Having won first place at the Pacific Coast Championships in Anaheim earlier this month, the Berkeley Ice Symmetrics precision ice skating team is hoping to win a medal at the National Skating Championships next month in Colorado Springs.
Lise Faus, member of Ice Symmetrics, said the team’s performance in Anaheim “brought the house down.”
“This is the first year the team has had such a positive response from judges and fans,” she said.
Hetti Franczak, who has coached Ice Symmetrics since 1989, said the team was judged for the difficulty of its presentation. She said the Ice Symmetrics, which competed against two other teams in Anaheim, got a first place win from six out of seven judges, with the seventh giving them second place.
The Ice Symmetrics precision skating team is made up of 20 women aged 21 to 52. Ice Symmetrics is a part of the Berkeley St. Moritz Figure Skating Club, which is made up of six precision skating teams and various figure skaters.
Faus, like some of the other members of the team, used to skate for Walt Disney on Ice. Other women on the team skated for Ice Capades and the Charles Schultz Ice Production.
Faus said she had to stop skating for Disney because of the wear and tear on her body. She said the lifestyle of performance skating is a lot of travel and living out of a suitcase. “It’s not an experience you want to live for very long.”
Faus said she loves skating and finds the schedule of Ice Symmetrics practice sessions, two to three times a week, ideal. The team trains at Berkeley Iceland every Wednesday from 9 to 11 p.m. Sessions are open to public viewing.
Franczak said precision skating is similar to synchronized swimming. “There’s a group of 20 skaters making patterns and formations on the ice.
They incorporate footwork, arm movements, and head positions and it all has to be done in unison.
They change patterns as fast as they can, making interesting variations of pattern - circles, lines, squares, and wheels.”
Franczak said a wheel is created when you have a single line of skaters with the center skater being the pivot for the wheel.
The skaters on the outside of the line skate faster than those on the inside. The pattern can be varied by adding additional lines called “spokes” to the wheel pattern, creating what looks like a bicycle wheel.
Faus said the sport has grown in popularity over the past 20 years and said it’s rumored that precision skating will be featured as an event at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Faus said the women on the team are financing all the costs of competition, including costumes, airfare and hotel, out of their own pockets. “The team needs more ice time for practice and additional coaching fees to help bring out the talent these girls have.”
Faus said the team is trying to raise money and find sponsorship.
In light of the upcoming National Championships the St. Moritz Figure Skating Club is planning a fund-raising event at 7:30 p.m on March 5 at the Berkeley Iceland.
Six precision skating teams will perform, including two teams which will join the Ice Symmetrics at the National Championships: Berkeley Blades Intermediate and Silver Stars Junior. Tickets for the gala are $5 and include dessert and coffee.