Synchro teams must constantly adapt to restrictions


Team Ice United (NED) at the last Spring Cup. (Credits: Ru-Pho - 2020)

Since this weekend, the new curfew in the Netherlands further limits synchro teams' training. The practices were already severely affected by the restrictions.

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Since March 2020, the Netherlands had had different kinds of lockdowns. The first was from March until the end of May and was called the ‘’intelligent lockdown’’ which meant that people had to stay home as much as possible.

Schools and sports accommodations were closed, and the population wasn’t allowed to be on the street with more than three people. Restaurants, bars and hotels had to close. However, most stores were still open, and outdoor sport was always possible in groups not bigger than three.

At the beginning of May, it was possible to train outside in bigger groups which meant that the Dutch synchro teams could see each other again in person and do some off-ice practice with a 1,5-meter distance between each skater. 

From June 1st, it was allowed to do team sports again, but sadly for the Dutch skaters there was no ice rink open at that time!

In July, some Dutch teams got a few ice hours in ‘s Hertogenbosch and went to Leuven, Belgium to practice. "The skaters were still not allowed to skate connected, but we were very happy to be on the ice again after this long period of online practises and off-ice practises", says Angelique Visser, head coach of the synchronized skating teams in Eindhoven.

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Until October, most practises were back to normal. Synchro teams from all ages could train together and connected with some Covid-19 safety measures at the rink and the dressing rooms. 

With a further increase in positive Covid-19 cases every day, half October there was the second "light lockdown". The schools and sport accommodations stayed open, but restaurants, bars and cafes had to close again.

For team sports, there was a new rule: all people of 18 years and more practising a sport was no longer allowed to have any contact, meaning that most Mixed Age teams in the country and the two Senior teams have to train again without any form of holds. 

''Some of our sessions do take place at the 400-meter rink now''
Unfortunately, the "light lockdown" wasn’t enough, and since December 15th there is a third lockdown in the Netherlands. The country will be in the "hard lockdown" until at least February 9th. That means that it is the same as back in March 2020, but now all the non-essential stores are closed as well, and it is not allowed to be outside with more than two people.

Outdoor sports facilities, like the outdoor and semi-outdoor ice rinks, stay opened.
Angelique Visser: "With a location where there normally are three ice rinks and clubs from all skating disciplines, it is a big puzzle to get every club some ice time with the indoor ice rink being closed. Some of our sessions now take place at the 400-meter rink (the ice rink for speed skating). But we are delighted with the fact that we still can skate. And the skaters adapt very quickly to the new rules and situation.’’

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The Dutch Senior synchro teams, Team Illumination and Team Ice United both had a good season in 2019-2020.

"It is hard to stay motivated as a team which is training very hard for the World Championships when you can’t skate connected since October. I’m very proud of the determination and motivation the skaters still have after these difficult months. The younger teams were lucky enough they could get the competition feeling during the virtual Christmas Event in Gdansk", says Angelique Visser. 

Since synchronized skating isn’t labelled as a "top sport" in The Netherlands, the two Senior teams can't participate in any upcoming virtual competition.

The skaters from the Senior teams do not have an "elite athlete status" like most other sports in The Netherlands, for example, swimming, soccer or speed skating.

An "elite athlete status" gives athletes the chance to train as they were used to back at the beginning of 2020, allow them to travel internationally for competitions, and have a good preparation for any big competition like a World Championships or the Olympic Games and their qualifications. 

Angelique Visser: "Hopefully, this status can change in the near future so those teams can participate in a virtual event and get a bit of the competition feeling. But above all, the skaters should be able to skate connected again and continue to develop and grow as a team." 

From January 23rd, things have changed again in The Netherlands. There will be a curfew from 9:00 pm until 4:30 am, and there will no longer be any flights from the United Kingdom, South-Africa and South-America.

Those new restrictions sadly also mean that every team which had a practice scheduled in the (late) evening has to cancel their practices until further notice.