WEST ORANGE, NJ - Returning from the Leon Lurje Trophy in Sweden with a Silver Medal for the United States, the Junior Synchroettes Synchronized Skating team was still ecstatic from what the girls will consider the experience of a lifetime. The 16-member team, ranging in age from 13 to 18, which represents the Essex Skating Club of New Jersey, a not-for-profit organization based out of the Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange, fought long and hard to reach the Silver Medal Podium, and they savored the accomplishment.
“The experience of winning was the most rewarding experience of my life,” said co-captain Michelle Rose. “We haven’t always been on top and had to work very hard to get here.”
According to Michael Silverman, Deputy Mayor of Livingston and proud Dad of Erica, a member of the team, "‘working hard’ does not begin to describe what the girls put into their work. They train as a team at Codey Arena in West Orange on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings beginning at 5:00 a.m. That time also includes on and off the ice training with coaches, yoga instructor Jen “YogaJen” Gold Shulman, and performance instructors. The girls also train with their own coaches, for a total of at least 25 hours a week. Add school, and there’s not much time for anything else."
The team was not alone in their trek to Sweden. "About 15 parents attended to support 'Team USA,'" said Silverman. “We stayed at a different hotel, had dinner together like a family, and were there to cheer the girls on.”
This was the second trip the girls made to Sweden. They came home with the Bronze Medal last year, but lost several of their senior girls in June 2013 to college. “We got a lot of new girls that had never competed internationally or in large competitions,” said Rose.
So, what was different this year that earned the girls a Silver Medal? Flora Sugarman, the Synchroettes' co-captain, noted, “We changed our focus this year, and worked a lot more on the technical components of the program.”
In fact, a few days before the Leon Lurje Trophy, Geri Tomich, the Synchroettes’ Head Coach Geri Tomich, changed the girls Short Program to incorporate more technical elements. “We knew it was a big risk,” said Rose, “but it really paid off.” The team went into the Long Program in third place.
The Synchroettes have always scored well in the performance component of competitions. “We’re very entertaining and aesthetically pleasing, and our performance portion of the programs were still stronger, but we really improved in the technical portion,” said Sugarman.
The girls faced teams from Finland and Sweden, who have long been known as the top competitors in the Synchronized Skating world, and had little time to spend socially with any of the teams. They did spend some time with the Senior team from Spain on the bus ride to the arena. “There was a language barrier,” said Rose, “but they participated in our rituals (the girls share letters of encouragement with one another and sing special songs) on the way to the competition.”
Tomich was proud of the Synchroettes' effort and success. She said, “In addition to the amazing achievement of an International Silver Medal and two Personal Best Performances, is the reality of what this team has done to get to this level. Their individual passion, effort and focus contributed to the extraordinary teamwork, which was key to their success. This Synchroettes Junior team is truly a special group that takes 'team' to the next level. I look forward to more spectacular achievements as the season continues.”
The Miami University Junior team (comprised of freshman) placed fifth in the competition. Team Convivium and Team Spirit of Sweden, placed first and third, respectively.
So, what’s next for the Synchroettes? Deputy Mayor Silverman is planning a Proclamation from Livingston on behalf of the girls. Essex County will also recognize the team, as will the township of West Orange. (Several members of the Synchroettes reside in Livingston and West Orange).
Rose says that the next goal is to place on the Podium in the Nationals in Colorado Springs in March. Despite a series of weekend competitions beforehand, Rose said, “We’re going to keep working to get there.”
Although not yet recognized as an Olympic winter sport, there have been several exhibitions, and consideration to add synchronized skating to the Olympics has grown in popularity. The Synchroettes believe it should become an Olympic sport--citing Synchronized Swimming as an example.
Winning the Silver Medal was an experience that Sugarman will long remember. “It was the most incredible moment of my life…to see the American Flag flying. I was so proud of the team, our energy and focus. It’s really true--with hard work you can achieve anything.”
To learn more about the Synchroettes, visit their website.