Faces of Synchro
Henriikka Latva: "In the end, it’s the journey that counts"
Henriiikka coaching on the ice. (Credits: Janne Koistinen)
She is well known in the world of synchronized skating in Finland. Coach of several teams and ISU Technical Specialist, Henriikka Latva wants to give back to sport everything it has given her.
My mom actually started synchro first, joining an adult team back in 1996 in our hometown Lahti (FIN). She enjoyed the sport so much, so I and my little sister joined a juvenile team the following year. I fell in love with the sport instantly, and almost 25 years later, still loving all the moments this sport has to offer. I’ve always loved being part of a team.
I’m now the co-head coach for ISU Junior team Valley Bay Synchro and assistant coach for Advanced Novice team Valley Bay Synchronics and ISU senior team Lumineers. I coach full time, and besides coaching, I’m also an ISU Technical Specialist.
I’m very fond of the basics of skating and how the elements flow. I try to teach as much "theory" to the skaters and offer them all the info they need to become better skaters and to have a deeper understanding of our sport in general. Usually, they learn a lot about the rules, and how the specialists and judges work since I find that very important to all skaters understand how the system in our sport works.
I work as a part of a bigger coaching team, so I don’t need to know everything, and I enjoy that I get to learn from my fellow coaches. All that makes me a better coach for my teams. Even though I like to know basically everything about anything, I don’t take myself too seriously. Humour and laughter are much appreciated in every practice.
The sport has given me so much joy over the years, so it’s also very important to me, that skaters get to experience great moments also in everyday practice. In the end, it’s the journey that counts.
Synchro is quite a popular sport here in Finland. At the moment I think we have about 180 teams altogether.
Of course, we are facing some difficulties also, for example, with ice time. Figure Skating in general here doesn’t attract so many male skaters, so that’s why we don’t have that many males in synchro either. So it’s a mostly female sport, and female sports don’t sadly get the same recognition in media like other sports. And also, because it’s not an Olympic sport yet.
I have a lot of good memories just form regular practices; I like to see the joy when skaters discover something new, or when a challenging element finally comes together. When I was a skater, my team didn’t reach any medals from big competitions, so when my junior team Valley Bay Synchro got their first medals from Finnish qualifying competition in 2018 and Nationals 2019, those felt very special also for me.
But for me, the best thing in synchro has always been the team. As a skater, and also now as a coach. It’s a privilege to see the skaters experience great moments together, but also how they learn to face failures.
First big senior competition I saw was Worlds in Helsinki in 2001. I remember the Les Suprêmes’ free program ”Le Parapluie de Cherbourg” very vividly, and the Finnish teams’ programs Rockettes ”Fantasy”, and MIU’s ”24h in New York”. We also recorded the TV broadcast and watched it so many times that we could basically skate those programs with my sister. The programs gave me inspiration and motivation as a young skater, and to this day, I still remember some parts of those programs.
Do you have any rituals before the competition?
Nothing special. In competitions, I usually do both coaching and being in the panel, so being focused and calm is the main thing. And trying to be on time and manage the schedule, which isn’t my greatest strength.
This is a hard question for me! I tend to like to more ”technical” elements, Pivoting Block being one of them. I also have a love-hate relationship with intersections.
Are you back on the ice, with your teams?
We were able to practice quite normally from the beginning of June until the end of November. The rinks closed in the Helsinki area at the beginning of December, and now we have been back since the beginning of February.
All the senior teams have been able to continue their practice during December and January, and some other parts of Finland have been training normally or in small groups. With Junior and Novice teams, we were able to practice outside while maintaining a safe distance.
We were able to compete once during the fall season, and have been participating in some virtual competitions as well, which have been a fun new challenge for us. Unfortunately, all the competitions have been cancelled in Finland, so we turn our minds towards the new season 2021-2022.
Diversity is part of our sport. How do you make sure everybody feels included?
I try to educate myself to face these questions since we haven’t had much diversity for most of my career in synchro in Finland. I want to make sure everybody joining our teams can feel safe being who they are, and feel included. It starts with small things, for example, the competition dresses have been designed with all skaters in mind, and with the option to match stockings and mesh fabric with one’s own skin colour.
I’m part of the Finnish Figure Skating Association (FFSA) Synchro Committee and Rules committee, so I’m trying to do my part for developing our sport even further. I continue to work with my teams and continue to improve myself as a coach and as a specialist. I have also enjoyed being part of different coaching seminars as a moderator, and hopefully, I can do more in the future.
Oh, it has taught me so much. For example, I have been quite a shy person all my life but always felt very safe in the synchro community. I have held many seminars, and I don’t think I’d have managed the public speaking without my good experiences in this sport.
Which advice(s) would you give to young people who want to start synchro?
Just enjoy! The best part is the journey you will have, the ups and downs, and the people around you. It’s worth it all.
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