Synchronized skating through the eyes of other athletes


Henri Aalto, a former professional football player from Finland, and Ella van Vloten, a speed skater from the Netherlands, discovered synchro skating this season. What do they think about it? (Credits: Juhani Järvenpää)

Throughout the season, we invited prestigious athletes from other sports to experience synchronized skating for the first time. Their reactions told a story of beauty, harmony, speed, teamwork, and community spirit.

The 2023-24 competition season has officially come to an end, culminating in the World Championships held earlier this month in Zagreb, Croatia. Throughout the season, synchronized skating arenas attracted thousands of avid fans, as well as newcomers to the sport. We had discussions with two of these newcomers, presenting an opportunity to see the sport through the eyes of first timers. The conversations revealed the unique strengths of synchronized skating and highlighted its potential on the path to becoming an Olympic discipline.

“They really move like one unit; it’s like bees!”
Ella van Vloten, a speed skater from the Netherlands, saw synchronized skating for the first time at Synchro Tour’s evening competition in Helsinki in November. Her initial reaction was, “They really move like one unit, it’s like bees!” She was impressed by the nature of the movement, the speed, and how quickly the skaters were able to recover and get back into the routine after falling. "I like how you can see the difference between seniors and juniors. Both were impressive, but the seniors were so fast, and they were still able to execute the elements."

She was fascinated by the cooperation of the ice element and music in the sport: “It’s very interesting to see because it involves music. It's not just 'ice skating'; it's also creative, and you have to have that coordination to match the rhythm of the music. You really need to time your skating well with the music.”

ADV picture
Henri Aalto, a former professional football player from Finland, was in the audience for the first time this season after having only seen the sport on TV previously. The competition he attended was the Marie Lundmark Trophy in February. Synchronicity and unison were also the first things that caught Henri’s eye.

“It immediately struck me, 'okay, the level here is very high.' The sport had this sort of collective, very synchronized movement and a certain harmonic beauty. That genuinely made a deep impact. It was, from an emotional standpoint, the type of event I like to attend as a viewer,” he recounts.

“I was most impressed by the general atmosphere at the rink."
What made the biggest impact on him, was the feeling of community and cheerfulness at the competition: “I was most impressed by the general atmosphere at the rink. It was very communal and warm-hearted, with a certain carnival-like feeling. Groups were singing, clapping, and cheering each other on.”

The biggest difference to his own sport was how liberated the audience was, with the lack of hostility: “Here, you can just be and immerse yourself; somehow, people don't overly concern themselves with how they look or sound. They simply exist and enjoy the moment. This was something I sensed. When you go to watch a soccer game, or when I recently attended a hockey game, there's a certain self-aware restraint and calculated engagement, especially in Finland, that was lacking here. This presented an impressive experience or a different dimension to me.”

Henri Aalto, a professional soccer player, takes a look at synchro skating. (Credits: Juhani Järvenpää)

Raising awareness and interest
That’s what Henri sees as the trump card of synchronized skating, something to highlight in marketing to draw in audiences and develop the sport for the big Olympic arena. “All kinds of sports are in the Olympics today – it’s just a matter of getting people interested.” Marketing is essential: “It’s the only way to make people aware and interested.”

“You have to constantly find new ways to spark interest, get people committed, and bring them in. It’s not enough to trust that people will discover it on their own and fall in love; it needs something more.” Henri also believes in using individual athletes to promote the sport: “A sort of sensational persona, a story, a face – for better or worse, that’s what brings people close to something.”

ADV picture
Similarities with cheerleading
Henri wishes there was more collaboration between sports, for example through joint events.  The event Ella visited involved a cheerleading show, already fulfilling that vision. It got her thinking about the similarities of cheerleading and synchronized skating – and through that, the differences to her own ice sport. 

“I thought it was cool that they ended the event with some cheerleading. Maybe it could have been incorporated better into the event, but it was really cool to see because that's a part of synchronized skating that we don’t see in speed skating.” So, is cheerleading like synchronized skating without the skating? “To me, it was really similar. There’s music, there’s rhythm, they’re a team, and they’re helping each other.”

Ella van Vloten, speed skater, would like to see more collaboration between sports.

In addition to differences, similarities were discussed. For Henri, there is something universal in team sports: “You could sense the group energy and how the competition went. You could feel both the individual and collective focus, as well as how the individuals reacted to being disappointed and how the people around them reacted to that in their own ways, some with more warmth and support, others maybe more by retrieving. These are the regularities: the tension, the focus, the success or failure, the full emotional range.”

“What I find compelling about sports as a spectator is experiencing the entire dramatic act through the athlete. I believe this unifies all sports, culture, and art. Ultimately, I think this is what draws people to the audience.”