Team Illuminique (NED) at Lumière Cup 2019. (Credits: Skatesynchrophoto - 2019)
In part 1, the magic of the Mixed Age category focused on the thoughts and wishes of 15 European Mixed Age teams. They talked about who they are, what makes them special, and why they are so important for synchronized skating in general. In this article, the teams discuss the advantages and difficulties, competitions organized exclusively for Mixed Age, and their future perspectives.
Of course, the Mixed Age category's most obvious benefit is the absence of an age limit.
No matter how old or young you are, you can compete. But right now, the interviewed Mixed Age teams shine some light on lesser-known benefits. For example, the number of teams in some countries. Snowflakes (SUI): “In Switzerland, there are more Mixed Age teams to compete against than in the Senior, Junior or Novice Advanced category. As a result, you do not have to go to international competitions only to compete against another team.”
Another benefit is the possibility to choose your own goals. Some see it purely as a hobby, while others train to end up in a Junior or Senior team eventually. This explains the wide variation in advantages given by the Mixed Age teams.
Team Euphoria (CZE) talks about having less training than other categories, while Tyrol Diamonds (AUT) focuses on choosing the best skaters because they do not have to be concerned about age requirements.
And lastly, Team Ice Fire from Poland gives the most heartwarming benefit: "Because age is not a requirement, friends can skate together for much longer than they would in any other category."
"Friends can skate together for much longer." Team Ice Fire (POL) at Lumière Cup 2019. (Credits: Skatesynchrophoto - 2019)
... and the bad
Unfortunately, every benefit has its opposite. Whereas Mixed Age is the most popular category in some countries, there are barely any teams in others. Team Diamonds (EST): "In our country, this sport is not very developed, but we try to promote it and explain that this sport is amazing. At the moment, our team is the only one in Estonia."
Secondly, the freedom to choose a goal is a benefit as long as every team member supports the same goal. If some mainly want to have fun, and others want to work very hard, differences in motivation are inevitable. For example, this can lead to different opinions about the number of extra training sessions or individual commitments besides the regular hours.
One final remark is the lack of something big to work towards. Mixed Age isn't necessarily a category to transition into Junior or Senior, which means there is no specific goal. Of course, teams try to beat their score and place higher in competitions, but that is something typical in every category. Without World Championships or a category to work towards, it can be quite discouraging to train hard.
But luckily, a competition named the 'Mixed Age Trophy' might save the day.
Mixed Age Trophy
The Mixed Age Trophy is a fast-growing competition with teams from all over Europe.
Every year, 15 to 20 teams give the best to secure their place on the podium. Participants are selected by picking a maximum of 4 of the best Mixed Age teams from each country. Because of the Mixed Age category's exclusivity, some might see this as the World Cup for Mixed Age.
The medals for the Mixed Age Trophy 2020.
Unfortunately, the competition this year has been cancelled due to Covid-19. But synchro fans should not worry: the next one is already scheduled for the 26th and 27th of March, 2021 in Basel, Switzerland.
Opinions are divided when it comes to the further development of the category. Depending on the goal of the team, the way they want to see the category evolve changes.
Some see Mixed Age mainly as a transition to Junior or Senior. Frost Fairies (ITA): "We believe that the best way for the category to evolve is to push each team to constantly improve, set goals and objectives compatible with the level of the category, and at the same time try to bring the Mixed Age category closer to Junior or Senior." This would involve the same content of the programs, more focus on skills, and more support from seminars and skating federations in general.
Other teams want a bigger focus on the category of Mixed Age itself. Team Ice Fire (POL) hopes to see Mixed Age improve every year with new elements being introduced, while Team Ice Stars (HUN) mentions they want more creativity in the program. Another remark is the inconsistency between competitions. Team Crystallice (BEL): "Sometimes vaults are permitted, sometimes not, which makes it necessary to slightly change the program depending on the competition." This creates the wish for Mixed Age to have their own fixed regulations.
Sadly, the most common remark is the hope for more recognition. Stavanger Pearls (NOR) puts into words what is felt by a very big part of the Mixed Age category: "We do feel like Mixed Age doesn’t have the same status as Junior or Senior. That it might be judged as those who couldn’t make it into another category, it’s very difficult to be seen like this." Mixed Age is the best and only solution when skaters do not meet the categories' requirements based on age. For small regions that do not have a lot of ice possibilities, it is also the only solution to continue skating in synchro. This explains why ‘Mixed Age’ should not be equal to ‘less skilled’, but instead be valued as much as all the other categories.
Tyrol Diamonds (AUT) concludes: "It still has its flaws, but as a whole, it really is beneficial and essential for the sport synchronized skating."
Thank you to the following teams for contributing to this article: Frost Fairies (ITA), Les Flammes (FRA), Snowflakes (SUI), Solway Eclipse (GBR), Stavanger Pearls (NOR), Team Aviator (RUS), Team Butterfl’Ice (GER), Team Crystallice (BEL), Team Diamonds (EST), Team Euphoria (CZE), Team Ice Fire (POL), Team Ice Stars (HUN), Team Illuminique (NED), Team Infinity (SWE) and Tyrol Diamonds (AUT).