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Longo's blog: A thrilling close to world synchros

Haydenettes take bronze in Helsinki

The Haydenettes are getting acclimated and ready to skate at the 2011 World Synchro Championships.
The Haydenettes are getting acclimated and ready to skate at the 2011 World Synchro Championships. (Paul Harvath)

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By Jenna Longo, special to icenetwork.com
(04/07/2011) - Jenna Long of the Haydenettes shares her experiences at the world synchro championships.

Friday night
After our official practice for the short program, we rushed back to the hotel to grab a quick lunch and watch the video. We were all in good spirits and felt great after watching our official practice. We had some talking points with Saga, and knew what to focus on later that night at the competition. Afterward, we had about an hour to rest before the preparations of the night. My roommate Erika Hoffman and I are very routine with our preparations for competitions. We both, unlike most of our teammates, shower and re-do our hair and makeup completely. We didn't have much time so we rushed back to our room and began immediately.

It takes the Haydenettes about an hour and a half to finish our hair and makeup -- especially with the new beads we have added to our competition makeup. Applying both their eyelashes and beads calls for extra time to ensure everyone is finished. We then continued on with our team meeting and other competitions traditions. In no time we were on the bus heading to the rink.

It seems so surreal, the season was coming to an end and we were heading into the most exhilarating competition yet. I have to say, I was a bit nervous heading into the night, which is very unusual of me. However there is a quote that had been circulating throughout our team this past week, "if you are nervous, it means you care." After one of my teammates had said that, the nerves went away. We did our usual warm-up, however there were video cameras around taping us behind the scenes to air on Finnish TV. It really felt like a world championship.

The warm-up area was upstairs, and we needed to walk on the concourse to get to it, so before taking the ice we saw the full stadium, and all of the fans in their countries' gear. We headed down to the locker room, got dressed, put our skates on, and we were ready to take the ice. We opened the last group of the short program competition. Taking the clean ice surface the arena was BOOMING. USA was being chanted, we were along the boards waiting to be called, and we heard the Finnish fans yell, "We love you, Saga". We saw Saga's reaction and that gave us even more confidence and determination to do this for her.

We were called and started our warm-up block. The music started, and as soon as the team started moving, the audience was clapping. They clapped the entire program! We had such an amazing skate; we all felt that this was the best performance of the year and we were thrilled. We enjoyed every moment of it, and once we reached the ending pose and had bowed, we couldn't help but head into a group hug. We received a score of 71. We were ecstatic; we returned to the locker room and got dressed.

Now came the anxiety, since we skated first of the last six teams, we needed to wait to hear where we would end up. This we knew we were in third with Nexxice and Team Surprise still to skate. Both these teams had won the world championships before. After the competition had concluded we still sat in third. We were so excited; this was the tightest competition I had ever competed in.

I headed up to the press conference, medal ceremony and official draw for the free skate with Saga. With most of the team representatives already at the ceremony, I was greeted by the two representatives of Miami University. It was great to see them, and hear how well they had skated. The ceremony had begun, and they had started out with awarding the medals for the short program. In first was Finland 1, in second was Finland 2, and in third was USA 1, we were given our small medals and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The draw immediately proceeded. After drawing 21, we would be closing the championships skating last. Next came the press conference. The press conference didn't last too long, we were asked to describe our skates, our goals for Saturday's free skate, and other various questions about our season so far.

Once the press conference was over, we were ready to return to the hotel. The team met in the video room where Saga and Jeanette awarded the rest of the team their short program bronze medals.

Saturday Morning:
Saturday started out with the usual breakfast, and hair and makeup routine. We had a fantastic official practice; we felt really good about our skating and what was to come later on in the night. We watched video, ate lunch and got one last talk with Saga before we would need to start getting ready for the nights competition. Saga reminded us to enjoy this moment because these moments make the best memories, and they don't come very often.

Hair and makeup began, and the Haydenette rooms looked like a busy bee-hive as we were all going from room to room to get help from our teammates so we could look our very best for the night's Burlesque program.

