Synchronized skating is a team sport where a group of eight to 20 ice skaters perform a routine together. The group must move as one, performing intricate steps and formations on the ice that include spins, pair moves, lifts, circles, wheels, intersections, and other difficult movements. Each member of the team must be a strong figure skater, capable of performing complex steps with ease and confidence. The team skates to music, flowing through seamless formations as they move in unison.
During a synchronized skating competition, skaters are judged according to the same criteria as pairs, singles, and dance competitors. Teams perform a free skate consisting of a balanced amount of required program elements. Synchronized groups that compete at the junior and senior level must also perform a short program which is comprised of required elements as well.
Teams who compete in the U.S. can participate in 15 different levels of competition. This is determined by the ages and abilities of the skating teams. Using teamwork, advanced skating skills, complex formations, and speed, the skaters work together to create a constantly flowing routine on the ice.
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The first U.S. Figure Skating Synchronized Championships was held in 1984. In 2000, the U.S. hosted the first World Synchronized Skating Championships. About 525 U.S. synchronized teams are registered with U.S. Figure Skating, and the sport continues to grow in the U.S. as well as the rest of the world.
In its early beginnings, synchronized skating was called precision skating. The first modern synchronized team was formed in 1954 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Richard Porter formed the group, training them to skate performances during the intermissions of games featuring the University of Michigan Men’s Hockey Team. The group was dubbed The Hockettes, and their routines were similar to movements that a drill team would execute. It wasn't until 1976 that a formal team skating competition was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Synchronized skating is considered a varsity sport at some colleges. In fact, Miami University was the first U.S. college to offer a completely funded synchronized skating program. As the popularity of this type of skating increases, more colleges are developing their own synchronized teams because of the growing interest in the sport.
Synchronized skaters who wish to receive intensive training in the sport can attend the U.S. Figure Skating Synchronized Skating Training Festival. Begun in 2006 by U.S. Figure Skating, the two-day training camp is designed for synchronized skaters of all ages and skill levels. Skaters receive 16 hours of instruction led by coaches of U.S. Figure Skating's Synchronized Skating Team. Athletes receive on-ice interaction with the coaches as they fine-tune their skating skills.