From Eight to Sixteen – The Story of a Synchronized Skating Team

Skating isn’t all about the medals.

It’s about the memories.

Medals are a bonus though.

During the Arborg Skating Club‘s 1988/1989 season, our coach produced three successful synchronized (precision) skating teams. I was on the eight-member senior team, winning two silver medal. Two competitions, two silver medals. Not too shabby.

We won the second silver medal at the 1989 Interlake Winter Games in Arborg, Manitoba – our home club – runners up to the St. Andrews Precice-ettes. However, the competition wasn’t an advancer. Merely a trial run to gauge participation. Those Winter Games were deemed a success, and Gimli, Manitoba would host the figure skating portion of the 1990 Interlake Winter Games.

The gold medal team would advance to the 1990  Manitoba Winter Games in Carmen, Manitoba. In theory.

Our coach, Joanne Hough, explained while the St. Andrews Precice-ettes were expected to win the 1990 Interlake Winter Games, they would probably pass the torch for Carmen to the silver medallists.

According to the 1989/1990 rules, a team was prohibited from competing at the Manitoba Winter Games and the provincial championships in the same year. No doubt St. Andrews would rather compete for another ticket to the Canadians.

Ergo, we were aiming for that silver medal.

It wasn’t that simple. First challenge – our eight-member team. We were so small, two sets of sisters made half our team – and I was part of that half. The smallest team allowed at the 1990 Winter Games was eight. That season, our coach wanted a 16-member team, the maximum. Then we could split into lines of eight and four.

However, it wouldn’t be the so-called easy breezy 1988/1989 season.

In September 1989, before fall skating school, we were on two missions: searching for eight more members and choreographing our program in the elementary school gymnasium. The arena didn’t have ice, and we needed a jump start. We recruited three skaters from Arborg’s middle-age team. One of the skaters pulled double duty, skating on our team and the middle-age team.

In the gym, while 11 of us sashayed to “The Doctor” by the Doobie Brothers, “Thru These Walls” by Phil Collins, and “Come Dancing” by The Kinks, we pitched names to Joanne of skaters who may want to compete.

Who wouldn’t want to compete at the Manitoba Winter Games? Yes, I’d already pre-punched my ticket to Carmen.

During fall school, we were still struggling to expand our team. Luckily, two former Arborg synchro skaters eagerly jumped on our team. However, our club was tapped out. We need more older skaters, preferably with experience.

A skater from Inwood joined our team. She had experience, plus Joanne was her coach. Okay, almost there. What did we think about approaching two skaters from Riverton?

And we were sixteen. But, there was another issue.


The 1989/1990 Arborg Junior Team with our coach, Joanne Hough. Two team members are missing from this photo. I’m third from the left in the back row.

According to the rules for the Winter Games, members of the synchronized skating teams must be ages seventeen and under. One of the Arborg girls we recruited wouldn’t be able to compete at the Games. The alternate plan if we didn’t advance to the Winter Games? All 16 members would go to the Manitoba Championships.

But we were double silver-plated. Runners up to St. Andrews. The unbeatable team. Sure, we were eight, but now we were a powerful 16-member team. Of course we were heading towards the Winter Games.

But, sometimes life throws curve balls.

Because we didn’t advance to the 1990 Manitoba Winter Games.

In fact, we almost didn’t medal after placing fourth in unexpected compulsories without music. After the free program – despite two falls – we won the bronze medal.

When they announced the synchro results, I believe I was the only team member who cheered. I remembering looking at one of my teammates, and she looked so sad. Some of us gathered to watch the medal ceremony for single’s where a teammate won the overall bronze medal.

I remember more about her bronze medal ceremony our bronze medal synchro ceremony.

But, that bronze pushed us. The season wasn’t over. We had work to do, and we worked. Hard.

That February, we won the gold at provincials. And today – March 9, 1990, marks 29 years since we won the 1990 Interlake Precision Regional Competition over the St. Andrews Precice-ettes.

During the 1993 ice show – Aladdin on Ice – I skated an exhibition performance with the senior skaters. We even reused some of the choreography from my former Junior team’s 1989/1990 season. But nothing matched the excitement of competitive synchro.

I’m proud to be part of the short legacy of that Arborg Precision Team. Our team skated for two seasons, and we never left a competition without hardware – amassing five medals.

Two seasons doesn’t sound like a long time, but in synchro years those memories last forever.