Year-end recap: Synchro

NEXXICE was on top of the world in 2015.

With the eyes of the synchro world on Hamilton, Ont., in April for the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships, the Burlington, Ont. based powerhouse, competing just a few kilometres from their home base, thrilled a raucous hometown crowd with a nail-biting win for their first world title in six years.

Nexxice on the podium.


With an electric atmosphere inside the FirstOntario Centre, NEXXICE dethroned defending champion Marigold Ice Unity of Finland by a miniscule .67 of a point. Russia’s Team Paradise took bronze, that country’s first medal in the history of the world championships.

Quebec’s Les Suprêmes, Canadian silver medallists, finished sixth.

Les Supremes. 2015

Les Suprêmes

Earlier in the season, NEXXICE claimed the Trophy d’Ecosse in Scotland while Les Suprêmes won the Mozart Cup in Austria. Days later, NEXXICE Senior took gold at the Spring Cup in Italy, and the NEXXICE junior squad claimed silver at the same event.

Weeks before the World Championships, Canada’s best synchro teams met in Quebec City for the Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships. NEXXICE won their ninth consecutive senior crown and Les Suprêmes took the junior title before going on to win bronze at the ISU world junior championships.

Other teams to leave Quebec City with gold were NOVA (Open), Évolution (Intermediate) and Les Suprêmes (Novice).

Coming up tomorrow: Men’s, Women’s, Pair and Ice Dance (July to December)

Canada reign Supremes at international synchro skate event

SALZBURG, Austria – Les Supremes from St-Léonard, Que., won the gold medal in senior competition and Les Pirouettes from Laval, Que., added a bronze in the junior event on Saturday at the Mozart Cup synchronized figure skating competition.

In the senior event, Les Supremes held on to top spot despite ranking second in Saturday’s free skate with 189.13 points.  Rockettes from Finland were second at 189.00 and Miami University from the U.S. third at 169.24.

Les Supremes team members were Elodie Marie Acheron, Audrey Bédard, Jessica Bernardo, Lou-Ann Bezeau-Tremblay, Joannie Brazeau, Sara Irma Corona, Alexandra Del Vecchio, Laurie Désilets, Jacqueline Hampshire, Maria-Victoria Langon, Clémence Léa Marduel, Agathe Sigrid Merlier, An-Kim Nguyen, Minh-Thu Tina Nguyen, Anne-Louise Normand, Geneviève Rougeau, Marina Rousseau, Laurra Olivia Sena, Claudia Sforzin and Yasuko Uchida.

In the junior competition, Crystal Ice from Russia was first at 155.68, Lexettes from the U.S. second at 140.83 and Les Pirouettes third at 135.26.  The Canadians were second in the short program and third in the long.

Les Pirouettes team members were Dominique Beaucage, Katherine Beaucage, Anouk Begin, Karianne Begin, Marlyne Bernier, Laurie Eve Brisebois, Véronica Dowse, Frédérique Earls Bélanger, Naomy Farand, Bianca Garabédian, Amélie Guillemette, Marie Pie Haineault, Chelsea Karamanoukian, Ann Frédérik Lapointe, Annaelle Maheux, Tara Santavicca, Sarah Sorgente, Helene Stojanovski, Émilie Villeneuve.


Nexxice and Les Suprêmes en route to 2014 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships

OTTAWA, ON: Canada will send two synchronized skating teams to Courmayeur, Italy, to compete at the 2014 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships from April 4-5, 2014. The Courmayeur Forum Sport Center will host 23 teams from 18 countries as they vie for synchronized skating’s world title.

Nexxice and Les Suprêmes qualified for the event by winning gold and silver, respectively at the 2014 Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships.

The 2009 world champions, Nexxice, won silver at this event the past two years, and placed fifth in 2011 and 2010. The eight-time defending Canadian champions represent the Burlington Skating Club and are coached by Shelley Simonton Barnett and Anne Schelter.

Canadian silver medallists Les Suprêmes placed sixth at this event last season, seventh in 2012, and sixth in 2011. The four-time consecutive Canadian silver medallists and  2003 world bronze medallists represent CPA Saint-Léonard and are coached by Marilyn Langlois, assisted by Pascal Denis and Amélie Brochu.

Karen Robertson of Chelsea, Que., will be the team leader at the event. The Canadian medical staff onsite will be Dr. Ed Pilat of Winnipeg, Man., and physiotherapist Mireille Landry of Toronto, Ont. Diane Kamagianis of Mission, Ont., will be the sole Canadian official.

Synchro skaters from all over the world come together to chase a dream

All 32 blades are whispering over the ice of the Burlington Skating Centre, home of Nexxice, one of the world’s best synchronized skating teams. As they sweep past, in squadrons of four, all in spiral position, all inches apart, the effect is powerful. There are chills marching up an arm.

A team like no other, Nexxice is putting the finishing touches on training for the world championships in Italy. The first North Americans to break the Finland-Sweden stronghold on worlds in 2009, Nexxice is out to display the goods, come April 4 (short program) and April 5 (free skate) in the picturesque mountain town, Courmayeur, in northern Italy.

Last year, Nexxice finished second by only .52 points to a Finnish team at the world championships in Boston. They delighted the noisy crowd with their Die Fledermaus program, dressed in gold ruffles – and particularly at the end where three women lifted their only male team member, Lee Chandler, above their heads. The crowd went wild at the cheekiness of it all.

