Friday, January 30, 2015

The 2015 Mozart Cup in Salzburg, Austria

After a 9 hour flight to Munich, and an additional two hour bus ride, the Saint Louis Synergy Junior team arrived once again in the welcoming city of Salzburg, Austria! Despite everyone's exhaustion, all 19 of us were incredibly excited to be back at the 2015 Mozart Cup for the second time, representing Team USA. After settling into our rooms, we had dinner at our hotel, the Castellani, and then had an hour of stretching and yoga before going to bed after a very long day.
Our first day in Salzburg!
Our first full day started off with a strong and productive 2 hour unofficial practice at the Gmunden Rink, which is about an hour outside of Salzburg. May I mention, the winding drive through the mountains was absolutely breathtaking! The first practice at an international competition is the time that we, as well as most teams, like to get our feet under us after long hours of sitting on a plane. Later that day, we took some time to visit the competition rink as well, the Red Bull Eisarena. It was such a wonderful feeling being back at the rink of our international debut, and it got us even more excited to compete later that week. In the evening, we experienced a taste of authentic Austrian food in town at a restaurant called Zwettlers, which was the first restaurant we went to last year—and it is by far our favorite!

At the Gmunden Rink with one of our team leaders, Lois Long

Early on Thursday morning, he had a very successful second unofficial practice back at the Gmunden Rink. One of our team leaders, Lois Long, gave us a lot of helpful feedback after our first unofficial practice, which really motivated us to work even harder for our next 2 hours of on ice. That afternoon, we visited the Festung Hohensalzburg fortress, which is the iconic symbol of Salzburg, Austria, that looms high over the city. Sadly, the views were obscured by a thick fog that day, but that did not seem to dampen our spirits! We then headed into town for some shopping with our families.  Salzburg is famous for its wonderful sweets, specifically the Mozart Kugel, which is a delicious chocolate candy sold in nearly every souvenir shop and bakery in town. But we can’t ever get enough of them! They are named after Mozart because he was born in Salzburg—you can even visit his house, which is in the center of town. As we walked around town, we saw many other teams, as well, including members from Finland's Rockettes. It is amazing to have the opportunity to meet so many incredible teams from around the world at the Mozart Cup; it is one of my favorite highlights about international competitions. Though we may not all speak the same language, we all feel that sense of unification through our passion for synchronized skating.
Synergy Junior visiting the Festung Hohensalzburg fortress

During our stay in Salzburg, we also visited the Bridge of Locks, where the tradition is to lock a personal pad lock to the fence and toss the key into the Salzach River while making a wish. This way, the lock is locked forever. There are thousands of locks on the fence, which was quite the sight (and photo-opp!). Many of us brought locks of our own, and participated in this unique tradition.

The official short program draw was around 7:30pm that night, when we learned that we would skate 10th out of the 18 Junior teams the next day. The following morning, we had our first official practice at the Eisarena, followed by a lunch back at our hotel.  The Junior short program competition kicked off at 3:30pm, and we were pumped to skate our sassy “Too Darn Hot” and “Cool Cats” program. There is nothing quite like hearing the words "Representing the United States of America.” It is such a proud moment, and you can’t help but smile because all you can think about are the hours of hard work you put in just to get to that very moment. After a solid short program skate, we were in 5th place and ready to attack the long program the next day!

Saturday morning started early with another successful official practice; we felt strong and ready.  For the free skate, we skated in the last group, but unfortunately it was not the best performance of our "African Spirit" program.  We ended in 7th place overall out of 18 Junior teams.  Though we came to Austria with higher expectations, we have learned as a team that it is equally important to support each other in times of victory, as well as in times of disappointment.  We have also learned that it is what we make of our disappointments that determine our success. In the end, the experience and privilege of being a part of Team USA and the pride in representing our country at a major international competition outweighed the score. It was even more special sharing this opportunity with the Lexettes, Miami University Senior, and the Crystallettes. We were overwhelmed with pride as we stood to cheer for all Team USA teams. This is another one of my favorite highlights about international competitions; although we are competitors, we are also teammates when competing outside of the United States, and that bonding moment of cheering for your teammates as they compete is so special. In addition to that, we were so proud to have two Team USA teams on the podium! Something great about the Mozart Cup is that they allow for every team to get on the ice during the awards ceremony. This included all divisions from Novice through Mixed Age. It was indescribably moving to share that experience with so many faces from around the globe.

All smiles at the Mozart Cup awards ceremony
Lastly, we owe a great deal of thanks to our wonderful team leaders, Lois Long and Colette Nygren! Though some competition outcomes end up being better than others, my team is so proud of our hard work and dedication this season. We will never forget the time spent and experiences shared in the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria.

Best of luck to all teams for a successful rest of the season, and go Team USA!

