Rusty Edges sharpen skills to win Bronze

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY DENISE PIKE

Off the ice the 17 women that make up the Trin­ity Pla­cen­tia Syn­chro­nized Mas­ters Skat­ing Team couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent from each other.

Some are well-es­tab­lished ca­reer women, oth­ers are just start­ing out, some are young and bub­bly and oth­ers are quiet, se­ri­ous types. Their ages range from 20 years to 50-some­thing.

While the women ap­pear to have lit­tle in com­mon, when they step out on the ice, they be­come one and have one com­mon goal - to skate well. On Valen­tine’s Day that’s ex­actly what they did.

The team, The Rusty Edges un­der the di­rec­tion of coach Dana Welsh-Smith, fin­ished third at the Pro­vin­cial Syn­chro­nized Skat­ing Com­pe­ti­tion held Feb. 13-14 in Cor­ner Brook.

“For a group of skaters that had only had a few prac­tices, they did ex­tremely well,” says Smith.“I’m very proud of them.”

The team, sport­ing black leo­tards and New­found­land tar­tan vests, glided across the ice to sev­eral New­found­land songs in­clud­ing Sonny’s Dream and Greg Foggy Day. How­ever they weren’t too happy about their per­for­mance

“We didn’t think we did too well. We left the ice dis­ap­pointed,” says Wendy Perry-Gran­ter of Blake­town, one of the per­form­ers.“This was our first com­pe­ti­tion and we were re­ally ner­vous. We sep­a­rated when we shouldn’t have dur­ing the rou­tine and we couldn’t get back in place af­ter­ward. As soon as we were fin­ished we took off our skates and cos­tumes and went up­stairs to wait un­til the clos­ing cer­e­mony was over.”

While they claim to have had a lit­tle trou­ble dur­ing the per­for­mance, they aced the prac­tice rou­tine and that may have helped their over­all score.

“The girls (syn­chro­nized skat­ing team) were all say­ing how well we did, but we didn’t agree,” says Perry-Gran­ter.“When the scores were posted we didn’t even bother to go look. But they did, and when they saw we had won the Bronze medal they started jump­ing around and yelling. It was pret- ty ex­cit­ing, you wouldn’t know but we had won the Olympics.We were just like teenagers. What a feel­ing when those medals were placed around our necks.”

Not a bad ac­com­plish­ment, es­pe­cially for a team that ba­si­cally started on a whim.

“Most of the mem­bers are moms of Can­skate and Starskate fig­ure skaters on the Trin­ity Pla­cen­tia Flames and Ex­plo­sives skat­ing club, and would be ac­com­pa­ny­ing their daugh­ters to Cor­ner Brook for the com­pe­ti­tion. So I said: why not put a ladies syn­chro­nized team to­gether and com­pete as well?” says Smith. “They al­ready had a lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence, be­cause over the past few years they’ve been do­ing a short, just­for-fun skat­ing per­for­mance dur­ing our an­nual Ice Show.They were a lit­tle hes­i­tant at first, but af­ter some thought de­cided to go for it.”

Un­der skat­ing rules, mem­bers of the Mas­ters Syn­chro­nized team must be non-com­pet­i­tive skaters and half of them must over 35 years old.

“I think that’s what qual­i­fied me,” laughs Perry-Gran­ter who grew up skat­ing on a pond and not in a sta­dium.“When some of the mem­bers first asked me, the thought crossed my mind that maybe they were a lit­tle im­pressed with my skat­ing abil­ity. But nope, that wasn’t it at all! I think it was more about my age, the fact that I’m 42 and they needed women of my age to make up the team.”

Pro­gressed in skill

Smith, who has been skat­ing since she was five years old, vol­un­teered to coach them.

“She is just fan­tas­tic and for­tu­nately for us, blessed with lots of pa­tience,” Perry-Gran­ter points out.“She def­i­nitely had her work cut out for her.”

The for­mer com­pet­i­tive skater ( Old Shop, Trin­ity Bay) and co­coach of the Trin­ity Pla­cen­tia Can­skate and Star Skate ad­mits coach­ing the women was “ a bit dif­fer­ent” than coach­ing kids.

“They’re a unique group, that’s for sure,” Smith says. “ Some of them had been in fig­ure skat­ing in their younger years and some could hardly skate at all. Some took it very se­ri­ously and oth­ers were like - ah who cares? And of course the chore­og­ra­phy was some­thing else. For in­stance when work­ing with the girls syn­chro­nized team, if I said turn right - well they knew ex­actly what to do, where to turn and how to do it. But when I gave that di­rec­tion to the women, the first thing they did was stop and ask: what right? Yours or mine, or do you mean right shoul­der or right foot? It was quite a laugh on times.

