Team Unique (FIN): "Constant uncertainty has been tiring"


Team Unique's captains Eveline (Eve) Tainio and Tuuli Mäkinen. (Credits: Sari Niskanen)

The Finnish Senior team Team Unique is one of the best-synchronized skating teams in the world. The past year has been very challenging for all skaters around the world. Learn how the team is dealing with this unusual situation.

Who are they?
Tuuli (26 years old) skates through her seventh season in Team Unique. At the same time, she is studying mechanical and construction engineering at Aalto University and works part-time in a construction company.

Eve (23 years old) is in her 5th season on the team. She has a bachelor’s of performing arts studies waiting in United States, New York, as soon as the pandemic subsides. She is currently working and making music alongside the skating.

Both started skating when they were small children: Eve, 3-year-old, and Tuuli, 4-year-old, so they have spent a large portion of their lives on skates and ice rinks.

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What kind of team is Team Unique this season?

Tuuli: We have 20 skaters in the team between the ages of 18-26.

Eve: Fortunately, five new, technically really skilled skaters from our Junior team, Team Mystique joined Team Unique this season, so as soon as the ice training started, we were able to train, e.g. the most difficult elements.

Tuuli: The start of the season was quite exciting when we first met each other only in the Zoom-meetings and only at the beginning of June when we got on the ice, we met each other and the new skaters for the first time live.

Last season, Team Unique achieved a historic victory in becoming the winner of first-ever synchronized skating Challenger Series. (Credits: Kirsi Laine Photography - 2020)

Tuuli and Eve: Despite this, as a team, we are welded well together, and it is safe to be in it. Everyone can be their own self and bring out their feelings in a good way; the trust among team members is really strong.

Tuuli: Such a commitment usually only emerges through joint events, especially international competitions.

Eve: The beginning of the season was also anomalous in that normally, the short program would have been practically ready by the beginning of June.

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This year both the World Championships and the Finnish Championships are cancelled. What was your first reaction when you've learned it?

Eve: It was disappointing because even though we knew the situation in the world, we always hoped that the World Championships could have been organized in some way, especially when we in Finland have had the opportunity to practice almost normally since the summer.

Tuuli: Of course, we guessed the situation, when most teams in the world had not been able to train together, but there was still little hope that as long as the word “no” was said, there was a possibility that it could have been “yes”, for example, a virtually organized implementation.

Eve and Tuuli: Before the decision came, we just did not think about the Finnish Championships because we thought that decision was pretty much dependent on the Worlds' fate. However, as a whole, that decision was also predictable, as most of the Finnish teams have not been able to train properly and equally during the season.

Eve: For me, the cancellation of the Finnish Championships was a little surprise because since the senior teams have been allowed to practice, I did not even think that the event could be cancelled. That, too, was disappointing, as the competitions are, however, the best of this sport.

"Together we mourned the decision"
How did the other skaters on the team react to the cancellation?

Tuuli: They reacted quite like us. Many had lived on hope, some had guessed that the World Championships would not be held and when the information came, together we mourned the decision.

How do you deal with it now?

Eve: We got a joint appointment with the psychic coach of our coaching team as soon as the information came. With her, we went through the situation as a team together. With last season’s Worlds also being cancelled, this decision felt like a particularly hard blow, as many assumed that a similar situation could not come again. Several team members had to go through last season’s feelings and disappointments again.

With the cancellation of most competitions, it has been a difficult season for the skaters who have maintained their motivation. (Credits: S. J. Photos - 2020)

At the end of this month, however, there will be a competitive event for Finnish senior teams. What do you think of that?

Tuuli and Eve: We’ve been practising and improving programs all season and it would be very frustrating if we couldn’t present them anymore and get feedback on them.

Tuuli: It also helps not to start questioning the current practice and asking yourself, is everything pointless? Just now, we know nothing but the date of that upcoming event; we do not know whether we will present both programs and whether there will be judges, etc. but it gives us the motivation to practice.

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Covid-19 has now impacted life for almost a year. What are your top thoughts at the moment?

Eve: Sometimes I feel quite empty, but one thing is gratitude for the fact that compared to many other teams, we have been able to practice and be together with the team and that the pandemic situation in Finland as a whole has been quite well controlled. Sometimes we forget how lucky we have been compared to many other countries globally, even though this has been a hard time for us.

Tuuli: As one of our teammates said, sometimes one would like to be able to escape somewhere on a warm island of paradise, even for a week and forget for a moment the whole Covid-19 and the current reality. In a way, this time has been difficult because even though we have been able to practice, and we have remained hopeful about the future, but with several setbacks, we have also been disappointed time after time again and it has taken away strength.

Eve: Constant uncertainty has been tiring: you always know when you step on the ice that this may be the last time of the season.

Going on the ice at competitions is always very emotional. (Credits: Kirsi Laine Photography - 2020)

Discover the second part of the interview with Eve and Tuuli.