Super Swedes no real 'Surprise'

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Canadian champion Nexxice coach Shelley Barnett thinks she has a synchronized skating program in place that has the potential to become the best in the world.

That's saying something because Sweden's Team Surprise is sensational.

Head coach Andrea Dohany's superb program has set the world standard in synchro skating for the past 22 years and left little doubt to its continued dominance with a fifth gold medal in eight years, thanks to a flawless free skate last night at the John Labatt Centre. The Swedes' intersections were impeccable, their spins were exquisite, their lines were straight and their circles were round as they reclaimed the crown they surrendered to Finland last year in Prague.

"Even if we won the gold medal last year, we still would've had the same team this year," Dohany said. "Most of the girls come from the town of Landvetter, which is close to Goteberg (the worlds host in 2005). They start out skating when they are three and we have them in groups right away. Some of them go on to senior individual nationals, but when they come back (to synchro), they already know the rest of the team. The off-ice is just as important as on-ice and we do a good job with that. They're together and they can move as one.

"We try to be innovative. We don't want to copy anybody else. We want to stay ahead and invent new ways of skating."

Though they finished nearly 25 points ahead of the American Miami of Ohio university RedHawks varsity team, the United States hasn't been shy about their intentions on catching up to the Swedes. The university doesn't offer full scholarships to the skaters but it does pay the full freight for the team to compete and synchro is close to gaining status as an NCAA sport.

"We came in as USA 2 because we didn't win nationals and that was motivation for the girls," RedHawks coach Vicki Korn said. "Now, we're world No. 2 and it's incredible. The U.S. hasn't been on the podium (since the championships started in 2000). The girls really came through in this amazing environment."

The Haydenettes, the American national champs, finished fourth after hiring Finnish coach Saga Krantz. Because it had been difficult to acquire a work visa, Krantz had the team train in Montreal for a few weeks.

Defending world champs Finland ended up eighth after a poor short program spelled disaster, and they lost a key component. Skater Jaana Kaspiola was rushed to hospital for surgery to close a leg wound from a teammate's skate blade.

"There was a lot of blood and it was a pretty deep cut that had to be closed," head coach Anu Oksanen said. "The girls were a little shaken by it as you'd expect."

While the top eight teams in the world battle for supremacy, the other 13 squads seek respect and improvement.

Team Japan -- the Jingu Ice Messengers -- surrendered two weeks of on-ice training before arriving in London because their home rink in Tokyo served as the practice rink for the world figure skating championships earlier this month.

The team was forced to improvise with some dryland training and work on their routine in their running shoes.


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