"I've always been very proud of my hair, and losing it so suddenly was very hard for me"


Yana with Team Phoenix at the Lumière Cup 2018. (Credits: Skatesynchrophoto - 2018)

Meet Yana Hanssens, former skater of Team Phoenix and battler of Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. Get to know her story and follow her journey as a synchronized skater.

"How I discovered my love for synchro"
As a 4-year-old child, I loved to go skating with my two older sisters. Since it was very obvious, I liked this sport so much. My mom made me join the local figure skating club. But as much as I loved skating, as much I hated being told what to do. So, what happened? I just sat on the ice when I did not want to listen. Apparently, after a while, I was known as ‘the child that always sits on the ice’. So, probably for the better, my mom made me wait another year to take figure skating lessons.

Now, many years later, I can look back on my solo and synchro journey as a skater. In my last year as a soloist, when I was 17 years old, my oldest sister started skating in Team Phoenix, Belgium's national synchronized skating team. They were still searching for new members, so my sister proposed that I come to the try-outs. That day, a soloist without any knowledge of synchronized skating discovered her love for the discipline.

Yana and her sister Maxime during the World Championships in 2019.

Three and a half years and two World Championships later, I can proudly think of my time with Team Phoenix. Right now, I'm happy to be a member of Team Crystallice from Ghent, Belgium.

Alopecia Areata
Figure skating is a lot about looking beautiful. Competition days consist of a fair amount of time spend on hair, make-up, and putting on a pretty dress. I think this is even more important in synchronized skating than solo since everybody has to look the same. If your hairline isn't straight enough, a bit too far to the right, just different than your teammates... it has to be done all over again. The focus on hair is immense. But that's something you wouldn't notice unless you're the one that lost all her hair...

Around Christmas 2018, I suddenly saw bald spots on my head. Later, it turned out to be "Alopecia Areata", a condition that causes you to lose all your hair. It felt like I was losing a part of myself, my feminity, my personality. I've always been very proud of my hair, and losing it so suddenly was very hard for me.

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During my last World Championships, I discovered even more bald spots while I was getting ready. I ran to my sister's room with tears in my eyes, asking her what I could do. I've always been very happy she was on my team because the support of a sister sometimes is all you need. Eventually, our solution was to cover up the spots with make-up. 

Six months later, I decided to shave it all off.

Yana eventually decided to shave off all her hair.

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Two years later
Right now, I still don't have any hair. But although that stayed the same, the way I look at it has changed. Yes, I lost my hair, but the most important thing is that I'm not ill. I can still do everything I want to do, and that includes synchronized skating.

Alopecia will never hold Yana back from doing what she loves to do.

To all the other skaters suffering from Alopecia: don't let it stop you from chasing your dreams.

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