Leena Laaksonen: "Try to bring something new to the sport to develop it"


During synchro competitions, Leena Laaksonen is often in the technical panels or in the judges. (Credits: Jura Synchro - 2019)

Member of single and pair ISU Technical Committee, ISU judge, referee, and technical controller for synchronized skating, Leena Laaksonen from Finland knows synchro very well. She travels around the world to give seminars. We met her when she was in Switzerland, near the city of Bern.

Hello Leena, welcome to Switzerland! The goal of your trip was to speak with synchro coaches, right? 

Yeah, telling the coaches about the new changes for the rules, and also giving some information about the GOEs, the components, etc. I’m trying to bring like a "small package" of the recent changes, but also giving them the opportunity to work together, interact, and hopefully get some inspiration for their work with their teams.

So, what coaches should pay attention to this season? 

There are small changes in the rules, but nothing really different from last season. In the GOEs, of course, to think about what they do, what to choose between "quality" and "difficulty". For some elements, I make the coaches aware that they don’t always have to go for the highest level, but they also have to look for the quality of the element. Of course, for some small technical details in the rules, you need to be more careful. Also, the highest levels are more difficult now. At the start of the season, as a synchro coach, you have to think about how difficult programs you want to make with your team. 

When you look at the rules, it seems sometimes that the gap between top teams and Non-ISU teams are getting higher and higher each season. What do you think about it?

I totally agree with you. That’s the same in other skating disciplines as well. In single skating, for example, the top of the sport is going faster with these quads, you can see it clearly. In synchro, you notice that definitively by making the highest levels more difficult, you are supporting the high-level teams to be even better, and that’s true that the gap with the small teams will be higher and higher. 

In Switzerland, Leena Laaksonen spoke to synchro coaches and team managers, by showing some video examples. (Credits: Jura Synchro - 2019)

What about creating two different rules, one for the top ISU teams and one for the Non-ISU teams? Is that something you’re thinking of? 

Yes, we have actually talked about it for single skating. In the future, there could be different base values and requirements for Novice and younger skaters, and another one for Juniors and Seniors. Sometimes young athletes should have the opportunity to take risks in some elements and not get penalized if it doesn’t work. That’s why it was put only 0,5 point fall deduction for the younger, so they continue to try things. At the opposite, when you’re a Senior, you should be able to do some high-level things. For those skaters, the penalization could be a little bit bigger.

The season is about to start with Finlandia Trophy only in a few days. What are you most excited about? 

That’s a difficult question! The start of the season is always very exciting because it’s the first time you see all the programs, and the teams are finding the right way to interpret the rules. I’m also excited to see some new and interesting things, and also bring the sport more artistic themes and movements… As a judge, you always want to see something new in the choreography as well. 

The keyword is really "creativity"! 

That’s correct. You have to be creative in the elements, and in the overall choreography. Try to bring something new to the sport to develop it. Synchronized skating is still a young sport and to be recognized, it needs to develop all the time. 

In the next article, the Finnish specialist will discuss, for example, the chances of synchronized skating to join the Olympic family. Read the second part of Leena's interview!