Miami University Takes Silver at World Synchronized Skating ChampionshipsBy Kelly Hodge
Photo by Paul Harvath
(3/31/07) - When Canada 1 took the ice as the first team in the last group of the free skate, the sold out crowd at the John Labatt Centre was on fire with their thunderous applause and cheering. But at the end of the night, it was Sweden 1 standing on the top of the podium, and Miami University feeling like they were on top of the world.
After eight straight World Championships where Team USA "just missed" the podium with a fourth or fifth place finish, Miami University finally broke into the top, earning the silver medal. Not only to the athletes, but also to their supporters and all of the U.S. synchronized athletes and coaches present, the first ever world medal for the United States in synchronized skating shone like gold. To top off the night, the Haydenettes moved up to fourth place. The second and fourth place finishes were not only the best finish ever for Team USA, but the strongest overall finish of any country at these Championships.
The competition was an exciting one – right down to the last second. Skating third in the final group, Sweden's Team Surprise rocked the house. Skating to a disco theme and decked out in bright multi-colored dresses, the team was nearly flawless. They attacked their program with speed, power and superb unison, beginning right from their opening block all the way through to the last element – a moves in isolation with three exciting star lifts. The team won the free skate with a record 144.70 points and 222.24 overall – a solid 24 points ahead of their nearest competitors.
"It felt very good today. We are very happy, it was just fabulous," captain Magdalena Sievertsson said.
"It is pure love," skater Liselott Nilsson continued. "We have the strength to focus at every practice both thorough our head coach, Andrea Dohany, and our mental coach. They help us focus and find the right mental triggers in the right places," she said of the team's ability to consistently place at the top.
Miami University had a long night. Drawing to skate last in the competition and fifth in a powerhouse group, the Redhawks were ready to go, and the door was open. Russia had a rough skate, dropping all the way from second to sixth before Miami even took the ice, and Finland's Team Unique, who had been less than a point away, also made some mistakes. Miami took advantage of the opportunity and performed their “Black Magic” program one last time with everything they had.
A small fall early on – in the line, only the third element of the program, could have really rattled some teams, but Miami had come too far to let that get them down.
"We were confident, and we didn't let the fall affect us," said captain Jenna King. "We just pulled together and finished strong."
The team completed the program with growing energy from the audience, nailing every other element and earning 128.96 points. Not quite as high as their personal best of 130.31 at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, but good enough for a solid second place in the free skate. Their total score of 198.71 landed them on the podium.
"Our focus was on ourselves tonight and what we could bring to the table – not what anyone else was doing," Ashley Diederich said. "We love our long and we felt the strength. We just flipped on a switch in the beginning and got it done. It was a really great performance."
In third place was the hometown team, NEXXICE, skating as Team Canada 1 at this event. Their free skate to music from Edward Scissorhands was solid, clean and safe. Aside from a small collision in their first intersection, they had no major errors and performed well to an incredibly supportive crowd.
"The crowd was overwhelming," their team captain said. "But we were expecting the noise and we used it as a fuel to add to our energy in the program. Skating that free skate was the best experience of my life in synchronized skating, and I think I can say that for everyone else on Team Canada, too."
Despite finishing fifth in both the short program and the free skate, the point total of 194.08 was just enough to edge out the Haydenettes for the bronze medal.
Entering the free skate in sixth place, the Haydenettes were determined to move up. They had nothing to lose and skated that way, putting out one of their strongest programs of the season. Starting with a beautiful circular step sequence, they floated through each element of their free skate to "Atlantis" with strong edge quality and flow. Their program was highlighted by an excellent no hold step sequence and an impressive moves in the field section. The team earned 125.65 points in the free skate and 193.36 overall – less than one point away from a bronze medal finish.
It was a good night and a breakthrough year for Team USA, as both teams demonstrated the depth of quality we have in our country. No other country in the world was able to have both of their teams in both the World Championships and World Challenge Cup for Juniors secure spots in the top five.