Training Like Olympians: Haydenettes Celebrate World Silver Medal with Support System

The Haydenettes earned unprecedented success this season with their silver medal at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships. One of their keys was their expansive support team, including coaches and Olympians from other disciplines, who worked to push synchronized skating to a new level.

It’s been eight years since a team from the United States climbed the World podium in synchronized skating.

In 2007, Miami University became the first U.S. team to earn a World medal with a silver in London, Ontario. The Haydenettes went on a historic run in the 2010s with five World bronze medals from 2010-16. Since the 2016 event, Team USA has not been able to crack the top four in the sport’s biggest stage.

This April in Zagreb, Croatia, the 2024 Haydenettes had their best Worlds performance to date, earning the silver medal to cap their best international season as an organization. The U.S. and Challengers Series champions took a new approach to the season after a pressure-filled 2022-23 campaign – skating with passion and embracing a clean slate. Leading into the World Championships, the Boston-based squad had a few days to themselves, but took the time to re-center themselves heading into the event after a meeting with their sports psychologist.

“Saga set up a meeting with Lauren (McHenry) two days before the competition,” Autumn Coulthard said. “We talked about how much we have appreciated the season and she created a space for us to share gratitude and love with the team. Everyone was on the same page that Worlds is a celebration of our season, these programs and all our hard work. Everyone got pretty emotional and it was a cute moment. I feel like I got a lot of closure for the season before we even competed.” 

“We were shaking out the nerves the first practice day and I think that Zoom call really helped us,” Rosa Hahn added. “We had our two 20-minute practices the next day and I remember thinking that we were so on. That’s when I really felt like this could be a special event. Those sessions really flipped a switch and we were calm and ready to do our job.”

The Haydenettes had a nearly flawless short program that put them into third place heading into the finale. Historically, the Haydenettes have struggled in the short program at Worlds with falls and mishaps, something that was not lost on the team. It was the organization’s first small medal in seven years.

“Earlier in the season when we did well in the short program, we would come into the next day with a clean slate,” Hahn said. “But this time I think the short really got us fired up about the long program and was extra motivating. We were not scared, and I think that helped us deliver on the free skate. I think that attack really showed in our performance and elevated it.”

That added motivation paid off in the free skate with the Haydenettes delivering their best performance of the season to jump into second place. The emotional moment was embraced by the team, coaches and especially their families in the crowd.

“We haven’t previously had that climatic moment at the end of the season,” Coulthard said. “It was huge for all of our coaches and managers who have been with the team for so long. Saga was really proud and that made the moment even more special. We had a parent’s party afterwards and they were so excited. I swear they were more excited than us. My mom is telling everyone that her daughter is a World silver medalist and honestly I don’t think it has really hit me yet.”

Their near-perfect rendition of “Who Wants to Live Forever” had left a lasting impression on the team, crowd, announcers and fans at home, including U.S. Olympic Team Event bronze medalist and long-time Haydenettes collaborator Simon Shnapir.

“Their free skate gave me the chills, and that doesn't happen very often,” Shnapir said. “It was close to the best they could have possibly done, and it was incredible to watch. All year we talked about skating with passion, and that was super evident during that performance. Those are the performances that you remember forever.”

Shnapir is one of member of the expansive team behind the team for the Haydenettes. He has been collaborating with Haydenettes head coach Saga Krantz for nearly a decade to assist with pairs elements, skating skills and performance quality.

“It’s been fun to try new things in synchro that you just couldn’t do in pairs,” Shnapir said. “With two or three people lifting, you can get more creative and challenge yourself to do something new. It is definitely fun and we come up with some cool ideas and concepts, borrowing ideas from acrobatics, dance and cheerleading. You need to forget what you know and create something completely new and exciting.”

More recently, the Haydenettes have leaned on another familiar face from Team USA, 2022 Olympic ice dancer Jean-Luc Baker. Baker started working with the team in February 2023 and has continued to collaborate on dance spins, transitional lifts and expression.

