Team Unique (FIN): "The hopes are now for the coming season"


Eve and Tuuli, skating side by side in the front row. (Credits: Kirsi Laine Photography - 2020)

A few days before presenting their programs in a special live event, the captains of Team Unique, one of the most important Finnish teams, talk about this remarkable season, their fears, and their hopes for the future.

Have you avoided Covid-19 infections and/or quarantines on your team this season?

Eve: As a team, we have been healthier than usual, but we have followed the instructions given to us very carefully: hand disinfection, safety intervals, masks… except during performances on ice, we do not wear masks.

Tuuli: We have agreed to go for the Covid-19 test and stay out of the rink for even the slightest symptoms. There are only a few of these cases during the season; no one has fallen ill or even been quarantined.

How have you maintained motivation in the team?

Tuuli: The practices themselves have maintained motivation, and we have sometimes taken big leaps forward in the programs during one individual train, which I think is a sign that motivation is really high. Perhaps even the long-held hope that the Worlds could be held has maintained motivation for most of the season.

Eve: We’ve also talked about this issue among the team and set ourselves small milestones. We have also tried to have as much fun as possible in training and maintain such an atmosphere that it is always nice to come to the rink, and it is the kind of place to brighten up in the midst of all this misery.

Team Unique - Free Program "Garden of Eden". (Credits: Kirsi Laine Photography - 2020)

How is this exceptional time reflected in the captain's duties?

Tuuli: It has manifested itself in an exceptional lack of duties. When there have been no competitions, all the several practical tasks associated with them have dropped out. Of course, as normally we work as a link between the coaching team and the skaters.

Eve: Our team is also so self-guided and the team spirit is so good that it has been a pleasure to be a captain

What do you expect from the near future?

Tuuli: In the very near future, we can really hope for nothing more than ease of the pandemic and moving towards a normal situation. There is probably no more hope for any competitions this season. Now we just wish that, for example, the vaccination situation will improve, the disease will ease in the world and competitions can be arranged next season.

Eve: I think the same; the hopes are now for the coming season. On the other hand, it would be great if, for example, ISU developed the possibility of virtual live tournaments if the situation remained bad.

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

You're talking about the competitions, let's have a look at your programs that the public has not been able to appreciate much this season... 

Eve: Our short program “Now.” is one in nature that many people say it’s typically Team Unique: accurate, strong, skilful, confident, sharp, and the pace of the program is really fast.

Tuuli: The idea for the theme came from demonstrations, not from any particular event, but from the phenomenon itself, we do not take a stand for any single ideology.

Eve: The meaning is really to describe the fact that you can change the world when you act Now! Everyone can imagine in their minds what idea they support and fit it into our program.

Tuuli: The free program “Garden of Eden” is quite different then. It is based on a creation story and its familiar elements: Eve, Adam, snake and apple, paradise, garden, birds… the plot is that first everything is fine, then there is temptation and uncertainty and a wrong act, which is then repented and finally forgiven. The music is instrumental and very beautiful and follows the choreography well.

Eve: The free program is more work of art than just a program performance. Anyway, I like the way our free programs, in particular, are created, they are stories, entities. This free program is one of the favourite programs of many of our team members. We also have beautiful, themed dresses and the program is wonderful to skate as an aesthetic experience, although it is also technically really challenging.

Tuuli: The program was a challenge for the whole team from the beginning because the short program is what we really know and the free program is like from a different world and it has been nice to practice something that does not come naturally, interest in training has remained very good. Our coach Miru (Mirjami Penttinen) built the program with special care piece by piece.

To what extent can you, as skaters, influence the construction of programs?

Tuuli: It varies from program to program; perhaps we have had more influence this season, especially in transitions: we have got the initial idea and then developed the parts together with the skaters. The head coach, of course, makes the final decision and grinding.

Eve: We can also come up with ideas of hand positions, expressions and other nuances of presentation.

Surely you both have a favourite program in mind for your many seasons in Team Unique?

Eve: Last season’s both programs were really great and important. I also love the programs of this season a lot, but it is difficult to compare them with previous ones when there have been no competitions (except the first qualifications) and no similar experiences have been gained from presenting them.

Tuuli: I agree, the same kind of emotional bond with this season's programs not been able to arise because of the absence of competitions, even if both programs are really good and fantastic. For example, the 2015-16 free program, “Empty Promises,” contains so many great moments and memories associated with presenting it that makes it one of my favourites, like both of last season’s programs.

In general, what do you think about virtual competitions?

Tuuli: Competitions based on self-recorded videos are not a very good idea in our opinion. The quality of the recordings can be poor, for example, part of the team may be completely out of the picture and the performances are usually forced to shoot from a distance, making it difficult for the judges to see all the details.

Eve: So we wish the virtual competitions could be on-line events because in a real situation there is always more emotion, excitement and anything can happen on the ice, in a live situation the actual skill, and competence of the team is measured.

Tuuli: However, there probably are technical challenges in running such a competition filming entire teams. The judges should see the performances almost in the same way as they normally would from the judging panel.

With all competitions now cancelled, how will the rest of the season continue?

Eve: Basically, we hope everyone stays healthy and the event at the end of February is really organized.

Tuuli: We are moving forward, like at the normal turn of the season without the World Championships: first there’s a week off from practice and then we start with a new team.

How do you think this exceptional time will affect the sport?

Tuuli: It may be that many skaters quit as the season changes. On the other hand, at best, it can happen that no one wants to quit, because training is a meaningful thing to do, however, and it can also be tedious to quit after such a season when someone might not have been able to compete at all. This will remain to be seen for all teams when the next season kicks off.

What do you want to say to the synchro community?

Eve and Tuuli: We hope for good spirit for all teams around the world and that the skaters are motivated to continue this wonderful sport. We hope that international competitions could be held next season because it has also been unfortunate that there has not been an opportunity to see the programs of our international competitors; we have really missed that too! Let’s all try to be positive and hope the future brings better times for our sport!

Find out the first part of the interview with Tuuli and Eve, captains of Team Unique (FIN)!