We arrived at the rink filled with fire and energy, we all wanted to capture another world medal, but we wanted to perform our very best none the less. In no time we were taking the ice, the rink was booming, and there wasn't a single seat that wasn't filled. I counted off to hit our opening pose, and what felt like the most enjoyable skate I have ever had was completed in four minutes and fifty seconds. It felt like a great skate, and that's exactly what the team had wanted. Waiting for the scores in the kiss and cry brought a bit of anxiety, however we had soon learned we ended the season with a fourth place free skate and an overall placement of third at the 2011 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships. I couldn't believe it, this moment felt like a dream. We took a few photos in the kiss and cry, interviewed with CBC, and were lining up for the awards ceremony.

The awards ceremony was very special, while they announced the teams to take the ice; they had announced each girl's name. This was amazing to hear your name personally announced. The award ceremony was set up beautifully. I had been so excited and rarely get emotional, but the moment I saw the American flag about to be raised, tears started to form in my eyes. I simply couldn't hold it together; there are no words to describe how amazing you feel in a moment like that. To be able to represent your country is one thing, but to see your flag being raised because of the outstanding skating you have accomplished is indescribable.

The night finished with multiple photos, the free skate press conference, and finally we were back to the hotel. Our parents held a small gathering for us. We couldn't wait to spend time with our family and friends. Worlds in Helsinki were an unforgettable experience. It makes all the tears and sacrifices of a season seem so minor when you have become a part of something so big. I have now completed my fifth world championship, and it is simply moments that I cherish with all my heart. It gives you a new love and passion for skating and performing!

Jenna Longo

Friday
We had a late start on Friday morning!

We woke up to have breakfast at around 9:30 a.m. We didn't need to start hair and make-up until 11:15 a.m., so once we had finished breakfast we started to play bananagrams and ratuki again. We headed out to the rink an hour later.

In the locker room we had about 30 minutes to get ready, which is quite long, so we therefore had begun to sing Cher and other classics before having to get dressed and put our skates on. We stepped on the official surface on a clean sheet of ice. We felt like we had a good practice but still much to improve on for the night's competition.

We are ready, and can't wait to perform our short program in FINLAND!! We wish all the other teams luck especially our teammates -- Miami University!

Thursday
Thursday morning started early, the Haydenettes rose for breakfast at 7:00 a.m. The breakfast area was crowded with skaters from all the countries. The Haydenettes had a quick time for hair and make-up before boarding the shuttle bus to the rink at 9:15 a.m. We arrived at the arena had our usual warm-up routine and in no time were getting dressed in our red practice dresses and walking ice side for our fourth practice ice in Finland.

Since this ice was early and the team was still getting acclimated to the travel, we felt the practice started off a bit shaky, but finished strong. We were happy with what we had accomplished and how we had adjusted our legs and found our usual skating. Miami University had stayed to watch us rink side and cheer us on which was also a factor in our strong practice. Due to the scheduling we rushed back to eat a quick lunch that had been prepared for us outside the hotel. We ate the sandwiches together outside some of our teammate's rooms.

Afterwards we had a short time to relax and fix our hair and make-up before returning to the rink for our next practice. This time we boarded the shuttle with Team Sweden 1 (Team Surprise), the shuttle was packed! With 40 skaters, coaches, officials, team leaders and team doctors, it was a tight squeeze. At this time it had started to rain, but with our new world jackets we weren't worried, we put on our hoods and took on the rain in Helsinki. Our second practice was in the unofficial rink. We had a dynamite practice despite the lingering yawns that had been attacking some of us. We were focused and calm which made us work together and produced a surprising energetic practice. On the bus ride back to the hotel some of the Belgium parents were with us on the shuttle bus, and we eager to trade pins with us. We rummaged through our skate bags and found Team USA pins as well as some Hayden pins to trade which they were thrilled about!

