"I was unsure as to how people will react to seeing a synchro skater wearing a hijab"


Asiyah and her team Icicles

Asiyah Clark is a junior synchro skater from Nottingham (GBR). She replied to our questions last September, after college and skating. She was just getting the hang of getting back into a routine again but with new rules, of course. 

How did you discover synchro? 

When I was around ten years old, a coach on "Skate United Kingdom" was handing out leaflets for a synchro taster day. I did not think much of it and I was not too bothered but my dad encouraged me to go to see what it was about and to give me something to do on that day instead of just sitting at home all day. And now I’m here!

What is your background in the world of synchro? 

I have been skating for ten years now and I’m just coming up to my 8th season in Nottingham Synchronized Skating Academy (NSSA) and synchro. I currently skate for Team Icicles junior in Nottingham, this is my second season with them. I have skated with elementary all the way up to juniors now and it has been quite the rollercoaster but I would not change it for the world! 

What is your favourite element in synchro and why?

I do not actually have a favourite element to skate but I love watching other teams do the moves elements. The control some teams have over their edges and their flexibility amazes me and it always looks so elegant and effortless. I also love how it can showcase individual skaters but still keep the unity in the team. 

As a synchro skater, what is your best synchro memory and why?

I think my favourite synchro memory was my first World Championships earlier this year in my home rink, it was probably one of the most thrilling and exciting moments of my life as:

- I was experiencing a whole new type of competition
- I was seeing some of the best teams while being in my home rink
- I was representing Great Britain with some of my best friends.

Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Asiyah and Team Icicles Junior at Junior Worlds 2020 (Credits: SkateSynchroPhoto - 2020)

Do you have any rituals before the competition? 

Personally, I do not have any. But in Team Icicles Junior, we have one where we stand in a circle holding hands and we sing the national anthem at the top of our lungs just before we step out of the changing rooms.

What did this sport teach you?

Synchro has taught me so many life lessons that I find myself using all the time, not just at training.

One of the main ones is learning how to push myself out of my comfort zone to try new things but not too much to the point I am uncomfortable. This has helped my confidence grow a lot and I find myself taking on more challenges in my day to day life.

Another vital lesson synchro has taught me is how to work in a team and have patience. I am quite an independent person and like to do things in my own specific ways but every season I learn how to work alongside a new team and this has been so helpful for me especially at school. I know this skill will be very valuable to me as I get older.

Did you face any racism/discrimination while skating?

Thankfully, I have never faced any islamaphobia or discriminations while I was skating. My club has always been very respectful to me and my religion.

Sometimes at competitions, I receive a few confused looks but I am sure they are just looks of curiosity. This last season especially I have felt a bit anxious before going to the bigger international competitions, like Worlds and Challenger Series. I felt that way because I was unsure as to how people will react to seeing a skater wearing a hijab. I know if I do ever face any issues I can confidently tell one of my coaches or someone in the NSSA club committee and trust it will be dealt with correctly.

How do you keep your values and routines related to your religion while skating might have rules to follow which are different?  

Managing my religion and skating life is very easy to be honest. I have restrictions on certain foods like pork but this is easily avoided as I just go for the vegetarian options. I also have certain times during the day where I am required to pray (five times a day) but during competitions, I always have enough time to fit them in through the day. So this has never been a problem for me.

For twenty-nine or thirty days each year, I (like many other muslims around the world) take part in Ramadan, which means I cannot eat or drink from dawn till sunset. When I was younger, I would not fast on the days I trained. But after I reached my teen years (I think I was thirteen or fourteen), I started to fast on all the day including the days I went to training. At first I did find it slightly challenging but now I am older I do not think it is hard at all. The trick is to eat foods high in protein, carbs and of course plenty of water.

Every year, there is a few days where the time to break my fast clashes with training times which means I have to break my fast mid-session but this never bothers me as I will just have some of my water and eat once we finish. However, if ever I am very hungry which is yet to happen I know my coaches will let me have something to fuel me for the rest of the session, if I tell them.

I try to go about my everyday life as normal as possible when I fast as one of the main reasons for ramadan is to continue your everyday life and feel fortunate for what you have as some people have to go longer periods of time with no food or water on a daily basis.

I think this is why training while fasting does not bother me at all. 

You are skating with your hijab during practices and competitions, can you explain why? 

In my religion, a hijab is a religious head-dress that women wear to show modesty as it is a big aspect in Islam.

I personally choose to wear a hijab and have worn one since I was quite young. It not only represents my religion but it is also a big part of my identity.

In skating, I have never faced any issues with me wearing my hijab. My club and the sport have been very open-minded to my religious beliefs and choices.

I am very thankful for the club for allowing me to feel comfortable doing what I enjoy while expressing my identity as I know in some other clubs and sports I possibly would not get the same treatment. 

How do you handle make up and hairdo? 

I have never had any issues with make up or hair like I have read some other BIPOC skaters have.

In my club, we have to provide our own base make up and then all our eyes and lips make up is tested out. The coaches decide on what is best for the team.

Despite being biracial, I have quite fair skin so I have never had any issues with lipstick and eyeshadow colours not showing the same pigmentation on my skin.

With my hair, I do not do much: I just put it into a simple bun at around the same height as the other skaters so that any hair props can be placed in the same place but just on my hijab.

What advice would you give to skaters of minorities who want to start synchro?

The advice I would give to skaters of minorities is to just go for it!

There is no reason as to why we should feel uncomfortable or uninvited to do something we love because of our skin colour, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religious beliefs.

If you ever have any issues, address them, do not let it slide, tell someone and get the problem sorted.

Be brave and go for it, you might be the inspiration to a new generation of skaters from minorities and change their lives for the better!

Team Icicles Juniors

What advice would you give to organisations to be more diverse and inclusive?

The advice I would give is to reach out to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ skaters and invite them instead of waiting for them to come to you.

Let them know they are wanted. Let their voices be heard, if they are uncomfortable with something listen to them and take action on it. Educate your other skaters about how to be inclusive to all cultures, races and people, have the talk!

Also, the issue with skin coloured tights and mesh only being suitable for certain skaters is a big problem in the skating world that I feel needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Buy the correct colours for your skaters. Yes, they may be harder to find but go that extra mile for your skaters. Let them feel comfortable and treat them fairly.

The same goes for hair and make up. Yes, you might want everyone to look completely identical but at the end of the day not everyone is and there is an extent to how far you can try to make them look the same. Let them have their say on their hair and how it needs to be done or the shades of the make up.

It is small things like simply asking their opinions on something that will have the biggest impact. The more comfortable BIPOC and LGBTQ+ skaters feel now the more that will join.

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What are your projects, goals for the upcoming season? What is keeping you motivated? 

For this season, my main goal is to get better at balancing my school life and skating life. I have never been good at it and I think this is the best time to start.

Of course, I have skating elements that I am hoping to improve this season too.

My teammates and coaches are what is keeping me motivated right now. At the start of the lockdown, I was very unmotivated and did not do a lot. But, interacting with the new team, over zoom calls, really helped me become motivated again. And now seeing the team just once a week is enough for me to keep me going!

Learn more about Asiyah this Sunday on OneTeamMVMT's Instagram account!