The Sunday of the 2014 British Synchronized Skating Championships saw some old hands again in action for the Isle of Wight. Isabelle Coeshott and Gemma Marsh, both retired co-captains of last year’s junior team Wight Jewels, were able to take to the ice again for mixed age team Wight Crystals.
Both Izzy and Gemma helped span the generational gap at the championships, skating on the Saturday with IW adults team Wight Fossils. With the Crystals being unable to meet the requirements to compete at novice level this year, the move to mixed age broadened the age range of skaters open to the team, allowing them to bring in IW skating veterans.
Anyone familiar with the UK synchro scene will have noticed many other rehoused teams in 13-strong mixed age class: last year’s former junior team Solway Stars from Dumfries, Lee Valley’s former senior team Aura, and Nottingham’s former intermediate team Rocking Robins – after the scrapping of intermediate – being among them. Predictably, the battle for medals was among these teams. Solways Stars, the first team to step onto the ice, set a cracking score of 41.25 that ultimately proved impossible to beat – though with Rocking Robins last of the 13 teams to skate the result wasn’t ever certain. Robins scored 39.28 to take second ahead of Lee Valley Aura in third on 36.45.
Wight Crystals ultimately finished fourth on 35.15. As third team to skate they actually held on to second place for some time, slipping to third after Aura skated and finally fourth. But there are positives to look to, with the team scoring more for technical than the Robins (19.50 against 18.78).
With Wight Jewels in second on 29.86 and Nottingham Icicles on 37.84 after the junior short, and having seen both teams in practice, seasoned observers could see that the position would remain unchanged after the long. And so it proved, with Jewels out first scoring 62.32 for an overall total of 92.18. Icicles continued to impress with a staggering 83.62, for an overall total of 121.46, making them worthy junior champions, and the Jewels the silver medallists. The consolation for the Jewels is that with a squad gutted by retirements and departures, and a training schedule interrupted at a key time of the season by the birth of coach Terri’s Smith’s son in November, they actually achieved scores easily comparable with last season’s marks set by the veteran Jewels, who scored 94.51 at last season’s British, and went on to grow in ability by the time of the Trophy D’Ecosse ISU event in Dumfries.
Some comment must be made about the juniors’ scores. Icicles’ long programme by itself scored more than any of the senior teams scored in total at the British championships (Wales & West Team Spirit 80.72; Aberdeen Zariba 79.04; Inverness Moray Dolphins 68.94). The Jewels also outscored the seniors in both short and free programmes. What is a shame is that neither Nottingham nor the Isle of Wight can fulfil the age requirements to put together a senior team. None the less it will be interesting, as ever, to see how scores set at the British championships hold up in Europe in ISU events rather than a domestic event.
There’ll be a chance to observe that in just a few weeks at the 2014 French Cup in Rouen on 31 January to 1 February, where Nottingham Icicles take on some of the very best junior teams from around the world and will no doubt be aiming to overtake at the very least the next target team from last season, Black Diam’s of France. Black Diam’s have typically finished a place above UK teams in recent years, and in the Winter Cup in Belgium in November 2013 were one place ahead of Icicles on 109.79 compared with 102.97. Nottingham’s strong advanced novice team, Shadows, will also be at the French Cup, with an healthy 50.21 at the British at the weekend (a great advance on 35.90 at the Winter Cup) to fire them up.
Following that will be the toughest event of all, the 2014 Junior World Challenge Cup in Neuchatel, Switzerland, on 6 to 8 March. The JWCC is this year’s world junior championship event, and Icicles will clearly be chosen as UK representative on the strength of their domestic and international results (the Jewels have no international schedule this season within the selection time frame for the JWCC). The goal there will to be to finish better than 15th, a feat that no British team has managed since the inaugural JWCC where Bracknell’s Ice Metrics placed 11th out of 14 teams; Icicles were 15th at the world championship event in 2013 and Jewels 15th at the world championship event in 2012. In 2013, Icicles scored 91.03 at the worlds, against a domestic championship score of 103.92.