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 fires up at Max Bell Centre this weekend, the host Calgary Synchronized Skating Club and its renowned Black Gold clubs take to the ice to try and replicate the success that 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 different 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 traveling 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 as 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’s 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 in the form of Finland, Sweden, USA and Russia, where synchronized skating finds itself 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 that the region is known for to forefront of the Canadian market.
Time will tell on the long term growth of a sport that has aspirations of Olympic participation, but in the meantime, the best skaters from across country will be here honing their craft at the Max Bell Centre — with final skates set for Sunday — in preparation for what will sure to be another successful appearance at nationals.
And it all starts with the Rose Bowl.
The Rose Bowl kicks off Saturday with its opening ceremonies at 4:15 p.m., with following performances from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. On Sunday, the second half of the competition will have the beginner groups start the day bright and early at 8:30 a.m. and end with the open squad at 2:35 p.m. Medal presentations will then close out Rose Bowl by 3 p.m.
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