Ellicott City resident pursues ice dreams in synchronized skating

The Baltimore Sun

Like many people in recent weeks, Michelle Gross Daichman closely followed the events of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The Ellicott City resident has a particular interest in figure skating. That’s not uncommon either, but Daichman’s attraction to the sport runs thicker than the average ice, both professionally and through her involvement as a national champion skater with a Rockville-based synchronized skating team.

Daichman, 35, is a member of DC EDGE, a synchronized figure skating organization that had multiple squads competing this past weekend at U.S. Figure Skating’s 2018 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in Portland.

The competition gave Daichman her latest opportunity to shine on the ice — she’s a member of the DC EDGE’s masters team, which captured the national title for the third year in a row, “making it a 3peat!” she said in an email Sunday.

Synchronized skating is a team sport involving eight to 20 athletes at a time, competing together in a group program incorporating elements of speed, formations and step sequences — all synchronized with one another.

Daichman has been skating since age 5. She said one aspect of synchronized skating that she loves is the team element — a feeling of camaraderie she said is different than what occurs in the individual men’s and women’s disciplines.

“I just fell in love with it,” Daichman said. “Being a member of a team is awesome.”

Daichman, who has a degree in journalism from Hofstra University, also competes in ice dancing. She has coached skating professionally at various places across East Coast, and also works as a researcher and production team member for the ICENetwork, a subsidiary of U.S. Figure Skating.

Of course, all that has to be wedged into a schedule of multiple practices each week with DC EDGE gearing up for the U.S. championships, which ran Feb. 21-25.

DC EDGE pulls its members from throughout the Washington area, Northern Virginia and as far north as Lutherville in Baltimore County. Training is year-round at rinks across the region, including Rockville, Wheaton, Arlington, Laurel and Frederick.

The organization sent several teams to the U.S. championships — masters, adult, junior, juvenile and novice squads — after they qualified at the Eastern Sectional Championships in Fort Myers, Fla., in January.

Daichman is a member of both the masters and adult teams — the adult squad finished fourth in its competition. She’s been skating with the organization since 2011-12, and said the training, practice sessions and competitions are still exciting.

“It never gets old,” she said. “[I’m] incredibly proud and lucky to call these ladies my teammates and friends.”

Jennifer DeSimone Bacon, director of DC EDGE, has known Daichman since they skated together as youngsters, and said her friend and skating colleague is a mainstay with the DC EDGE group.

"It's been tremendous to see such success with our adult and masters lines over the past few years, in large part due to the dedication of skaters like Michelle,” DeSimone Bacon said. “It says a lot about her love of skating that she's willing to train with two teams, balancing the commitment with her professional and family life.”

U.S. Figure Skating has conducted the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships since 1984 at venues around the country, and in 2000 hosted the inaugural World Synchronized Skating Championships in Minneapolis.

According to a history of the sport provided by DC EDGE, synchronized figure skating dates back to 1956 in Ann Arbor, Mich., and was initially known as precision skating. Today the sport is pursued around the world, and in the U.S. there are about 600 registered teams and nearly 5,000 athletes, according to DC EDGE.

But while it has an expansive following, there’s one place where it’s not a featured sport: The Olympics.

In 2015, the International Skating Union petitioned the International Olympic Committee for inclusion of synchronized skating in the 2018 games — but it was not selected.

Daichman said she believes its day is coming, though. In recent years the Olympics have added a team skating event — over three days countries compete with individual men and women skating with ice dancers and pairs skaters.

Daichman thinks there’s an appetite for even more Olympic skating, and the synchronized discipline is ready to glide into the spotlight.

There’s even a grassroots campaign with a hashtag, she noted: #WhyNotSynchro.

“It belongs [at the Olympics] just as much as any other discipline,” she said. “I hope it’s just a matter of time.”

This story has been updated.

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