For Cal State Fullerton students Amy Bailey and Eve Traylor, life has been that way for more than a decade.
Bailey and Traylor are synchronized skaters — two of the nation’s best. As major competitions draw near, sleep becomes more of a luxury. The number of 4 a.m. practices increases from three days a week, to four, then to five.
It’s a labor of love — one that has brought home much success.
Bailey, Traylor and their synchronized skating team, the ICE’Kateers, recently competed in the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships held in Worcester, Mass. where they were awarded pewter medals. The accolade cemented their status as one of the top four teams in the nation. They are the only West Coast team in the top four.
Synchronized skating puts 16 skaters on the ice at once. There, they execute key elements of figure skating, set to music, in complete unison. Though less acclaimed than singles figure skating, “synchro,” as the sport is commonly referred to, has a unique spirit all its own.
Traylor, 21, a business major at CSUF, understands the change in dynamics. She started her career as a singles skater, but moved to synchro 10 years ago.
“It’s a huge adjustment, and people don’t even realize it,” says Traylor. “In a singles program, if you don’t like something, you can usually change it or take it out in the middle of competition. In synchro, you have to know exactly where your steps are.”
That commitment to precision trickles into daily life, where time is managed by the minute, and skaters like Traylor and Bailey juggle school, skating and work.
While most people get their sleep in hour blocks, being a competitive skater means finding sleep wherever possible.
“I know both of our planners have nap times in them,” says Bailey, 20, a political science major.
With a smile, Traylor adds, “There’s a lot of sleep to be found throughout the day.”
However, there is little room for social time.
“You can make it work,” says Bailey. “But it really sucks that everyone wants go out at night, and we’re like, ‘You don’t understand what it’s like to get up at 4 a.m.’”
For synchronized skaters who travel nationally and internationally for competition, the social experience is found within the team.
“They seem to love to travel together,” said Kathi Pargee, an ICE’Kateers coach since the team’s inception in 2000. “It is a time for them to be able to focus on nothing but their skating, and we make some great memories together both on and off the ice.”
Bailey and Traylor both teach ice skating to young, aspiring skaters, and understand the kind of isolation kids face in their early years. For young, individual competitors, synchro can help reintroduce the social elements of childhood back into the sport.
“(Synchro) can also be very welcoming when you’re a single skater,” says Bailey. “You’re usually home-schooled, and you’re at the rink constantly. When you’re not at the rink, you’re … with your parents or your coach. That’s all you get. So we are huge advocates of the team, especially for younger kids. We try to get them an outlet; something they can compete with their friends (while) still doing skills they need to know for their individuals.”
In a sport where youth reigns supreme, 23 is old by skating standards and Traylor and Bailey see the twilight of their skating careers approaching quickly. Still, they’ve left an indelible impact in the two years they’ve skated with the ICE’Kateers.
“Eve is one of the most emotional and expressive skaters I know,” said John Saitta, an ICE’Kateers coach and skating manager of The Rinks in Anaheim and Westminster. “We are constantly using her as the example for her facial expressions and music interpretation. If you ever get a chance to watch Eve skate, you can actually see a sparkle in her eye as she skates past you.”
“As for Amy, I have never seen anyone as tough,” said Pargee. “Last season she broke her foot the week of our competition, but she refused to sit out. She said, ‘I can do it,’ and she sure did — never once complaining or asking for special treatment. She had a job to do and she was going to do it.”
In a year, Bailey will be leaving her skates behind to focus on law school. Traylor has already started looking at dance classes to fill the void that she’ll have with skating out of the picture. Skating is still a large part of their identities, no matter what happens in the future.
“It’s been my whole life,” said Bailey. “It’s everything, and it’s going to be weird when I go to law school and I don’t do it anymore, but … it’s something that (defines) who I am. It’s a big deal.”