw. All the skaters were dressed to impress, wearing tired, but nonetheless, excited smiles.

Overall, there is a sense of eagerness for the competition to begin among the parents, fans, officials and skaters.