“We dove into expression and really feeling yourself throughout the performance,” Baker said. “That was really fun for me, because I feel like I pushed them to really get into their emotions and trust in themselves through their skating. Relating your own personal stories to your skating makes your performance so much more real. I really emphasized how each individual is perfect as they are, and even though we are trying to perform in unison, you shouldn’t try to be like another person. You need to be yourself and embrace your unique strengths.”

Fresh perspectives have been instrumental for this Haydenettes team as they leaned into their clean slate of a season. While Krantz drills the technical elements and choreography, input from Shnapir and Baker help to lift the team’s performance and integrate elements from other disciplines.

“I remember a practice when Simon and Jean-Luc were there and working on our facials,” Coulthard said. “They are both super honest and can speak to the performance and skating skills. They will tell us when they aren’t feeling it and let us know that we need to dig into the emotion and give our all. They have also given us great advice on the mental aspect of this sport and I think both Simon and Jean-Luc set us up well for Worlds.”

“Simon and Jean-Luc are both Olympians,” Hahn added. “Yes, synchro is not in the Olympics yet, but do you wait until synchro makes it to train like an Olympic athlete? No. We want to train like Olympians now. We all appreciate that they hold us to that level of accountability and respect. They know we are capable of being at that elite level and they push us to get there.”

The Haydenettes drive for excellence is something that is noted and appreciated by their collaborators and their training mates across all disciplines at The Skating Club of Boston.

“They are elite professional athletes,” Shnapir said. “The drive and aura of this team stays consistent regardless of who is on the team. They know why they are there, what they are doing and what their goals are. Their focus is striking. They have lofty goals and will work hard to get there. It’s really nice to have another top-tier, elite-level discipline at The Skating Club of Boston. I think that creates a motivating atmosphere and allows different athletes to learn from each other and push each other.”

As a newcomer to the sport of synchronized skating, Baker has also been in awe of the dedication and drive of the team, as well as the chaos of choreographing 16 people on the ice at once.

“It’s so cool to see them get the recognition they deserve,” Baker said. “Most of them are full-time students as well, which is really challenging. They are so dedicated and grind at every practice. They find the time before and after school to skate, which is really amazing to see. I hope one day synchro is in the Olympics. They embody so much sportsmanship and I think it would be a fun, rowdy event.”

While synchronized skating has continued to borrow aspects of singles, pairs and dance over the years, it also brings its own unique qualities to the skating community that could benefit any skater of any type.

“I think the camaraderie and sportsmanship in synchro is one of a kind and would be beneficial for all skating disciplines,” Hahn said. “I am proud of how synchro athletes are kind and supportive. I think it makes you a better teammate and carries into the real world.”

“I think the versatility in synchro is really unique,” Coulthard added. “You need taller skaters, shorter skaters, people that are good at jumps, people that are good at spins, etc. There is such a range and it has made me appreciate my own strengths as well as what others bring to the table. Precision is also a huge part of our sport. In singles, if you forget a part of your program, you can just improvise a little bit. That doesn’t fly in synchro. You really have to drill the muscle memory and be accountable for yourself and the team.”

Precision is paramount to success in synchronized skating and has been a key ingredient to Krantz’s recipe for the last 18 seasons. Heading into Worlds, the team doubled down on their technical work and had the highest base value of any team in the competition.

“I am really proud of our tech score,” Hahn said. “We made it our mission after U.S. Championships to get all of the calls we needed to. We broke down every element and discussed what was required to get those levels. I feel like it is very tangible evidence of the work we put in. We all knew exactly what we needed to do and made it our job to know the rules. It really showed because we did not miss a call.”

“I think this year we really trained smarter, not harder,” Coulthard said. “In previous seasons, I think we were going hard 100% of the time. We still work hard, but we drill things more strategically. We are focusing on a few things at a time and really drilling in the tech as well as emoting. Sometimes we are focused on facials, sometimes it's getting into your knees, and we have been better about explicitly vocalizing that this season.”

Like all good things, this fairytale of a season has come to an end and the Haydenettes are already gearing up for 2024-25. The new team had their first practice on May 1, just days after celebrating their historic win.

“It’s crazy that the new season is already starting,” Coulthard said. “This season and this team will always have a place in my heart. Now we are looking on to next season and want to keep moving forward and building on our success.”

 

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