“Any­way I quickly re­al­ized we had to start right from scratch. That’s what we did and they pro­gressed in skill like you wouldn’t be­lieve. It was such a learn­ing curve for all of us and well worth the ef­fort.”

Out­side of coach­ing, Smith works as a speech lan­guage pathol­o­gist with the Vista Re­gion of the East­ern School District.

“She has a hus­band (Greg) and has a three-year-old son (Daw­son) and coach­ing our team meant a lit­tle less time with them,” says Perry-Gran­ter. “We re­al­ize it in­creased her work­load. We’re grate­ful she agreed to do it though. She put to­gether such a good rou­tine; she’s so pol­ished in that area. I think it gave us an edge and def­i­nitely added to our score.”

Smith did the chore­og­ra­phy and skat­ing rou­tines for the Rusty Edges, In­di­vid­ual Girls Solo and Ice Show in the car while driv­ing from home (Nor­man’s Cove) to work each day in Clarenville. She then e-mailed the steps for the var­i­ous el­e­ments to mem­bers of the Rusty Edges. Some of the women, like Per­ryGran­ter, prac­tised the rou­tine from home - in wool socks on the hard­wood floor­ing in her liv­ing room.

“We only had about six prac- tices at the sta­dium so my floor be­came the ice,” she says.“It started out as just be­ing fun, but I also wanted to do a good job and in or­der to do that I had to prac­tise and if I couldn’t be on the ice, my floor had to do.”

But prac­tise makes per­fect and aside from want­ing to skate well there were other rea­sons why it was im­por­tant for mem­bers of the Rusty Edges to keep their bal­ance. Just af­ter they started skat­ing four of the women on the team got preg­nant.

“At one point dur­ing a prac­tice I had two women on each side of me who were preg­nant,” chuck­les Perry-Gran­ter. “All I could think was: oh my good­ness I can’t fall be­cause if I do, I am go­ing knock them down with me. Talk about pres­sure.”

How­ever team mem­ber Karen Ge­orge, who fell dur­ing prac­tise and broke her wrist, was the only one who in­curred an in­jury.

Never too old

Perry-Gran­ter, a teacher at Acre­man Ele­men­tary in Greens Har­bour says be­ing part of the syn­chro­nized skat­ing team, taught her that she is never too old to learn some­thing new.

“It wasn’t so much about how to keep my bal­ance while turn­ing on skates. It was more about the chal­lenge - of try­ing and be­ing able to do some­thing new at this point in my life,” she says. “That was a great feel­ing. I mean at my age, noth­ing is new any­more. You do the same things day af­ter day and you of­ten adopt the at­ti­tude that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you’re never too old to learn and there’s a feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment that goes along with learn­ing some­thing new. It makes you glad you tried.”

With a Bronze medal un­der their belts, the Rusty Edges are not think­ing of hang­ing up their skates any­time soon. The sport has grown on them.

“As hockey moms or moms of fig­ure skaters it has given us an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what it is we ask our chil­dren to do in com­pet­i­tive sports,” says Perry-Gran­ter. “It takes courage to go out there on that ice and per­form and com­pete and it also takes a tremendous amount of ded­i­ca­tion. It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

Other mem­bers of the team in­clude Stephanie Power, Cindy Hef­ford, Karen Pin­sent, Sa­man­tha Ne­whook, Brenda Black, Heather Mercer, Wendy Gran­ter, Colleen Power, Ann Mercer, Lor­rie King, An­drea Burry, Karen Ge­orge, Mary Har­ris, Nancy Jack­son, Kathy Reid, Court­ney Mur­phy, and Man­ager An­drea Do­minie.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Stephanie Power

IN SYNC - Seven­teen mem­bers of the Trin­ity Pla­cen­tia Rusty Edges Syn­chro­nized Skat­ing Team prac­tise their skat­ing rou­tine. The team is coached by Dana Welsh-Smith, a for­mer com­pet­i­tive skater, who along with Karen Pin­sent, also coaches the Trin­ity Pla­cen­tia Can­skate and Can Star Skat­ing clubs.

THIRD PLACE WIN­NERS - Mem­bers of the Trin­ity Pla­cen­tia Rusty Edges syn­chro­nized skat­ing team have only been per­form­ing to­gether for a few months, but have al­ready proved they are force to be reck­oned with. The women, whose ages range from 20 to 50, cap­tured the Bronze medal dur­ing the pro­vin­cial syn­chro­nized skat­ing com­pe­ti­tion Feb. 13-14 in Cor­ner Brook.

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