Mary Carnal

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Managing Injuries and the Leon Lurje Trophy

Synchronized Skating is preparing to become an Olympic sport, and with that, there comes injuries. All teams are raising the bar, performing new and high risk lifts, elements, transitions, etc. With this, injuries are common. Injuries can be tricky, frustrating, and painful. The recovery of an injury is vital for any athlete, especially synchronized skaters.

Personally, I have dealt with a few injuries myself. I first injured my back while skating in 2012. I fractured my tailbone, had a herniated disk, and some nerve damage. After physical therapy, I was back to skating after just a month. After re-injuring my back this December, I learned the importance of managing an injury; it is difficult, but it is possible! For any injury, it is so important to listen to your body. You must know where your limits are. Yes, you want to push yourself but if your body is saying no, then listen! With injuries, progress can take time. Stay positive and remember that injuries are something all athletes go through.

Hockettes short program official practice
Try to find something else that may need improvement in your skating that doesn't require you to be on the ice. During the time I was unable to skate, I would sit in front of a mirror during my team’s ballet classes and practice only my arms. It made my arms become muscle memory, so I could focus on other things when I was back on the ice. I asked my physical therapist to write a workout that would improve my injury, and help the transition from getting back on to the ice easier. I would do this workout at strength training with my team. While my team was on the ice, I made notes from each practice I missed and made sure I wrote down new changes, corrections, timing, etc. Just because you are unable to be on the ice, doesn't mean it can slow down your skating! Although some injuries are different than others, there is always something you can do to be proactive even if you aren't on the ice.

Being injured is a process, and it can be tricky. After recently re-injuring my back, I am recovering as well as many other skaters out there! With the competition season really picking up, rest, physical therapy, and positive thoughts are very important for my injury and my recovery. I was able to skate with my team at the Leon Lurje Trophy and I am thankful I was able to do so.      

This past weekend, my team and I were honored to compete at the Leon Lurje Trophy in Gothenburg, Sweden with Starlights senior. Representing Team USA was an unforgettable and extremely rewarding feeling. My team and I focused on staying in the moment and skating from our hearts. We were pleased with our performances in Sweden, and are excited to work hard in preparation for the upcoming competitions. Managing and competing with injuries are challenging, but with patience and positivity, it can be done.
Captains of Hockettes before the draw!

Wishing everyone good luck in the future competitions! Go Team USA!

Lindsey Maynad

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Competition Preparation and the 2015 Colonial Classic

As we dive into the peak of synchro season with international and qualifying competitions, the act of preparing oneself to compete both mentally and physically is becoming more and more relevant to our training. Competition preparation can be key to the quality of a performance, but is often easier said than done. As athletes, our bodies need to be in the best shape possible, but it is also expected of us to be completely focused on our team and the competition, no matter what happens outside of the “competition bubble.” Competition preparation is essential not only in the days leading up to a competition, but also in the weeks beforehand as well.

The 2015 Colonial Classic was held at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, MA

Competition time can get really hectic with turning in assignments for school, fitting in those last few hours of training, packing everything you need, and remembering to take care of your body. Balancing schoolwork and skating can be challenging which is why completing schoolwork beforehand is a key component to focused concentration during competition. In the weeks leading up to a competition, I’ve learned to get ahead by turning in large assignments beforehand, eliminating the impulse to worry about completing an important essay or studying for a test during the competition.  With this approach, I can alternate my focus between schoolwork and the competition.

Although it may not always appear as the top priority, I’ve learned that sleep is, hands down, the most important part of taking care of your body in preparation for a competition. Training can be both mentally and physically grueling, and sleep gives your muscles and mind a chance to restore themselves and recover. In the past, I have gone to some competitions averaging 6 hours of sleep per night, and others averaging 8 hours of sleep per night. The difference that just two hours can make in both performance quality and my own enjoyment of the competition is huge!

Haydenettes competing our short program to James Bond at the Colonial Classic

Taking care of your body also means paying attention to nutrition and hydration. This past weekend at the 2015 Colonial Classic, we had what’s become our classic last meal before getting ready to compete: sandwiches. I love this choice because it incorporates whole grains, vegetables, and protein, keeping us full without feeling like the food is just sitting in our stomachs while we skate.

A big part of competition preparation is just being prepared for anything. Rink conditions can be completely different from practice to competition. Last week we were practicing at the Rodman Arena wearing 4 jackets and earmuffs and then the next day we competed at the Tsongas Center for Colonial Classic where we were sweating and it was very dry. Hydration definitely played a big role this weekend to combat these conditions.

In the locker room after the freeskate with DREAMmate
Ashley Tomich and DREAM alum Tessa Hedges.

At the end of the day, it is the attitude that ultimately determines the quality of a performance. No matter what obstacle is thrown your way, a focused and determined attitude can get you through almost anything! Good luck to all teams in their qualifying and international competitions, and GO USA!!