Over 500 figure skaters from 23 teams representing 19 countries around the globe came together for the International Skating Union’s 2023 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Lake Placid last week.
In synchronized skating, more than perhaps in any other team sport, the strength of an entire team lies with each individual athlete. Together, they share an intense passion for their sport, yet they also each have their own unique stories. And though they all arrive together at the World Championships where everything they achieve they achieve together as one, each skater is on their own journey.
“We all grew up skating and have been doing it our whole lives,” says Cameron Feeley from Saratoga Springs, New York and a member of the Haydenettes, a Boston-based team that’s won 13 straight national U.S. championships, including 2023. “We’ve all been working together on this current team since May of last year.”
Her teammate Autumn Coulthard from Las Vegas, Nevada chimes in, “Some of us are going to school. Some of us working. There’s a big age range as well. Skaters come from across the country and pick their schools based on wanting to join the Haydenettes. To do that you have to get into the college you want and make the team.”
“This competition has been on my mind through my whole journey,” says Autumn. The 2023 World Synchronized Skating Championship marked the first time in history the event was held in Lake Placid and only the fifth time in its 24-year history the event has come to the United States. Originally scheduled for Lake Placid in 2020, the pandemic arrived just prior, forcing its cancellation in both 2020 and 2021. “That was my first year on the team, and I was a freshman in college,” says Autumn. “We haven’t competed as much as we would like the past two years.”
Cameron says, “Having worlds cancelled in 2020 was definitely very hard on the team, and a lot of skaters from that team are no longer here still. That makes it really special for us to get to do this both for ourselves and for them. I hope we really represent everyone well, and I know we have all the Haydenettes alumni support behind us.”
In the midst of weather from every season of the year on display during the two-day competition in Lake Placid, many thousands of spectators turned out to watch and cheer. Many of them traveled from all parts of the globe to watch their teams while many parents and children from schools around the area joined in, too, thanks to complimentary tickets distributed by the Olympic Authority.
What they all witnessed together was a splendid live demonstration of how athleticism and art can intertwine in ways that make them inseparable. Awed by a combination of strength and grace in a great many moments during the competition, spectators were also moved to tears in other moments and cheers in many more. The synchronized moves of the teams in competition were graceful, creative, and expressive while also a show of power, skill, fitness and teamwork.
The audience was at times collectively moved to offer standing ovations for the more extraordinary performances, as fans of all countries were all on their feet cheering for teams from rival countries. It was as though the athlete-artists performing on the ice were speaking to everyone in attendance in a universal language.
“It was incredible,” said Brittny Rivelli of the Miami University Team. “Before we even got on the ice, we were saying this feels like a continuation of Nationals but 10 times the size. So much of our fan club is here. We just really wanted to go out and show the world what we’ve been working so hard for.”
The emotional aspect of their experience also involved being immersed in Lake Placid’s remarkable history. Brittny’s teammate Annie Givens declared, “We all heard about how great this city is, so actually being here is like a fairy tale. When we had a team gathering the other night to celebrate going to Worlds, we all watched the movie ‘Miracle.’ It was so cool to see that and then come here where it happened.”
“And then our first couple of steps into the rink, we were greeted by Paul Wylie (Director of Sport at the Olympic Authority),” adds Brittney. “He’s such an incredible part of U.S. figure skating history, it was kind of like a really wholesome moment for all of us.” The skaters also had the chance to meet Jim Craig, the legendary 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team goalie who played such a huge role in the Miracle on Ice win.
“I’m one of the few who had never been here before,” remarked Autumn. “I didn’t look anything up in advance because I just wanted to be surprised. The fact that so many of us have skated here before is cool. The renovations, the feeling of the Olympic Center, and the arena, everything made a very special vibe here.”
For many of these young women, competing at the World Championships was a dream in itself. A dream they’ve had since childhood. They all share a love of skating and the experience of working hard day after day and year after year throughout childhood and into their adult years to eventually make the team and compete together as one. It’s a passion they all share as well as an aspect to their unique stories they also all share. Something any one of these over 500 competitors could have given up on many times but didn’t. And that’s possibly the best outcome of all – to inspire others by demonstrating how persistence, passion and purpose can help anyone achieve big dreams.
At the end of the two-day competition, one of the two Canadian teams, Team Les Supremes, placed first for the second year in a row, while the Haydenettes and Miami University placed 5th and 6th respectively. The 30-time United States champion Haydenettes recorded the best-ever total score by any U.S. team at this ISU World Championships while Miami University also tallied their best-ever score at a World Championship. Click here to see the full ISU World Synchronized Skating Championship 2023 results and get additional team details.