As Norwood’s facilities remain silent, figure skaters make the leap to recorded performances
This is the second time that the structure of qualifying for the national championship has changed in this year marked by COVID. With rink closures in the spring and summer preventing skaters from training, US Figure Skating decided in August to abandon the normal process and move qualifying to eight competitions held in November.
The Skating Club of Boston facility in Norwood, which opened in September, was to host one of the events, which was to feature skaters from the juvenile to senior (international) level in singles and pairs.
But on November 2, a week before skaters took to the ice at Norwood, US figure skating changed course, shifting inline competitions and delaying them by three weeks.
“While we understand that many of our athletes and their families may be disappointed with this announcement, the health and safety of our members remains paramount,” said United States Figure Skating President Anne Cammett in the announcement.
The region’s senior and junior skaters – whose ranks have risen in recent months as top national coaches flock to the Skating Club of Boston facilities – will now wait a few weeks to compete for a spot at the U.S. Championships. , scheduled from January 11 to 21 in a bubble at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
According to guidelines released Monday night, skaters will need to apply, find an approved supervisor (a rink professional who does not train or choreograph for the skater), and schedule supervised video recordings of their short and long programs for a date scheduled between. November 1 and November 1. December 30 and 8.
This is a far cry from the usual qualifying experience, which normally takes skaters to regional and sectional competitions at East Coast rinks. Skaters usually discover their plight for nationals in crowded, cold arena halls – one of the last places one would want to be during a pandemic.
From now on, the competition for the national championships will take place in front of a camera and training mates, but not in front of the fans or the judges.
Boston’s skating community isn’t let down.
“Our club’s skaters are very tough,” said Doug Zeghibe, CEO and Executive Director of the Skating Club of Boston. “They roll with the punches.”
Earlier in the fall, US figure skating offered elite athletes a virtual competitive opportunity called the International Selection Pool Points Challenge. This provided a test of how national qualifying competitions could be moved online.
“We have allowed one freestyle session to film these programs,” Zeghibe said. “We are already operating at reduced capacity and our elite skaters are skating in the middle of the day, when there aren’t that many people at the start. “
Testing was essential, as virtual competitions are largely new to figure skating. They started popping up this summer when COVID-19 shelved the usual list of sports summer club competitions. The Colonial Figure Skating Club in Boxborough hosted a series over the summer, which Lind hosted with her fellow coaches.
“I pitched the idea to some of my judge friends and asked, ‘How could we make this work? “” Said Lind.
Lind and her colleagues decided to offer the competition only for criticism, and not for use in American figure skating record keeping systems. Not only did it work, it was surprisingly effective for judges and officials.
“The technical panel would first watch the video and then the judges would watch it,” said Lind. “We could leave notes. It was no more time to judge a normal event.
Monday’s announcement of US figure skating has left skaters at the lower competitive levels – from youth to novices – with no competitive outlet yet. The organization said it is still running programs for these levels in early 2021.
But some rinks are taking matters into their own hands, creating opportunities for skaters who were ready to compete in their biggest competition of the season this week. The Boston Skating Club is hosting a performance opportunity, where approximately 60 club athletes at these levels will skate for criticism from judges and officials. No placement will be offered, but it does give the skaters a goal in an odd season.
“There is no first, second or third place,” Zeghibe said. “But they can finish this year’s competitive season.”
Lind thinks virtual competitions may well become commonplace.
“I think there is a place for that, even after the pandemic is over,” Lind said. “It really is a profitable model, and it gives more opportunities to skaters.”