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Pittsburgh's Steel City Blades put synchronized skating on the map

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When it comes to sports success, Pittsburgh has become synonymous with many things: Super Bowl titles, Stanley Cup wins and plenty of notable playoff performances. Synchronized skating, however, has not been among these—until now, thanks to the recent accomplishments of Pittsburgh’s first U.S. Figure Skating synchronized skating teams, the Steel City Blades.

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The Steel City Blades pre-juvenile and open juvenile teams practice twice a week at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center on Neville Island under the direction of pre-juvenile head coach Karen Volk and open juvenile head coach Jennie Vicinie. Each team logs approximately 1 ½ hours of training time on Tuesdays and another three hours of practice on Sundays where they work together to perfect a variety of synchronized skating elements, including intersections, lines, blocks, circles and pinwheels, and improve their synchronization on transitional steps, choreography, timing and expression as well.

By the start of the year, it was clear that their hard work had paid off when both teams put out strong performances at the 30th annual Colonial Classic Synchronized Skating Competition held January 10-12 at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell in Lowell, Mass. It was here that the open juvenile team skated its way to a silver medal and the pre-juvenile team to a fourth-place finish.

Vicinie credits these high marks to her skaters’ ability to work well together, adding “I think the biggest benefit is that the majority of the team has been skating together for several years, so they are very cohesive.”

Volk was particularly impressed with her pre-juvenile team’s execution of a difficult pivoting line segment.

The impressive scores carried over into the following weekend when both teams captured the gold at their respective levels competing at the 2014 South Atlantic Open in Richmond, Va. The pre-juvenile team found itself with a near-perfect skate that earned four first-place marks and a second-place ordinal from the judges while the open juvenile team beat out six other teams with a “picket fence” (all first-place ordinals) to secure its place ahead of the five other pre-juvenile teams.

Vicinie says the audience-catching no-hold block, which emphasizes the team’s energy, a no-hold circle and a backward intersection that leaves everyone holding their breath received rave reviews and helped set the team apart from its competition.

As the Steel City Blades teams shift their focus to their next competition, the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships slated for Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 in Hershey, Pa., Vicinie hopes that the teams’ consistent training and strong skates will shine through at what is one of the country’s largest synchronized skating events.

“The goal is always to advance to the final round and hopefully bring another medal home.”

For more information on the Steel City Blades, visit www.steelcityblades.org or contact Robert Morris University Island Sports Center skating director Beth Sutton at sutton@rmu.edu or (412) 397-4469.

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