What sets this team apart from their world competitors isn’t necessarily the lifts and the tricks: it’s the very high quality of their skating skills and edges, thanks to choreographer Anne Schelter, a Canadian so respected in international circles, that she has given seminars on “The Second Mark” for the ISU. Her “Annie’s Edges” videos and practice routines – all aimed at improving skating skills – are highly sought around the world. “I didn’t know there were DVDs,” wrote one coach. “I’d buy them in a heartbeat, sight unseen.” It is said that when the music comes on in a rink from her “Circle Cycle” exercises, the entire rink stops what it is doing and joins in.

Schelter began watching synchro skating when Marie Lundmark, Finnish chair of the ISU synchronized skating technical committee asked her to do a seminar on the Second Mark for the synchro judges. “I got pretty hooked,” Schelter said. “These skaters were flying around the ice.”

She’s been working with Nexxice for eight years now. Her first plot: she wanted to bring more real skating to the game, so skaters would move across the ice more easily and effortlessly. “I had a great group to try out my stuff on,” she said, meaning Nexxice.

Nexxice became special when Schelter joined the team, said coach Shelley Burnett. “She has created something unique. She has turned it into more of a skating sport and she has really changed the face of synchronized skating for the better. She put the focus on edges and on good skating with beautiful flow.”

Now, Schelter says that the standard of synchro skating has risen so much that the requirements for the step sequence are as hard as any of the other disciplines, their lifts more dangerous. “And our job is to make it look easy,” Schelter said.

Nexxice has made such a mark internationally, that skaters from around the world seek to join its ranks. (All they have to do is get permission from their national federation to skip over to Canada.) On the team are: Yu Hanamoto, 20, who loves Yuna Kim and Joannie Rochette, and is from Japan; Katia Leininger, 23, from France, and Julia Uhlitzsch, 24, from Germany, who got a work permit for a year to come to Canada to skate for a world class team (“Nexxice is famous for its special style of skating,” says she, from a country with only two synchro teams – and hers has finished second the previous two years); to learn better English and to make that job at the pizza restaurant pay for the venture.

Most of the team members are from the Greater Toronto Area, but there is one from Sherbrooke, Que., and the trailblazing Chandler, 23, came from Boissevain, Manitoba and has been with Nexxice for four years. He is the first male ever to skate with a senior team in Canada.

“It was definitely a little bit different in the first year,” he said, referring to media attention. (European teams often have two or three male team members. There are some males on junior teams in Canada.)

“But we’ve grown together and it is one big family. I found that after a few years, it doesn’t matter.” He uprooted himself from Manitoba to come to Nexxice to improve his skating. Manitoba has synchro skating, but had never had a competitive team, even at the novice level.

“It was just an experience to compete for my country,” he said. Now he works full time at a Lululemon store and shares a townhouse with three other members of the team. They all make financial sacrifices to skate.

Kristen Loritz, 21, of Toronto, six years with Nexxice, remembers the first time she tried out, knowing nothing about synchro.  “It was very different from anything I’ve ever done,” she said. “You may think it’s easy, but when you get thrown in there, it’s a whole different story.” Loritz lives at home and studies communications at University of Toronto.

Becky Tyler, 22, of Etobicoke, Ont., likes the atmosphere of being “each other’s best friends” and having the support while competing internationally. “We look up to [Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir], and we are constantly in awe of what they do in their programs, like edge work and knee action and things that we can bring into our programs as well. I think our team really focuses on pushing the boundaries on skating skills. We like to keep it strong and poised, and I think our confidence level while we skate is what sets us apart.”

Anna Cappuccitti, 15, of Brampton, Ont., is the youngest member of the team and a first-year member. “It’s a really big accomplishment making the team,” she said. “It’s very hard. I know when I was little, I always used to look up to Nexxice. They got to travel the world, doing what you love every day, so that was just a dream. Now a dream come true.”

Already tryouts are starting for next year. A skater from Australia has sent a request to try out for the team. It’s that special.

Photo: Jim Coveart

Beverley Smith

Les Suprêmes, Synchronicity take home novice, intermediate gold at Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships

BURNABY, B.C. – Les Suprêmes were crowned Canadian novice champions while Synchronicity took home intermediate gold Friday at the 2014 Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships.

Performing a dazzling Michael Jackson routine that had the Bill Copeland Sports Centre on its feet, Quebec’s Les Suprêmes, the leaders after the opening day of competition, scored 77.58 in the second free program to claim novice gold with a 112.31 total. Their provincial counterparts, Nova, finished second at 98.40 while NEXXICE, from Western Ontario, took bronze with a 97.69 total.

After starting the day in sixth spot, defending champions Les Pirouettes made a charge for the podium before falling just short, finishing in fourth spot with 92.02 points.

Synchronicity won the Canadian intermediate title, edging Évolution for gold. The Western Ontario team scored 69.94 in their final free program for a 102.72 total, while Évolution came in at 102.62 for silver. Nova took bronze with 98.92 points.

Teams in the open, junior and senior categories took to the ice for their opening programs Friday.

NEXXICE, the back-to-back world silver medallists, set the tone in the senior division, scoring 79.22 in their short program to vault into top spot ahead of Les Suprêmes (74.54). The top two finishers in the senior category after Saturday’s free program will wear the Canadian colours at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in Italy in April.

Les Suprêmes were also quick out of the gate in the junior short program, managing 60.80, more than six points clear of second-place Les Pirouettes (54.32).

In the Open Free Program #1, Nova scored 43.84 to hold a slight edge on NEXXICE (42.93) and Central Ontario’s Gold Ice (39.64).

Competition closes out Saturday, with the second open free program along with the junior and senior free programs. Tickets are available at the door. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children (ages 6-16).