Synchro skaters cut path to world recognition

In spite of Canada’s best ever figure skating medal haul at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Mary-Katherine Phelps believes the best is yet to come.

She’s the senior member of Canada’s synchronized skating team and believes it’s a sport whose time has come. “Hopefully (synchro skating will) be included in (the Olympics by) 2014, by 2018 at the latest,” Phelps said.

After ranking second in Canada at the national championship in Brampton, Ont., on March 4, Phelps’s synchro team is headed to the world championships.

The team of 20 young women, known as Black Ice, departs next week for Colorado Springs in the U.S., where the 2010 ISU World Synchronized Skating competition begins on April 9

According to Skate Canada’s official results, Black Ice missed the national gold by a small margin to its Kitchener rivals, Nexxice. Black Ice beat Nexxice’s technical score in the long program but fell short on the artistic marks.

As the next competition approaches, Black Ice has looked to professional choreographer and artistic guru David Wilson for support. Wilson attended the team’s March 20 practice in Richmond Hill.

“Most of the choreography is done now,” he said, “I just come out now for moral support.”

The creative mastermind behind the Olympic programs for Joannie Rochette, Yu-Na KimJeffrey Buttle and Johnny Weir, Wilson takes an unprecedented step by collaborating with a synchro team.

He performed as a teen with long-running synchro tours, the ‘Ice Capades’ and ‘Holiday on Ice,’ before making the switch to choreography. He met Black Ice coach Kathy Dalton at a competition in 2006 and agreed to come on board.

Since then, he meets the women every August for a one-week intensive choreography camp, where team members map out the season’s two programs.

Nine fast-paced and complex configurations make up the short program; 13 for the long. Judges award marks for performance and execution of footwork and choreography interpretation of the music, according to Skate Canada.

This will be Black Ice’s 26th international appearance since the team’s inception in 1992.

Together with Nexxice and Quebec team Les Supremes, Canadian sychro skaters are raising the international profile of this niche class of figure skating competition.

The first synchronized skating world championship took place in 2000; in 2007, the sport participated in a World University Cup. Black Ice was invited to skate at both events.

Phelps has her heart set on the Olympics, but for now, she and Black Ice are focused on performing well in Colorado.

Link to the 2010 World Synchronized Skating competition webcast.