GET­TING IN SYNC

Rose Bowl sets up Cal­gary’s Black Gold for skat­ing sea­son

Calgary Sun - - SPORTS - BRAN­DON MCNEIL Post­media Net­work bm­c­[email protected]­media.com

In the world of syn­chro­nized skat­ing in West­ern Canada, many would con­sider them the gold stan­dard.

Or should we say the Black Gold stan­dard.

As the 35th an­nual Rose Bowl com­pe­ti­tion fired up at the Max Bell Cen­tre on the week­end, the host Cal­gary Syn­chro­nized Skat­ing Club and its renowned Black Gold clubs took to the ice to try to repli­cate the suc­cess they’ve con­sis­tently been able to achieve since the or­ga­ni­za­tion — then known as Cal­gary Pre­ci­sion — was founded in 1995.

In a coun­try where the most dom­i­nant skat­ing teams have tra­di­tion­ally come from its eastern re­gions, Cal­gary’s Black Gold squads have been set­ting the bar high for the city and the club’s con­tem­po­raries.

“One of the rea­sons that it’s been so suc­cess­ful is the strong core of skaters that have stayed to­gether for a re­ally long time, which is im­por­tant for any team to learn how to work well to­gether,” said Cay­ley

Bianco, a ninth-year head coach with the CSSC.

“We have skaters with tons of ex­pe­ri­ence that have skated for a long time, and we have strong goals and work to­gether to achieve those, and we come in to­gether to work hard.”

The Black Gold squads en­list skaters from across the skill spec­trum and de­ploy them on-ice in seven groups — adult (I, II, III), pre-novice, ju­ve­nile, in­ter­me­di­ate and open. It’s the open team, the na­tion­ally com­pet­i­tive group, that has es­pe­cially done well in its rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the CSSC.

Ch­eryl Schaub, co-chair of the Rose Bowl, ex­plains that part of that can be con­trib­uted to the strong fam­ily-ori­ented, com­mu­nity as­pect that the CSSC and its Black Gold squads have worked dili­gently to build into its cul­ture.

“The big­gest thing is the com­mu­nity feel­ing,” Schaub said. “Black Gold is re­ally good with mak­ing all their skaters feel like they are part of a big­ger com­mu­nity and know­ing each other, con­nect­ing with them and al­ways look­ing for­ward to that team as­pect of trav­el­ling to­gether and com­pet­ing to­gether. They get to know each other so well that even out­side of skat­ing they will do things to­gether.”

There is also a strong social as­pect that keeps the skaters to­gether for as long as they have been.

“When I was con­sid­er­ing com­ing back to syn­chro, it was the only team on my mind,” said Heather New­man, a sec­ond-year skater with the open squad, who at 36 years old finds her­self as one of the older mem­bers of the team.

“We def­i­nitely have a great rep­u­ta­tion, es­pe­cially right here in Cal­gary, as a re­ally pow­er­ful and pos­i­tive team. We his­tor­i­cally have placed the high­est in the west at na­tion­als, which is re­ally ex­cit­ing, and we’re re­ally proud of that.”

“Syn­chro is a team event, and even though it’s a com­pe­ti­tion, all the teams cheer on all the other teams,” added Schaub. “We are very hope­ful that all our teams will be as suc­cess­ful as pos­si­ble.”

Fun aside, the Black Gold open team al­ways sets its sights high in achiev­ing the best re­sults pos­si­ble at the com­pe­ti­tion.

It all starts at the Rose Bowl, which marks the first big show­case in the sea­son for syn­chro­nized skat­ing.

The CSSC has a mis­sion state­ment of con­tin­u­ing to bring out the best of their ath­letes and has hopes of grow­ing the sport on a na­tional — and even global — scale.

“It’s such a unique sport and not too many peo­ple know about it, so get­ting the wider va­ri­ety of the com­mu­nity to know about syn­chro­nized fig­ure skat­ing and get­ting them in­volved,” said Schaub, who also noted that it has been harder to get peo­ple started in syn­chro at an early age than it is to keep in­volved as the years go on.

Canada, though hav­ing done well within the worlds, has stiff com­pe­ti­tion from Fin­land, Swe­den, the U.S. and Rus­sia, where syn­chro­nized skat­ing is in higher re­gard in terms of pop­u­lar­ity.

“Glob­ally, it is a big sport, but since we are here in Cal­gary and it is so hockey-fo­cused, not too many peo­ple know about it,” Schaub said. “There’s a ton of teams from out east (in Canada), and a lot of the top teams come from out east. We are usu­ally up in the mid­dle-ist po­si­tion.”

So the CSSC con­tin­ues ev­ery year with the Black Gold teams bring­ing the high qual­ity per­for­mance the re­gion is known for to the fore­front of the Cana­dian mar­ket.

Time will tell on the longterm growth of a sport where there are as­pi­ra­tions of Olympic par­tic­i­pa­tion, but in the mean­time, the best skaters from across coun­try were hon­ing their craft at the Max Bell Cen­tre — with fi­nal skates on Sun­day — in prepa­ra­tion for what will sure to be an­other suc­cess­ful ap­pear­ance at na­tion­als.

And it all starts with the Rose Bowl.

Black Gold is re­ally good with mak­ing all their skaters feel like they are part of a big­ger com­mu­nity ... They get to know each other so well that even out­side of skat­ing they will do things to­gether. Ch­eryl Schaub, Rose Bowl co-chair

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

Heather New­man, at front, and other mem­bers of the Cal­gary Syn­chro­nized Skat­ing Club’s Black Gold teams are look­ing to repli­cate the club’s suc­cess.

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