March 2010

Beyond the borders
by Jenna Longo

When I walk down the streets of Boston, or even through the mall in my Connecticut town, not a soul that passes me is aware I skate for the United States. Skating on Team USA isn't about wearing the apparel or being noticed; it's something much larger.

I realized this four seasons ago when I became a Haydenette. During these four years I have traveled to six countries to represent the United States, and it's been an honor to represent my team and my country. Through skating, special memories are created by meeting and befriending skaters from other countries, being inspired in representing the United States and immersing myself in a community that shares a passion for skating.

The Haydenettes display the American flag and their third-place trophy at the 2009 French Cup.
Walking into the arena at an international competition sends chills down my spine. Standing in my USA warm-up suit, the realization strikes my team and me that we are no longer representing ourselves or our team but rather our country and culture. Traveling outside the borders can be shocking. Something as simple as missing cold milk lets us know we are thousands of miles away from home.

Last year at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships, I attended the skaters' meeting, where we discussed the challenges that all synchronized skaters face and how best to cope with them. It was surprising how similar we are despite being scattered across the globe. Four years of international skating has given me the unique opportunity to meet new skaters. Seeing familiar faces each year connects our countries, which is apparent at the World Championships where countries cheer for each other. A bond is formed that connects synchronized skaters throughout the world, and friendships are forged that keep us in touch all year.

Skating as an international skater comes with a lot of pressure. I overcame that pressure once I realized the honor and inspiration skating internationally gives me to become a better skater each day. At times when I feel stressed from college classes and Haydenettes practice, I watch a DVD or YouTube video of skating. Whether it is my team or a montage, this reminds me how much I love what I do. It reminds me that each time I take the ice I should work harder than I have ever worked before. Skating for Team USA inspires me to be the best skater I can be.

In high school I chose to travel to Lexington, Mass., four days a week to skate with the Haydenettes. I missed out on much of my high school life but if I had to do it again I wouldn't change a thing. My teachers never understood why I couldn't come in for review sessions or join clubs. My friends never understood why I couldn't hang out after school, why I couldn't play school sports or help manage the athletic teams. In my heart, I know of the extraordinary experience I am part of and hold my head high. It's inspired me to sacrifice more and work even harder because I represent the United States.

Jenna Longo and her Haydenettes teammates wait for the draw ceremony to begin at the 2009 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Zagreb, Croatia.
There is a different mindset when competing overseas. Friendships are formed rather than rivalries. There is interest and curiosity in how other teams work, speak and practice. Despite the many different languages, teams learn to say good luck and hello to each other. Beyond the language and culture barriers, a bond is formed as each skater shares the same passion for the sport of synchronized skating; this bond seems to push each team and country to become better and better.

While competing in Germany at the Cup of Berlin, my teammate Sarah told me, "Although this is my second year as a Haydenette, I was still in awe that the Rockettes (a Finnish team) cheered us on throughout our official practice." This phenomenon shows the passion each skater has, and the fire inside each one of us that creates our work discipline. I have worked for a long time to get to where I am, and I strive to work harder each day to represent my country well.

In the legendary Hayden circle, right before performing our free skate in Berlin, Haydenettes coach Saga Krantz asked us what it meant to us to skate for Team USA. I responded, "It means representing each little girl who sits in the stands and watches the Haydenettes skate, because I was once one of them."

Being a part of Team USA is absolutely incredible; dream big and believe.