Now onto the official draw! This is such an exciting event at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships. I still can remember my first ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships draw. All the teams come together at once; the atmosphere is energetic and united. The event was held at the arena which was unique to Helsinki. The event started with the Finnish national anthem, ISU speeches, a moment of silence for Japan, and a skating routine from some of the teams from Helsinki and Espoo which was sung live by a Finnish pop singer. This brought the energy level up even more! There then was an interview with three team representatives. Team Australia, Team Italy, and Team USA 1. The interviewer asked Team Italy about how it felt to represent your country at the World Synchronized Skating Champions ships, and Team Australia what motivated their team to travel the far distance to compete each year.

I was honored to be chosen to do the interview for Team USA, the interviewer asked about winning our first world medal and how we had been training to reach the podium again. He then asked what it felt like to be in Finland, our coach's home country where she had won her world medal. After the short interview was over, the draw began.

At the ISU World Synchronized Championships, the draw is conducted with last year's results. Meaning Finland 1 drew first, Finland 2 was second and USA 1 drew third. Our turn came and we pulled number 16, skating first in the last group.

The Haydenettes were ecstatic since we have skated first in the short program all season; we felt that it was the right draw. While the other teams were drawing, we had noticed the little skaters were forming the numbers on the ice for all the audience to see. The draw was a great experience and very unique to the Helsinki championship.

More to come!
Jenna

Wednesday
Hello from Finland!

The Haydenettes' journey to the 2011 World Synchronized Skating Championships began Monday at the Hayden Recreation Center. The team met at the rink and boarded a bus to Logan International Airport. Our first flight left Logan at around 5:00 p.m.; we were all so anxious to board the plane and begin the most exciting competition of the season. After a month of practices following the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, we felt more than ready to be in Finland.

After a turbulent flight, we were in Frankfurt. We had a bit of a lay over which gave us time to grab a coffee and some breakfast. The Haydenettes are big fans of playing games; one of the girls bought Ratuki which quickly became a big hit.

The team was extremely anxious to board the second flight and finally get to Helsinki. The time had finally come and we were heading towards baggage claim in HELSINKI! All the girls walked away with both pieces of luggage, which made us feel that much better.

We rode the bus to the hotel, getting to see a bit of Helsinki on the way. We got our rooms and had a short time to settle in before getting ready for our first practice. We had a short half-hour practice in the practice arena. Even with the jetlag and not sleeping on the way over our practice was very strong! It felt great to get on the ice and loosen up. We felt that our skating was fast and consistent, which is exactly what we wanted heading into the weekend. We got to catch up with some of our Rockette friends and an old teammate. We returned to the hotel and had a stretch session before our first meal in Helsinki. We all showered and hopped into bed without question after a long and exhausting day of travel and practice.

Wednesday morning in Helsinki began at 9:00 a.m. We were able to eat breakfast before our U.S. world team meeting with team leader, Jeanette Davey and team doctor, Dr. Hans. Since our practice ices didn't start until 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, our head coach, Saga Krantz, thought it would be nice for us to get a chance to walk around. We were so excited to hear we were going to be able to do this, since this is where Saga is from, and we all wanted to see a little bit of her culture.

Since their main department store, Stockmann was having their biggest sale of the year, it was packed! We didn't mind since the team's favorite chocolate was on sale. We were also able to shop around at different Finnish stores we had become familiar with through Saga. After a successful shopping day, Saga took us to a small café to grab some pasta and salad for lunch. We walked back to the tram and returned to the hotel with just enough time to relax and get ready for the night's practices.

Our first practice was in the unofficial rink, and we started with a short run-through, which was filled with energy. We finished the practice strong with sections of the short and two small sections of the long. Our world teammates took the ice after us. We were able to cheer them on while to warmed-up and watch some of their practice once we had gotten dressed. Our two practices were too close together to return to the hotel, so we then went upstairs to the official rink and were able to have some snacks that our beloved managers and team mom brought for us from the states. We tested out the new goldfish bread, which was delish and a big hit!

We still had some time before we needed to warm-up for our second practice, so we watched some teams and walked around to keep active. Our second ice was on the official rink. It was great to see the parents in the stands and the other U.S. coaches and officials that had joined us in Finland. We continued to practice the short and had a really great practice. We returned to the hotel at around 9:30 p.m. to watch video and eat dinner. It has been a long day but very exciting!

Goodnight from Helsinki!