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University of Otago second year pharmacy student Jazelle McCormick says synchronised skating is popular overseas, but not so popular in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Competing against some of Europe's top teams was an “incredible” experience and placing fifth and seventh respectively was pretty cool, says the Otago student who captained Aotearoa New Zealand's only synchronised ice-skating team to compete at events in England and Austria over the summer.

Second year pharmacy student Jazelle McCormick says synchronised skating “isn't a huge thing in New Zealand”, but it is a “very big thing” in Europe.

The team is the first to have represented Aotearoa New Zealand at the Britannia Cup in Nottingham, UK, and the Amade Cup, which is a part of a larger event called the Mozart Cup, held in Salzburg, Austria.

She captained a team of 12 synchronised skaters. The sport sees teams of 10 to 16 skaters put together programmes that feature specific elements (movements) they then perform in synchronised time.

McCormick says while there have been synchronised skating teams in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and Ōtautahi Christchurch in the past, the Ōtepoti Dunedin team is currently the only team in Aotearoa.

McCormick started solo figure skating about nine years ago, as many synchronized skaters do, but as an anxious child she found performing on her own unpleasant, even though she loved skating.

There aren't many synchronised skating coaches in Aotearoa, she says, but her coach was a synchronised skater.

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The synchronised skating team was started in Ōtepoti Dunedin about seven years ago.

“They were forming a team and got me into it. I just fell in love with it.”

The Ōtepoti team has been around for about seven years.

“I love the feeling on the ice of moving as a team. There's so much power in synchronized ice skating because everyone's working together as one,” McCormick says.

“It is really a great feeling to have that support on the ice, the kind of power and speed you get through it.”

The New Zealand Ice Figure Skating Association (NZIFSA) lets the team know each year which elements it needs to include in in its program in order to be considered for further events.

While performing last year, the team's well-executed program earned them enough points to make it eligible for these two international competitions.

Competing at the National Ice Arena in Nottingham was “incredible”, McCormick says, as it's where Olympian skaters train.

Her team was up against nine others, and they placed fifth, which she was about pleased with; “it was pretty cool”.

The Mozart Cup is important as it is the last competition for teams to qualify for worlds.

“We got to see some of the top teams in the world, which is incredible.”

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The team from Ōtepoti Dunedin was the first to have represented Aotearoa New Zealand at the events they attended.

McCormick says they were competing against 14 teams in their discipline for the Amade Cup and placed seventh.

It was the first time Aotearoa was ever represented at either of these competitions, which is “very exciting”, she says.

The team had watched a lot of skating performances online over the years, but this was their first time being this close to top professional skaters.

“It was a totally different experience to actually see the world of synchro a skater.”

Some of the teams had up to 20 skaters.

“Having that many people on the ice is quite overwhelming, but it's all very exciting. Just to see the most competitive teams, there was something like 46 nations, there, is very full-on competition. That was incredible.”

The team had no sooner touched down back in Ōtepoti late mid-January before training resumed.

A few members of the team have left, having finished university or shifted to a new town, so McCormick is holding trials for new skaters to join the team.

In March, they will receive the list of required elements for this year, and the team will make a start on a new programme getting ready for the next competition season.

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