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

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