"We have always had synchro teams in South Africa"
Team In-synch consists of 17 skaters and they range in age from 12 to 23 years.
The Team In-sync has something special: they train in South Africa, a country where skating is not well known, but where there are some synchro teams. Interview with this Mixed Age team which participated in its first international competition this season in Neuchâtel.
Team In-Sync: We have so many memories that it is difficult to isolate just one or two, but the most prominent ones that everyone has kept are:
- We will never forget the atmosphere in the rink, with all the teams singing and dancing and being so supportive. We had so many people asking us about South Africa, and it was really special for us to share.
- Watching the Junior and Senior teams was so motivating and inspiring, and we loved every minute of their programs!
- Because figure skating is a small sport in South Africa, what you probably take for granted, we were amazed by, for example, the beautiful warm-up studios, the number of dressing rooms available and the quality of the ice are some things that we will also always remember.
Then, from a South African point of view and not ice skating related, going to experience the snow was definitely a HUGE highlight for us.
We were originally supposed to compete in the Czech Republic at the Santa Claus Cup in Brno in Dec 2021, but then South Africa discovered the Omicron variant of the Covid 19 virus, and the world started to close down borders and cancel flights. The Santa Claus Cup even went so far as to cancel its competition.
Our coach did some more research and saw that we could still enter the TISSOT Neuchatel Trophy. Switzerland welcomed us with open arms, which we were so grateful for and this afforded us the opportunity to experience an international competition. As a result, this specific competition will always hold a very special place in our hearts. This was our very first time competing abroad.
Can you tell us more about your team?
Team In-sync practices out of Northgate ice rink which is situated in the Province of Gauteng, the city of Johannesburg and the suburb of North Riding. Our coach is Dino Quattrocecere who is himself an Olympian having competed in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. The Province of Gauteng is divided into three regions, namely Central Gauteng, Gauteng North and Ekurhuleni. Each region has its own clubs and our region, Central Gauteng has two clubs namely Club Egoli and Bambelela Blades and our team consists of skaters from both clubs as the team represents our Province.
Because figure skating is a small sport, most of the team members are also solo skaters and many of them have qualified for both solo and synchro for our national competitions.
How long has the team existed?
At the end of the 2018 skating season, the Novice synchronized skating team at Northgate was in a difficult position. Although we had many skaters wanting to be part of a synchro team, there were not enough to continue with a Novice team, due to skaters now being either too old or too young. There were also too few skaters with required skills level 4, to form a junior team.
That was when our coach, Dino Quattrocecere, came up with a solution. He put together a proposal and presented it to the SAFSA (South African Figure Skating Association) council. Here, he proposed that we form a Mixed Age synchro team, in line with the rules, as set out by the ISU (International Skating Union). To our delight, the proposal was accepted and the team was formed and we have been in operation ever since!
We have always had synchro teams in South Africa. However, there are not very many, but those around always qualify for Nationals and proudly represent their Provinces.
Central Gauteng has two teams, namely ours, Team In-sync and then an academy team, Snowflakes, where the members have level 1 and can therefore not qualify but do compete on a club level. In Central Gauteng, our main division has always been Novice and now we have Mixed Age. In the Western Cape, they too have Novice and did for many years have a Junior team. The Western Cape teams have competed internationally before. In Central Gauteng, we are doing many awareness campaigns in order to grow synchro as a sport and with us having competed overseas, we have certainly sparked enormous interest and it is very heartening to know that synchro will continue into the future.
We are able to train the whole year-round. In South Africa, our main holiday season is in December when the schools get a 6 week break and as a result, skating usually stops from about the 14 December until the 5th of January.
In Gauteng, there are 4 rinks available, however they are all very far from each other. Our team train mainly out of Northgate and Festival Mall in Kempton Park.
Finally, the Covid has caused many difficulties for the teams, above all non-ISU. How did you get through the last two years?
In March 2020, we also went into hard lockdown in South Africa and all training stopped. We did lots of online fitness classes and tried to keep in touch as a team with some fun activities and challenges. For us, the rink opened in August 2020 under very strict Covid protocols and we could resume training. We had to train with masks on, we were not allowed to place any personal effects on the barriers and had to maintain social distance at all time when off the ice and as far as possible on the ice too.
As our Covid numbers improved, so our protocols were reviewed and we are now able to train without our masks, however this is a very recent occurrence and we continue to have to wear masks indoors throughout South Africa.