The night before, they didn't know if they would be able to compete at Worlds


Starlight Elite (SUI) on the ice at the World Championships in Hamilton, CAN. (Credits: Sean McKinnon - 2022)

In early April, the Swiss senior team Starlight Elite had an intense week in Hamilton, Canada. Until Friday morning, the team was not sure if they would be able to compete at the World Championships.

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"Unfortunately, we had a positive antigen test in our team during accreditation on Wednesday afternoon. For the safety of everyone, the positively tested skater was isolated by the ISU," explained the coaches.

Following this, the entire Swiss delegation (including the skater who had tested positive) was once again tested with a PCR.  "We all hoped that the case would turn out to be a false positive and that the skater would be able to return to training. We continued our unofficial training without the skater and with uncertainty started adjusting the programs."

"We went to bed, not knowing if more skaters would have to isolate"
On Thursday evening, it was confirmed that the skater indeed was positive. The uncertainty, however, continued as the results from the rest of the team had not come back yet (as a reminder, the short program was the next morning).

"We went to bed, not knowing if more skaters would have to isolate. It was only on Friday morning, the day of the short program, that we finally received all results. It was a huge relief to find out that the rest of the tests were all negative. Now definite changes could be made to the program, and we could start getting into competition mode," continued Eveliina Lundman, Laura Zenklusen and Anna Pfeifhofer.

"Mentally, we had prepared for such a situation, but it's harder than imagined now that it is happening. We know for the affected skater, it is unbelievably painful to be excluded from the season highlight because of a COVID infection. We tried our best to encourage the skater from a distance and keep her as involved as possible," said the Swiss coaches.

"We took things step by step in 30-min intervals"
Eveliina Lundman, Laura Zenklusen and Anna Pfeifhofer had to plan without knowing who would be able to compete and if the team would be able to compete. In the case of the skater not returning, they decided to prepare a totally new lift for one group in the Group Lift element.

"We took things step by step in 30-min intervals; we had to stay flexible. Throughout the whole process, we were completely transparent and truthful with all skaters. This proved to be the right decision, we all shared the same uncertainty, and by communicating openly, we could support and motivate each other. This experience has strengthened us, as coaches but also as supporters of our athletes."

Starlight Elite skated to "Unspoken" by Hurts for the short program. (Credits: Sean McKinnon - 2022)

The staff and the team were in constant contact with the isolated skater by phone or via FaceTime. "We made sure that a staff member was always available to her, no matter what she needed. Once the rest of the team was cleared to compete, the skater wrote a very loving letter to the team. We read it together, and her words were hugely motivating to all of us. Trying to share the experience with her, we FaceTimed her right after receiving our points."

On the Kiss & Cry, the team showed the first letters of the two first names of the skaters who could not be with the team. "The skater who couldn’t be accredited was cheering from the stands, and the isolated skater was biting her nails in her room. Despite the distance, both skaters were always with us in spirit."

The coaches are incredibly proud of the Starlight Elite's performances at Worlds despite the difficult circumstances (full scores here). "The team stuck together, supported each other and were able to perform beautifully. Despite all the last-minute adjustments, we are more than satisfied with both programs," they said. 

"The team handled the whole situation with great sportsmanship and very professionally. As coaches, we gave the team our full support. We conferred our trust and confidence in them. We knew that they were ready for the 2022 World Championships. And they proved us right!" the coaches continued, adding that they are very grateful for the support from their federation - on site and at home.

In a more general way, the coaches of the only senior ISU team in Switzerland are delighted with the season that just ended. "The team was goal-oriented in the training sessions, and they made huge progress throughout the whole season. We are excited that the scores reflect the progress the skaters have made as a team."

The next season already in preparation
The Swiss coaches are currently in the process of creating new themes and finding music for the new programs. "We are excited to create something new and wild," they said. 
In addition to that, the Starlight coaching staff is working on optimizing their training schedules.

"Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of ice time available in Switzerland, so it's always a balancing act to organize a training schedule that suits the level of the team." They are also currently looking to expand their coaching staff to offer their skaters even better training conditions.

Starlight Elite - "Trapped in a Dream" Free Program. (Credits: Sean McKinnon - 2022)

In a few days, the Starlight Elite team will already start training for the new season. The first big event will be by the end of May when they will have their short program camp.

"We look forward to seeing all our skaters again and working with them, especially after this successful season," the coaches concluded. 

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More about Starlight Elite
Watch again the interview with Dario Nocera, skater in the Swiss team. In this episode, we talk about being a man in a feminine sport.

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