Faces of Synchro
"I feel so proud when ‘representing Great Britain’ is announced"
For this second article of "Woman Of The Week" we are going to Great Britain. We are in Wales, precisely in the living room of Sarah Lewis, who is 21 years old and is a skater on the team Icicles Senior. It is 7:20 pm when this English student who is pursuing her masters in psychotherapy answers this interview. Meet this athlete who started synchro six years ago.
You & Synchro
How did you discover synchro?
There was a try-out weekend at my home rink which my coach at the time encouraged me to go too. I actually didn’t enjoy it and then a year later my friend persuaded me to try it again and I fell in love with the sport.
What is your background in the world of synchro?
My first synchro team was Team Spirit which was coached by Katrina Cotterrall. We used to train at midnight until 2 AM which I think just shows how passionate the whole team was for the sport. I spent four years in this team, won the British Championships three times (Senior twice and Junior B) and went to the World Championships twice in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, I was selected as captain for Spirit and when Spirit became Viola, I was captain for a second year. Viola was a whirlwind of a year, we won the British Championships, had the highest ISU score of a Senior GB team and qualified for Worlds. I was also assistant coach for our Elementary team which started my interest in the rules side of skating. I loved coaching them each week.
What is your best "synchro" memory?
There is too many to write down! Standing on the podium after winning Nationals 2018 was a moment that I really remember taking in. I remember thinking that we had really earned our victory and I embraced it all. My first Worlds in 2014 is a week that I think could never be topped.
If you had to remember a program that affected you, what would it be and why?
“Let it Be” Team Viola Free Programme. It’s my favourite programme to date, it was choreographed by Kristen Loritz and Lee Chandler (both world champions with Nexxice) and it just grew and grew. It was so fun to skate, there were so many ‘moments’ that you could fully embrace and it reflected the journey that I’ve taken in my own synchro career. I got to create the opening pose by sitting on my teammates shoulders and it was such an honour to open that program at Worlds.
Describe the costume you were most proud to wear...
My favourite dress was the one we wore for Let it Be. They were originally worn by Nexxice and the skirt had bright colours underneath which you saw when we moved. I had Kelly Britten’s dress and we were both captains so it felt really special to wear it. We bonded over her/my dress at competitions!
What did this sport teach you?
Synchronised skating teaches you so much more than how to skate with fifteen other people. It teaches you discipline, commitment and the meaning behind dedication. I don’t think there is a better way to teach you about team work, the strength in unity and trust. It teaches you how to deal with disappointment and celebrate success. But, most importantly it makes you want to love something with every fibre in your body and to never give up. It has completely shaped me into the person I am today.
Where are the medals and prizes you have won over the seasons?
My medals and lanyards from each competition are in a box in my cupboard, that’s where they live. The British Championship Trophy lives on the piano in the study alongside the Trophy D’Ecosse and Winter Cup trophy.
Which advice(s) would you give to young people who want to start synchro?
To follow your heart and never give up. It isn’t easy, there is so much hard work and commitment required but everything is worth it when you look back and see how far you’ve come. Always believe in yourself. ?
Do you have any rituals before a competition?
Every time I skate I have to wear a pair of dad’s socks and I always put my right skate on first. I always have to cut my skate tape with the same pair of scissors, they actually went missing once and I went into melt down. Luckily I found them!
By entering the ice, when you hear your team's name being announced at a competition, what are you thinking of?
It’s hard because you are focused and concentrating so much but I know I feel so proud when ‘representing Great Britain’ is announced. That sentence will always feel special.
The Viola Team
What happened to Team Viola?
Team Viola was sponsored for its first year which allowed the team to have financial support for kit, ice time, personal trainers, external coaches and equipment. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay together for another year because of the cost and members of the team left after Worlds.
How did you react when you learned this news?
It was such an amazing season with Viola and I feel lucky to have been apart of it. It was obviously sad that we would not be skating together as a team and I miss seeing the girls every week. I went to train with Team Boomerang after Viola disbanded and this was such an amazing opportunity and I learnt so much.
What happened to other team members and coaches?
Our coach Katrina Cotterrall has set up a new senior team called Magenta. Some of the team members have stayed to skate with Magenta and some are skating for other clubs now. For many skaters, their dream was to compete at the World Championships and therefore, they have hung up their skates knowing they achieved this.
Which team are you skating for now?
I am skating for Icicles Senior. The team trains out of Nottingham and is coached by Esther Bell and Lauren Fletcher. This is the first season for the Nottingham Academy to have a senior team. They also coach Icicles Junior who have represented Great Britain in the past six World Championships. The majority of the girls have skated together in Junior but we have a squad of eighteen and we are all really excited for the season to start.
What are the goals this season?
The goal this season is to produce two strong programmes, skate well and improve at every competition. At the British Championships in January we will compete for the National title.
United Kingdom and Synchro
In your country, how is the development of sport going? What is made to promote this discipline of skating?
The number of synchro teams keeps developing in Great Britain with an increase in teams every year. I’m sure last year saw over 65 teams compete at Nationals. The majority of these teams are younger ages and clubs struggle for skaters of Junior and Senior level. However, for the first time, the senior category could have four teams competing. This is good for the sport and inspires younger skaters to keep skating. British Ice Skating post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and their own website about all events to do with synchronised skating which raises the profile for the sport. ?
In your opinion, how can this sport evolve in the UK?
I think the standard of synchro skating in the UK could be improved to push into the Top 15 in the World rankings. I think with the help of external coaches from Finland and Canada, they can inspire coaches and skaters to push boundaries and create artistic, unique programmes. With the rules changing and the sport evolving itself, it is so important to not fall behind and keep updating the style of skating in the UK.
Thanks to Sarah Lewis for sharing her experience with us. Next week, we will take off for the USA to meet not one but two women of the week.