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Synchronized skating may soon pick up steam

Team Finland 1 performs their short program during

Team Finland 1 performs their short program during the Synchronized Skating World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia, on April 3, 2009. Credit: AP

Former Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes called synchronized skating "the future of skating" when asked about it last February, but it remains little known outside its relatively small circle of competitors -- for now.

That soon could change in light of a Chicago Tribune report last month that the International Skating Union has asked the International Olympic Committee to add "synchro" to the program for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

If it happens it will represent a sharply higher profile for the discipline.

Several years ago, former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol was pitched on the notion of the event as highly TV friendly. He demurred given that he never had heard of it, but he instructed an assistant to research it.

The ISU's proposal would involve nine or 10 teams of 16 women each. (The sport's 2014 world championships featured 23 teams from 18 nations.)

The attraction is its elaborate choreography and camera-friendly outfits (and competitors). Think synchronized swimming, only on frozen water.

The biggest negative is that it would add a significant number of competitors and support staff in an era when the IOC is trying to limit costs and logistical challenges for host cities.

"I think it's great," said Hughes, who grew up in Great Neck and won the women's figure skating gold medal in 2002. "When it's done well, it's phenomenal. There are no negatives, other than it's an unknown."

Hughes said synchro is expected to be a "big part" of the planned Kingsbridge National Ice Center in the Bronx, a project in which she has been heavily involved.

What do NBC analysts Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski -- Hughes' predecessor as Olympic gold medalist in 1998 -- think about whether synchro belongs in the Games?

"If it has eye sequins, glitter, Johnny, I think we could make it work," Lipinski said, jokingly, Wednesday.

Said Weir: "Tara and I would have to study a bit. That's basically like having us on water polo."

Weir added, "I think synchronized skating is a beautiful art form. It's a wonderful way for people that have the will and have the gift of skating to skate in a team atmosphere every day.

"When I've skated in shows or seen synchronized skating practiced or competed in front of me, it is an incredible thing. So I would definitely not be mad at including synchronized skating in the Olympics, I think it'd be wonderful."

Lipinski said, "Johnny, I feel like we should just try it just to prove how hard it actually is."

Answered Weir, "I totally agree, and I want [play-by-play man] Terry [Gannon] to skate with us."

Said Gannon, "I'm there."

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