Rochelle and Kayleigh Hayward’s synchronized skating medal collections continue to grow.
The most recent addition, skating with London Skating Club’s Synchronicity at the 2013 Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships in Calgary, Feb. 21-22, was Intermediate Gold.
The former Tillsonburg Skating Club figure skaters also won national gold medals with Synchronicity in 2010 and silver medals in 2011.
“They’re both equally exciting, just different I guess,” said Rochelle, 22, comparing the first national championship to the one they captured a couple weeks ago. “The first one, we had no expectations the entire year and we were first after the first skate. It was almost like we expected to be on the podium. This one, we knew we were third and all we wanted to do was hold on to that spot.”
Synchronicity traveled different roads to each national championship, and this year won gold medals at each of their competitions except for the Ontario Regional Synchronized Skating Championships (provincials) in Newmarket, Feb. 8-10, where they were second.
“Winterfest (Mississauga) was our second competition, the first weekend of January, and that was a big one. This year we had teams from out west and Quebec, too. It kind of sets the tone for the season. It was exciting to win that one.”
At Regionals, Synchronicity finished 0.42 points behind East Gwillimbury SC’s Shiver, a team that had taken bronze at Winterfest – seven points behind Synchronicity.
“Our skates were okay at Regionals. They weren’t absolutely amazing, they were good.
“Shiver’s our biggest competition out of the Ontario teams, and they always have been. It’s us and Shiver, we’re always cheering for each other. We call ourselves ‘frenemies.’ When we had medal presentations, they came down to ice level to congratulate us.
“Last year, nationals wasn’t so much fun for us – we finished fifth – and they ended up placing second. We all went down to ice level and congratulated them. They are such an amazing team. It’s really nice to have a team like that, as much as you are still competition, to be able to get along with them and be genuinely happy for them whether they place ahead of us or they don’t.”
At Nationals, Synchronicity was third after the first skate behind Nova, a Quebec team, and Shiver.
“Between us there was 0.3 points between first (28.96) and third (28.70), and Shiver (28.95) was only a tenth of a point behind Nova. It was really close.”
Shiver dropped out of the medals after the second skate, falling to fourth.
“Really unfortunate for them because they are an incredible team. Another Quebec team (Evolution) pulled up to third from fifth.”
Synchronicity finished 1.5 points ahead of Nova to take the 2013 gold.
Four of the 16 teams, including fifth-place Edmonton Edge, were not from Ontario or Quebec, perennial powerhouses in synchronized skating.
“Always amazing competition from Quebec,” Hayward nodded. “It pushes us to do better because we look up to them as ‘absolutely incredible’ and we want to be like that.”
After winning Intermediate national gold medals in 2010 and silver in 2011, finishing fifth – knocked off the podium – in 2012 was a disappointment.
“The minute you have expectations, that’s when you’re going to be disappointed and start to fall apart. So our goal this year was to go in and skate the best we can.
“We really wanted to bring the emotion into our program. As far as technical goals, they’re going to call it or they’re not. We can try as hard as we can, but we don’t really have control over that. The other mark, the presentation, the feeling behind it, that’s where you can change it.”
Nerves were not an issue going into the second skate, she said.
“For me, that second skate, I’ve never been so calm in my life. I don’t know what it was. It always hits me when I’m standing in my beginning pose… but I was fine. A little butterflies, but that’s normal.”
She attributed it to the fact that they were third and looking ‘up’ rather than being chased.
“We were thinking, ‘let’s just go out there, skate the best that we can, give it all we’ve got, we really don’t have much to lose, so why not?’ I think that’s why a lot of us were really calm. It definitely helped a lot.”
As routines go, she rated their 2011 program (Adele) the most unique.
“This year we skated to Cirque de Soleil, and it almost combined music from the year we won and the year we placed second. That was kind of cool. At the beginning I said, ‘I think it’s going to be a good year.’ We did really well when we skated to that kind of music – it’s just our ‘style.’ It works for us.”
Synchronicity skated fourth out of 16 teams on the first day, Feb. 21, in Calgary. The next night, the Top 4 teams skated in the final flight, but Synchronicity drew the first skate in that flight.
“Our score was 59.16 in the second skate, which was actually the highest score we had got all season.”
Sitting in first place with three routines to go, they went back to their dressing room. Their coach, Traci Wells, told them to keep their costumes and skates on.
“She (Wells) comes in after the next team skated and said, ‘you’re still in first.’ Of course everyone cheers…
“The next team skates, and she comes in and holds up two fingers. We’re like, ‘ok, we’re in second… second’s still really good, we’re still on the podium regardless of what the next team gets…’ So we’re all super-excited by that – we’re on the podium…
“She comes in after the last team skated – Shiver. She walks in and says, ‘so, I just wanted to tell you… you’re the 2013 national champions.’”
“We said, ‘What? We thought we were second, and she said, ‘no, I meant the lowest you could get was second… I thought you’d just understand what I meant.’”
Even if they didn’t ‘get it,’ it was better than expected and the team reacted much like they did in 2010.
“We were jumping up in the air, hugging each other, and just bawling and crying. Ugly crying. We were so excited.”
The average age of the 18-skater Synchronicity intermediate team, said Rochelle, who just turned 22, is about 19-22. With her sister Kayleigh, 24, most of the team is eligible for another run in intermediate, which ‘ages out’ at 25. But that will depend on who stays for post-secondary school, who leaves the area, and who returns.
The minimum age for adult synchronized skating divisions is 19, divided into three competitive levels, but Rochelle, who joined Synchronicity for the 2007-08 season, plans to stay intermediate at least a couple more years.
“Intermediate is probably the most competitive you’re going to get unless you do the junior-senior, which competes around the world… if you can afford that. I will probably will do this as long as I can. It probably depends on what the team’s like year-after-year and who stays, who goes…”
Since the Hayward sisters started synchronized skating, there’s only been one season the former Tillsonburg Skating Club members didn’t share a team.
“She’ll probably continue doing Adult synchro (after next season) and we’ll still see each other all the time. Then I get kicked up to Adult two years later.”