Jasmine Kirchner is a skater. No, she’s not a skateboarder, inline skater, roller derby enforcer, or speed skater. Synchronized skating is her sport of choice.
Kirchner, a senior at Wayzata High School and lifelong Plymouth resident, is in her second year as a member of the Team Braemar USA synchronized skating team. It’s ok if you’re confused.
“A majority of people ask me if it is similar to synchronized swimming,” explains Kirchner. “I say, ‘kind of, but the water is frozen.’”
She makes it sound easy. It’s not. Neither is winning silver at nationals, bronze at the Junior World Cup in Switzerland or gold at the French Cup in Rouen, France. Yet Kirchner and her team of 20 girls (and coaches Pam May and Toni Swiggum) accomplished all of which last year, and are aiming to defend their French Cup title February 3-4 and qualify for the World Cup in Sweden once again.
Still trying to get in synch with synchronized skating?
“I usually describe it as dance team on ice,” says Kirchner, who started skating competitively as a 4-year old at the Plymouth Ice Center. “Most people have never heard of the sport, but are usually pretty interested once I start to explain it.”
Interested? I was hooked, resulting in the following Q&A:
BH: How did you get into synchronized skating?
JK: I was involved in synchronized skating when I was younger, but then focused on my individual figure skating. I started skating at Braemar City of Lakes (Figure Skating Club) in 2007. My older sister joined the Team Braemar/Team USA and skated on it for the 2008 season. I was able to travel with the team as a fan, and I knew that it was something I wanted to do in the future.
BH: How did you get on the Team Braemar USA team, and what is the age range of girls on that team?
JK: I tried out for Team Braemar in the summer of 2010. I was selected and received a spot on the team for that season. This year, our youngest skater is a freshman in high school and our oldest is 18 years old and graduated in 2010. As a junior level team, all members of the team must be 18 or younger. There are 20 members on the team from all over the Twin Cities area. Sixteen skate at a time and there are four alternates.
BH: What do you like about synchronized skating?
JK: My favorite thing about synchronized skating is that I get to skate on a team. My teammates are my best friends and we get to celebrate every accomplishment together. The best part of the year is skating trips. We love goofing off and traveling together, but it’s also great to work hard towards the same goals and achievements. I also love meeting teams from other countries when we are traveling internationally, and learning what skating is like for them.
BH: Do you like it better than individual figure skating? What made you make that transition?
JK: Synchronized skating and individual figure skating are very different, but they seem to complement each other. I’m very fortunate to be involved in both. My individual skating prepared me to be on a high level synchronized skating team, and the synchronized skating has helped me with my edges, performance and endurance for Freestyle. As an individual skater, I passed my Gold moves-in-the-field test (edge patterns) and my Gold freestyle test, so I am no longer skating as much individually.
BH: What was your most memorable experience last year between Nationals, French Cup and Junior World Cup in Switzerland?
JK: The two most memorable moments are when we won the French Cup (January 2011) and placed third at the Junior World Challenge Cup in Switzerland (March 2011). We skated very well at the French Cup, and winning it was the best feeling ever! I will never forget standing on the podium and hearing our National Anthem. Some of our top international competitors were at that competition, so we were surprised and extremely excited with the results. Switzerland was also thrilling! We were in fifth place after the short program and then skated our best long program of the season and ended up in third overall, behind two teams from Finland. It was a great honor to represent the USA and the best way to end the season.
BH: What big competitions do you have coming up this year?
JK: We have three major competitions this year. We qualified to go to the Junior World Challenge Cup again, which will take place in Sweden (March 16-17). Before that, we have the French Cup (February 3-4), and Junior Nationals in Boston (March 2-3). I am excited for the French Cup because we will be the returning champions, and all the top teams in the world will be there, including the other Team USA from New York. This competition sets us up for Worlds, so it is important we do well there.
BH: What is the biggest challenge for you in your sport?
JK: Figure skating is an extremely mental sport. You have one chance in a competition to get it right. With 16 girls on the ice together, if you are even a little off, everything can go horribly wrong. Often times before taking the ice, we have to listen to the scores of the team that skates before us. This always makes me nervous.
BH: What is your skating schedule like?
JK: We practice between three and five times a week, and I usually skate individually on the days I don’t have team practice. Our practices are usually two to thre hours, and the longest practice I have ever had was eight hours. Competitions are always two days long. We skate our short program, to the music Blah Blah Blah Cha Cha Cha the first night, and then skate our long program, which is gypsy-themed the night after.
BH: How long do you think you’ll continue synchronized skating?
JK: I am a senior at Wayzata High School and plan on attending Bethel University next fall. I don’t plan on continuing skating competitively in college since it is a huge time commitment, but I will definitely continue to follow the sport and cheer on the future Team Braemar. I think it would be fun to someday to be a coach for individual skaters.
Go watch Kirchner in action at the Braemar Arena April 27-28 at 6:30 p.m. She will be performing with the synchronized team and individually.