Despite the pandemic, they decided to go skating abroad (3)


Discover six synchro skaters' experience around the world (images' order): Venla, Mertcan, Linda, Chloe, Mertcan, Eman Noel and Isabella. (Credits: Ice Galaxy, Ville Vairinen, Mount Alvernia College, and skaters' photos)

Covid or not, some synchro skaters have listened to their hearts and pursued their dream. In this third and final part, synchro skaters share their fears as this new adventure approaches.

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Part 3: How to prepare without (too much) stress
Leaving their home during a global pandemic is a fairly stressful decision to make.

For Linda Viikki, a skater from Finland, the biggest difficulty has been that Canada's borders have been closed since March 2020. "I haven't had the opportunity to travel there. I didn't get permission to travel during the closure of the borders. In August I was at the airport but I wasn't able to do the check-in because I didn't have the right document from the Canada government that would allow me to travel during the lockdown." 

In Canada, ice rinks have been closed since October. "Our team (Nova Senior) have trained only in Zoom since September. It's a good way to train but sometimes the Zoom schedule is complicated because of the time difference. Luckily our coaching team have tried their best with the scheduling and have paid attention to the time difference, so I and some other foreign skaters are able to take part in live training," Linda explained. 

Linda with her team Valley Bay Synchrostars. (Credits: Ville Vairinen - 2020)

Stuck in Finland for months, Linda, 23 years old, will know more about her departure when the global pandemic will get better. "Hopefully, I'm able to start my second season with Nova in Montreal and see my teammates in person before the summer. Fingers crossed that I can travel there in a few months and continue the normal skating life on the ice with the whole team together."

She can't wait to start her adventure and move to Canada. "There is my lovely team waiting, and everything is ready for me. This is going to be the highlight of my life so far, and I want to end my skating career as a successful Team Canada's athlete," added this experimented skater and former Valley Bay Synchro and Lumineers' member.

For Eman Noel Donaire, there have been numerous challenges along the way since leaving Australia. "The first being was obtaining an exemption to leave the country back in May 2020. Since Australia was put in a complete lockdown, it was fairly difficult to leave. Fortunately, I was able to leave on a reunification base with my now fiancé, Michael, who is American.

The second was obtaining a job offer prior to entering Canada, as this was a mandatory requirement due to Covid for those who held the working holiday visa. Thankfully I was able to secure a job offer and made my way into Canada. Sadly, the skating season in Canada was cut super short as the second lockdown in October suspended all team sports. Since November 2020, I’ve temporarily relocated back to Los Angeles to spend time with my partner. I’m currently waiting it out State side, hoping that rinks open up soon," said the Australian skater who also has been selected to skate with the team Nova Senior.

"It’s the best thing I’ve ever done!"
Also coming from Australia, the process was easier for Chloe Buglar, 21 years old. She was able to get a visa and all affairs in order quite quickly and had contacts that helped her make the move easier; however, Covid did not. "Due to the strict border measures of both Australia and Canada as well as reduced air travel, there were many months delay as well as more complicated steps I had to take to make sure I was able to safely and securely enter the border. Two weeks quarantine upon entry to Canada was pretty rough too! 

Apart from the Covid complications, as much as it was difficult to say goodbye to my Aussie friends and family, they are all so incredibly supportive and encouraging of me moving here. I am so grateful for them and their support which makes me all the more determined to make this experience worth it and make them proud!" explained the synchro skater who arrived in Canada in September.

Chloe skating with Team Nova Australia in 2015.

Although the pandemic has made life a little difficult with restrictions for training, travelling and general events, Chloe's first few months with Nexxice in Ontario, Canada, have still been amazing. "While the competitive season has been severely impacted, and we recently went into full emergency lockdown, I have still enjoyed my time here and look forward to the season ahead!

We followed all the Covid restrictions while at training, including wearing masks for the full duration of all sessions! We definitely got our cardio in! Despite the limitations, I’ve still gained so much in my short time here; new teammates and friends, I live with the most wonderful host family, I’ve explored fantastic scenery and the Canadian outdoors, and I have come to know what a real winter looks like! And feels like I’ve never been this cold in my life!" she said.

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For Chloe, the most difficult part was leaving her comfort zone and everything familiar. "I had university, a job, friends, my family, skating and coaching, so many home comforts! But I also had this dream, an ambition and the chance to go for it, so I did! It was a bit daunting flying across the world, not really knowing anywhere and anyone. But, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done!"

Another foreign skater is expected to join the Nexxice team as soon as the situation improves. Mertcan Pak from Turkey was also selected to skate next year in the famous Canadian team. Learn more about his adventure in episode 2 of our series.

From the national Team Vizyon in Turkey to Nexxice (CAN), Mertcan Pak (in the centre) has big goals for his synchro career. (Credits: Ice Galaxy - 2019)

Even if Austria and the Czech Republic's distance is shorter, the difficulties remain big for Isabella Messinger. She currently cannot join the Team Darlings to skate and train. "I kind of accepted that I cannot travel to the Czech Republic at the moment with the travel restrictions, but it makes me sad watching the practice videos and not being able to skate with the team. This former Sweet Mozart skater used to travel 3-4 times a week to Brno to attend the training.

She actually doesn't know what she will do for the upcoming season. "I would probably choose Sweet Mozart if there is a team because the training took place from Friday to Sunday, was easier to combine with studying/working. There were some in the team who did not live in Salzburg, and a place to sleep was always organized for us, which was very pleasant," said this skater who started synchro quite recently in summer 2019 after a single career. 

"It’s going to be a big jump for me"
"What scares me the most is whether I can find my place on the team and whether I can manage my language skills in training," concluded Venla Asikainen, who will be travelling from Finland to Italy next month.

"It’s going to be a big jump for me to rise from national Juniors straight to ISU Seniors, but I’m really looking forward to it. The Covid situation also worries me, but I hope that the situation gets better soon!" said the 19 years old Finnish skater.

But she expects a lot from this experience. Venla looks forward to making new friends and to learn more about synchro skating.

Three parts and one epilogue to come
Fingers crossed that these international skaters who have started (or will start soon) can have one of the greatest adventures of their lives.
As Eman Noel Donaire said, having taken the leap, they will for sure grow into more resilient and adaptable individuals. 

"Numerous plans have fallen through, countless resumes sent, countless time apart from loved ones but having done this during a chaotic and unstable time has really pushed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined," he said.

Find out part 1 of these interviews (choice of country and team) or reread part 2 which was about the tryouts. Finally, in a few days, do not miss the epilogue of this series on foreign skaters with the advice of a skater who has made a successful transition!