A decade ago, I sat in the stands watching my first international synchronized skating competition with the American flag draped over my shoulders and a delicately painted silver sparkly star on my cheekbone. I proudly joined in on the crowds’ chants, repeating the same three letters in perfect unison: U.S.A.
Four years ago, my status changed. I was no longer the excited spectator decked out in red, white and blue. Instead, I nervously stepped onto the ice with my teammates, listening to the crowd shout the same chant I once participated in myself.
Just a week ago, I glided across international ice one last time. And while the nerves never completely cease, I hit my starting position with more confidence than ever before, knowing that the Adrian College Senior Synchronized Skating Team has never been more prepared for a competition in program history. That initial feeling of confidence ignited what would become a record-breaking weekend for Adrian College Skating.
After a solid final practice on home ice on Feb. 6, we traveled thousands of miles to Gdańsk, Poland, representing the United States of America at the Hevelius Cup, International Synchronized Skating Competition. With the competition taking place from Feb. 10-11, we had three days of practice in Gdańsk to become acclimated to the competition rink and get some final advice from our team leaders. The official event began with the short program competition, where we placed second, with 64.78 points, which is the highest short program score the team has ever earned. Continuing with the record-breaking performance, we ended second in the free skate competition, with a score of 128.93, which, again, was the highest score the team has ever earned internationally.
Beyond the competition, however, international events showcase the tight-knit community within the sport of synchronized skating. Individually, a team represents their country, but together, on the international stage, we are all representing the sport we love. Between practices and the competition, we were given a personal tour of Gdańsk by Team Poland, who, although they were our competitors, became more like our friends. We strolled the streets, learning about topics ranging from Polish historical monuments to the team’s favorite local coffee shops. As the competition closed, we were excited to see that Team Ice Fire of Poland joined us on the podium and placed third, while Team Marigold Ice Unity of Finland captured the gold.
Much like how the competition nerves never entirely disappear, neither does the support within the synchronized skating community. Although my time as an international competitor has ended, I will pick right up where I began, watching from the stands, proudly chanting the same three letters: U.S.A.