Faces of Synchro

Norris Choi, coach of the only Adult team in Hong Kong


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Norris Choi and the Team Bauhinia (Credits: Roy Ng Photography)

While the pandemic is still around, the coach Norris Choi is back on the ice with his Adult team in Hong Kong. His goal is also to develop synchronized skating in this Asian country.


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How did you discover synchro?

While I was in Australia in 2000, the local club started a new Junior team, and I was invited to try. The journey began there. I was not familiar with the synchro discipline, and I found it very challenging and interesting. It was a steep learning curve.


What is your background as a coach in the world of synchro?

I was trained as a figure skater and also did some pairs on the recreational side. I was a competitive synchronized ice skater for 6 years, competing on the junior and senior levels. I started part-time coaching in 2005, mainly with singles figure skating.

In 2006, I moved to Hong Kong. I continue part-time coaching during the weekend while I am a full-time engineer. I started working with the Adult Synchronised Team (Team Bauhinia) in 2017.


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Team Bauhinia, off-ice training.

Can you tell us about the beginnings of your experience with Team Bauhinia?

It began with an invitation once again. Towards the end of 2016, I was invited to join an adult synchronized skating session. I was really surprised therefore I agreed to join the session. 

At that time, we never would have imagined the formation of an actual synchro team. The session was more like a try-out where about 10 skaters (including me) were going through and exploring fundamental synchro elements (e.g. kick line).


"The goal was set"
Later on, we found out that the initiative was trying to gather a team and compete in Oberstdorf in May 2017. We were very fortunate to have a good deal with the home rink in securing ice time. Therefore, the goal was set (a wild goal at that time). Due to my previous synchro experience, I took over as a volunteer coach in early 2017, and I start working with the team ever since. 


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Team Bauhinia practicing a circle, before Covid restrictions

What are your qualities as a coach?

Being considerate and with lots of patience. The team consists of members with different backgrounds and skating skill sets. Some used to do skating as a recreational sport at a younger age, some are full-time recreational skating coaches, and some only start skating as adults.

We all know that synchro is about unison. It is a huge challenge in managing the skating session in aligning skating skills level and learning new elements. Everything is new (from the skaters’ perspective)! Therefore we use a lot of video reviews in learning the elements themselves. 


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The team managers are preparing the gifts for the other participating teams.

As a coach, what is your best synchro memory? 

The moment when the team finished their first international competition appearance at the 2017 ISU International Figure Skating Competition in Oberstdorf. The team was under lots of pressure before the competition. The moment they finished the program and stepped out the ice, I could see a sense of relief and huge achievement from the team since most skaters have little/no experience in synchro competitions. What the team achieved, how the team grew and became more mature made me proud.

If you had to remember a program that affected you, what would it be and why? 

Mulan (2019)! The free skating program of our third competitive season. We got a different overseas choreographer, and we communicated only via emails. Like all new partnerships, it took a while to find common ground, but it is a challenge to experiment and make ideas happen.

What is your favourite element in synchro? 

Intersections, especially the whip intersection! As a synchro skater, I think we all experience the leap of faith in learning the intersection elements before we are confident with it. The whip intersection looks very spectacular with the speed variation and a huge "wow factor" when executing correctly.


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The team from Hong Kong is cheering around the flag!

Do you have any rituals before a competition?

Brainwashing with the program music over and over became a norm before we leave the dressing room for the competition. It works well to keep the team focus.

How do you make sure everybody feels included in your team? 

Be fair and square. An adult team is a bit easier to manage in that sense since we are grown up. But adult have other issues as we all have long working hours, and it is a huge commitment when we start to compete internationally. Mutual respect is also important, making sure we listen each other and address concerns.


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Synchro training in Hong Kong

Are you back on the ice with your team?

Yes. Rinks were locked down since December 2020, and they reopened mid-February 2021. Team members are pretty motivated as ice is available. We're enjoying every moment on the ice and hope that there will not be another lockdown.

What are your goals for the upcoming season?

For this 2020/2021 season, our primary goal is skills development, and hopefully, we will be able to compete again in the 2021/2022 season.

How is synchro evolving in your country?

At the moment, there is only one adult team in Hong Kong. I would say it is still in the start-up stage in Hong Kong as the skaters here are educated mainly to the single. discipline, to the current competitive figure skating competitions and focus on singles as well. Trying to introduce a not-so-well-known sport and promoting a "new" discipline to the community is challenging. 

The local skating federation started some initiatives in building synchro teams a couple of years ago. In October 2018, the local skating federation organized the first synchronized competition with Pre-Novice, Advanced Novice and Mixed Age category.  

"We hope the Asia Trophy will be hosted in Hong Kong in the near future"
Participated teams were from China and Hong Kong. It was the first and created a pathway leading to the Asia Trophy (Challenger Series) organized in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the Asia Trophy was cancelled due to civil unrest in 2019 and due to COVID-19 in 2020.

We hope the Asia Trophy will be hosted in Hong Kong in the near future. It will be a good opportunity to promote the synchro discipline by having high-level teams participating.


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What are your projects in the future?

I am working with my skating coaches friends in hoping to promote synchro further in Hong Kong. Starting March 2019, we started a synchro development squad with a partial ice patch.

By August 2019 we recruited some potential skaters who are interested in synchro and formed a team called Team Arcticruz (Basic Novice level) and planned to complete at the 2019 Asia Trophy competition, but unfortunately, it was cancelled.

With the Covid-19, the rinks were locked down multiple times and all plans were put to hold, we are hoping to rebuild and resume when Covid-19 settles and able to attract more young skates to join synchro.

Nominate yourself or one of your friends
Learn more about Norris Choi, coach of the only Adult team in Hong Kong, with the "Take Over" on the OneTeamMVMT's Instagram page today. 

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