The two best things about the World Synchronized Skating Championships were the people and the skating.

Being at a skating competition, regardless of the level is one of my favourite things; surrounded by an arena full of people who are as into skating as I am. the next thig is running into friends that you don’t expect to see.

Take Josh Babb for example, who, along with sister Rebecca, were Junior Dance champions of Canada some years ago. He has moved on to coaching and is coaching a team at the top of the Junior ranks in the United States and has already been to Junior Synchro Worlds. Not only is he up to his neck in Synchro, he is an amazing choreographer and totally committed to the sport of figure skating. His passion is infectious and his ability to help identify some of the nuances of the programs was invaluable to me.

Don’t even get me started about Japan’s Yutaka Higuchi who, at one time, was a Japanese men’s champion and is very involved as a coach in Tokyo. When I was a young skater, he would come to Toronto for the summer for training and in subsequent generations has been helpful in encouraging other Japanese skaters to do the same. A tall and elegant man now in his 50s, when you see his name on a skater’s bio, he will only ever modestly say with a warm smile “I am helping them a bit with their skating.” The free program from the Jingu Ice Messengers (Japan1 ) was a phenominal example of modern and fresh creativity.

As far as the next best thing – the skating – it is very clear that the skating skills have come a very long way in a short time. The top teams have access to money and resources that the bottom teams do not and that shows on the ice. even so, at the bottom end I saw a huge improvement in speed and flow and ice coverage that was not as much in evidence the last time I saw World Synchro live in 2007 in London, ON.

The Free program to determine the World Synchronized Skating champions for 2010 took place on Sunday and it was a nail baiter coming down to the very last team.

What was thrilling was the fact that the top 7 teams all put down solid programs that held my attention and kept me writng notes.

Nexxice (Canada 1) and black ice (Canada 2) both did themselves proud and definitely left the Synchro world with the Scwarzennegger-esque message of “I’ll be back.”

The winners from Finland – Rockettes (Finland 1) demonstrated a high level of skill and what I really liked was the creative risk they took in both programs. In the short they showcased middle eastern music and movement but took a 1 point hit for their costumes which were deemed to be too theatrical and not athletic enough. In the free, they portrayed jewel thieves who stole diamonds, were pursued by the police and ended up in Hawaii. This explanation I got from one of the skaters backstage and it is a good thing too because it wasn’t 100% clear to me from watching the program. Either way, I applaud the effort.

Don’t forget if you want to watch the whole thing unfold – CBC will air the show this coming Saturday on the main netwrok at 4 – 6pm ET on Saturday – Sports Weekend.

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