Elite 12: What are these coaches thinking?
Mirjami Penttinen, Siiri Eskelinen, Kaisa Arrateig, Anu Oksanen and Liisa Lakela gave their opinion about Elite 12. (Credits: Kirsi Laine | teams' and clubs' original photos)
The ISU has announced its decision to try out next winter the Elite 12 project, a competition with teams of 12 skaters. In a recent article of the Finnish Figure Skating Association, the coaches of the Finnish senior teams say they are open to the project, but also with slight doubts.
Source Finnish Figure Skating Association (www.skatingfinland.fi/kiss-cry/tietoa-lajista/elite-12-seniorisarja-kokeiluun-alkavalla-kaudella/)
The reduced team size is also expected to bring new countries into the international series and thus increase the chances of the Olympic application.
For her, the Elite 12 experiment must be explicitly tested in international competitions and not just for exploring demo videos. "The current competition with 16 skaters will by no means be cancelled", she added.
As the congress was cancelled due to the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, the decision will also be postponed to a congressional meeting in a year, added Ida. According to Skating Finland, the trial of the new Elite 12 category will be possible in two Challenger Series events next season, in France and the United States.
"I think 12 skilled skaters on the ice doing the same thing at the same time look great and fast-paced. At the same time, however, we lose the core of synchro skating, especially the shapes and variations that we can propose," explained Kaisa Arrateig.
Kaisa said she has enough understanding for the solution, even if she does not support the change. Like many other coaches, she's also worried about the costs. "Costs per skater will increase when fewer athletes are sharing the costs. Ice time and coaching costs will remain the same, but the number of skaters will be reduced," she noted.
Mirjami Penttinen, Team Unique
"I haven't sacrificed any more thoughts for this Elite 12 experiment. I’m waiting in peace to see if the series is coming, and then I wonder what it means to us and whether there will be 12 skaters in future team size," Mirjami Penttinen said to Marita Kokko from Skating Finland.
For her, some of the patterns are not as spectacular for 12 skaters as for a team of 16 skaters. However, Miru noticed that with fewer athletes, skating glides better, and it gives more space on the ice to create programs.
"The number of skaters has already been dropped from 24 to 16, and the degree of difficulty has been added. I don’t know how much we are willing to change the sport just for the sake of the Olympic dream," MIU's head coach continued.
Liisa Lakela, Lumineers
"The smaller team size will definitely bring out new aspects of the sport. It emphasizes individual skills, tricks, and pace and brings synchro skating closer to other figure skating sports. But on the other hand, the threat is how much the core of our discipline, i.e. the team and the elements, will suffer," she explained.
For Liisa Lakela, smaller team size will undoubtedly allow new countries to participate in the competitions, but at the same time, the gap between the top teams and the tail end may widen further.
Siiri Eskelinen, Dream Edges Senior
"At the beginning of the year, we tested a few elements with 12 skaters, starting with making elements in a completely different way than before. The attached elements were the most challenging, as reducing the number of skaters in them lost their spectacle but brought almost nothing to replace it. With the increased space in the sliding element and no hold-style step sequences, the possibilities were much more comfortable," she said.
With the introduction of Elite 12, Siiri sees an increase in speed as an opportunity, "especially when there is more space on the ice per skater and we would have the opportunity to see the huge arches and series of steps seen by ice dancers. Reducing the number of skaters is also expected to raise the skill level of teams at the top. On the other hand, smaller team sizes could increase the number of teams, which would be very welcome at the Finnish Championships level."
Finally, an idea shared by Siiri Eskelinen: why not creating with the biggest actual top synchro teams, two teams of 12 + 1 athletes who could train partially overlap and could travel together for competitions by sharing, for example, the ice and travel costs?
The coaches, therefore, hope to see this project move forward, but with the greatest caution.
Checker and translater: Marjaana Saartenoja