Masked members of Lower Mainland Synchronized Skating Club pose for a photo during the Mountain regional competition at Burnaby’s Scotia Barn on Jan. 22. (Submitted photo)

Masked members of Lower Mainland Synchronized Skating Club pose for a photo during the Mountain regional competition at Burnaby’s Scotia Barn on Jan. 22. (Submitted photo)

FIGURE SKATING

Surrey synchronized skating club expands in era of COVID challenges, with U.K. trip planned

On-ice routines were video-recorded for regionals, after in-person event in Calgary was scrubbed

Somehow, a Surrey-based synchronized skating club has actually grown during the pandemic, which has created some challenges when it comes to competitions.

Lower Mainland Synchronized Skating Club (lmssc.org) has expanded to include six teams in recent years, head coach Danalee Harrison boasted.

“We’ve definitely grown, and we have teams for all ages now, including adults – so basically age six and up, to 60-plus,” Harrison explained.

“We have two adult teams. Now we have a competitive international team. We just got our first international assignment this year – we’re going to the U.K., hopefully, fingers crossed if everything works out, from March 4 to 7.”

That week, the Steel City Trophy competition will be held in Sheffield.

At Burnaby’s Scotia Barn arena on Saturday (Jan. 22), club members recorded routines for the Mountain regionals, a qualifier for nationals. An in-person competition was set to take place in Calgary on Jan. 28, but COVID-triggered gathering restrictions killed that plan, so video was submitted instead.

Nationals will also be held in Calgary, at February’s end.

“From there we’re going to the U.K. – that’s our Junior competitive team, the elite team we have,” Harrison added. “They’re from 15 to 19 years old, and they’re the first competitive team in Western Canada, which is exciting. It’s the third season for them, but second competing, because last year we didn’t get to compete at all, because of COVID. We trained the elite team and managed to keep our club together, which was a huge feat in itself, but we actually ended up gaining skaters over COVID, which is amazing.”

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• RELATED STORY, from 2017: Meet Surrey’s Synchronized Skating team; Lower Mainland Synchronized Skating team is a provincial powerhouse, routinely making nationals.

For close to 40 years Harrison has skated with the club, as both performer and coach, starting at age six, back when it was known as Surrey Precision Skating Teams. She’s the sole coach now, following the retirement of another three years ago.

Today boasting close to 85 skaters, including a few who are members of two teams, the club is based at Newton Arena, and teams also skate on ice in North Surrey, Langley and Fleetwood.

Harrison says the team aspect of the sport draws skaters to the club, and also the international opportunities.

“The girls – well, skaters, because we do have boys – they have more of a chance to make it to Worlds as synchro skaters than single skaters,” the coach noted. “I have skaters on my Novice team, between the ages of 11 and 15, who are going to nationals this year who would never have had that opportunity as a single skater.

“And synchro is just about to get into the Olympics, we’re so close with that,” Harrison added. “We’re working with the IOC and confirming the team sizes.”

For the Mountain regionals, judges will judge from their homes, and some teams in the Calgary area will skate live, for online viewing.

The virtual competition was “an interesting experience, to say the least,” Harrison said.

It was “tough on skaters,” she said, as synchronized skating is usually loud, like a cheer competition, when teams are skating.

“The skaters described (the Jan. 22 event) that ‘it was like skating a library,” the coach explained. “’No spectators, no cheering, no judges, just our coach standing at the boards on one side and our managers at the other side. All there was to perform to was a small camera way up in the end-zone corner!’”

The skaters waited outside the arena to perform. They warmed up in the parking lot, where the club had a firepit, were then escorted in one team at a time to skate, and then immediately exited the arena.

“I felt that my skaters adapted well to the circumstances,” Harrison noted, “and am proud that they all skated their best under these conditions, and that all members at LMSSC were COVID-free for this event, with no skaters missing. That in itself is a huge accomplishment in these trying times.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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Figure Skating