Competing under COVID-19: a synchro skater's perspective


Les Zoulous finishing their warm up block during the short program competition (Credits : Olivier Brajon / Patinage Magazine - 2020)

Last weekend French synchronized skaters went back to competition during the Masters. What were the rules and constraints of competing during the pandemic? A Senior athlete tells about her experience.

Last weekend we became the first synchronized skaters to come back to competition after the cancelation of the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships which were supposed to take place in Lake Placid (USA) last April. The preparation to get to this competition was not easy as the pandemic is still underway. Our rink could close anyway, anytime and we had practices in dresses and buns as we were taking videos of all our run-throughs just in case the competition would switch to a virtual one.

"Les Masters" as we call it in France, is the first competition of the season for all first division French skaters (junior and senior) although this year, only the athletes training in France took part. Silver Olympic medalists Papadakis and Cizeron, only to name but two, could not attend as they had to quarantine as they traveled back to Montreal where they train. It would also be an unnecessary risk to fly all the way here just for this competition. 

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"We had to be as ready as possible and just put our skates on"
The rules were pretty simple and common sense: wear a mask as much as possible, avoid close contact with others and wash your hands. 

We had to keep our masks all the time except for warming up and of course on the ice. Otherwise, masks were mandatory. There was a hand sanitizer station at the rink entry. Our changing rooms were sanitized in between each team which meant the time in the changing room was reduced. We had to be as ready as possible and just put our skates on. When a team was leaving the kiss and cry area, the other had to wait on the ice to avoid contacts since there was only one way leading to both kiss and cry and changing rooms. 

Obviously everyone in the stands was wearings masks as well but it did not stop them from cheering on the teams. The audience mostly consisted of parents and close family or skaters from other disciplines. Being the only senior team and the last to skate we were lucky to have the junior teams cheering us on, which added to the audience. 

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Not only the audience wore masks but also the judges. Maybe it is because we are used to seeing everyone in masks or maybe because the judges are required not to show any emotions at all, but as a skater's point of view, the masks did not change anything. 

For the podiums, only team captains were invited on the ice. No handshakes or hugs but friendly elbow bumps and masks. Also, medals and rewards were presented to the team captains and they had to take it themselves in order to avoid transmissions. 

The competition ended with the traditional gala but none of the synchro teams took part as safety could not be insured as well as during the competition. 

The competition
Unfortunately, Team Jeanne d'Arc had to withdraw from the free program competition due to a COVID suspicion. Les Zazous confirmed their lead with their "French Chef" free program with 80.89 points (total score: 117.77 points). Les Chrysalides presented their new "Artificial Intelligence" program and scored 62.80 points (total: 95.11 points).

In the senior category, Les Zoulous kept their Parisian free program and they were happy to score 113.89 points, which is their new record (total: 169.77 points). 

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Results - TOP 3

Masters 2020
Villard-de-Lans (FRA)
OCT 01, 2020 - OCT 03, 2020

TEAM Score
1Zoulous (FRA)169.77

TEAM Score
1Zazous (FRA)117.77
2Chrysalides (FRA)95.11
3Jeanne dArc (FRA)33.28