In sync: two Brandeis students are skating into the history books.

Evan Israel '24 and Sami Winawer '23 are members of Hayden Select, a team of athletes looking to bring this unique form of skating to the winter Olympics.

Synchronized Figure Skating Team Photo courtesy of Hayden Select

Twelve members of Hayden Select competed in the French Cup. Evan Israel '24 skates in the front row (seen as the third skater from the left)

Evan Israel ’24 steps onto the ice, takes a deep breath, and waits for the music to play to begin her routine. But unlike individual figure skating, she’s not alone. As the music starts, she moves in perfect synchronization with 11 other ice skaters. 

As she twists through intricate spins she catches a glimpse of Sami Winawer ’23, not only a team member, but her Brandeis classmate.

Synchronized figure skating is not a club sport at Brandeis, but with the help of Israel and Winawer, it may become a part of a future Winter Olympics. 

The sport is not what spectators are used to seeing from figure skating. Synchronized figure skating involves 8-16 athletes skating precisely synced, in choreographed routines of spins, formations, lifts and intricate movements.

Due to the cost for each skater on the team to travel, the sport hasn’t been featured in the Olympics. Israel and Winawer are members of Hayden Select, a team in the new Senior Elite 12 division looking to change that.

The team, composed of 17 skaters from across the country (with one international team member), is part of the first division to compete on the ice in groups of 12.

Evan Israel holds figure skater in pose
Photo courtesy of Hayden Select.

Evan Israel '24 holds her teammate in a pose while skating in the French Cup competition.

By showcasing the performance of only 12 skaters at a time, the division hopes to gain recognition from the International Olympics Committee. The International Synchronized Skating Union is in the process of submitting paperwork and actively campaigning to receive approval from the Olympics with the hopes of bringing the sport to the games in 2025.

The team has notched some significant successes lately, scoring a gold medal in France during the Synchronized Skating French Cup on February 4. The French Cup was among the first competitions for the Elite 12 team. They spent the week in France, practicing daily and spending time together as a team.

“We get to say that we competed in the first Elite 12 division and became the first champions,” said Israel. “We are making history.”

For Israel and Winawer, this competition year wasn’t the start of their elite skating experience. The two started competing internationally at a young age.

Sami Winawer learning to skate at a young age
Photo courtesy of Sami Winawer.

Sami Winawer '23 learning how to skate at 3.

Winawer, a double major in politicsand American studies, began skating at age 3. She competed in individual competitions until discovering her love for synchronized skating at 10 years old. By her senior year of high school she was competing internationally.

She contributes her time-management skills at Brandeis to her busy schedule growing up. "I was at team practice four days a week with two additional days of individual training," said Winawer. "It's a challenge to manage everything, but something I just grew up with."

Winawer has competed with Hayden Synchro teams since middle school. Each competitive tryout process includes intensive ice and fitness evaluations. The chosen skaters are then assigned to the team best suited for their skills. In 2021, both Winawer and Israel were selected to join this new division.

Evan Israel at age 5.
Photo courtesy of Evan Israel.

Evan Israel '24 posed in her skates at 5.

Israel, a business major, started skating at age 4. She began synchronized skating only a few years later and has been hooked ever since. “I love synchro because it allows me to work with my friends rather than competing against them,” said Israel. “It’s really a team sport.”

Israel also began competing internationally in high school, representing the U.S. during her senior year for DC EDGE, the largest synchronized skating organization in the D.C area. “It’s definitely one of my proudest accomplishments,” said Israel.

After attending numerous skating competitions in Boston, she knew she wanted to attend college in the area. The Maryland native toured numerous schools in Massachusetts but found herself drawn to Brandeis because of its tight knit community. “I could tell as soon as I toured the campus that Brandeis was an incredibly welcoming place,” she said. 

She was named to the Hayden Select team in spring 2021. It wasn’t long before Israel realized one of her teammates, Winawer, was a fellow classmate at Brandeis. “It’s been really great getting to know each other,” said Israel. “We carpool to practice together from the campus.”

 

Evan Israel and Sami Winawer pose with American Flag
Photo courtesy of Evan Israel.

Sami Winawer '23 and Evan Israel '24 pose in France with the American Flag.

The team has an intense schedule, practicing four times a week and competing around the world  throughout the year.  Israel and Winawer balance full-time class schedules with their weekly practices, and believe the Brandeis community supports them. “I really love the friends I’ve made on campus,” said Israel. “It’s such a great feeling seeing my roommates cheering me on in the stands.”

In addition to their Brandeis friends attending their exhibitions and cheering them on, the two are encouraged by their professors as well.

“Our professors have been really supportive of our skating,” said Winawer. “Whenever I tell them they are excited to learn more about it.”

While Winawer and Israel may not get the chance to compete in the Olympics, they hope that their team will impact the future of the sport.

“I’ll hopefully be in law school by then,” said Winawer. “but while watching from home I'll be really proud that I helped pave that path.”

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