Rose Goldenberg and Amira David had each been accomplished individual figure skaters for most of their young athletic careers. But when each had an opportunity to try out for the Northernettes Synchronized Skating Team, they not only found themselves with a newfound interest in the sport but a chance to represent their country in international competition.
The Northernettes were one of two Team USA junior squads competing in the Hevelius Cup in Gdansk, Poland, Feb. 9-11. The team finished fourth overall out of 14 teams competing.
“When I joined it was kind of crazy to think about [representing the USA],” Rose said before the team’s final practice at 3M Arena at Mariucci on the University of Minnesota campus before departing for Poland. “However, almost all of the skills I trained for years and years individually translate over. They’re basically the same skills, but you’re just all doing at the same time. I already knew how to do almost all of the elements we do in our programs. I just hadn’t done them with other people before.”
The “other people” Rose mentioned is where the sport is much different from people are used to seeing. Instead of one or two skaters twirling around the ice on 5mm blades of sharpened steel, there are 16 skaters. In other words, picture the artistry of figure skating with the potential danger of a demolition derby.
“You have a lot of contact falls,” said Amira.
While figure skating really gets a lot of attention every four years during the Winter Olympics, synchronized skating hasn’t made the Olympics yet. There is a push underway to get the discipline added to the 2026 games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
“It’s basically creating different formations and elements,” Rose said. “Some are connected, some aren’t. It’s all about precision and timing.”
The artistry of synchronized skating is something that is big focus, which Rose said is a little different from her individual work.
“We focus so much on the artistry which is such a significant aspect of synchronized skating,” she said. “When I skated individually, although I probably should have focused on artistry more, I really just focused on the technical elements like jumping and spinning. Learning how to emote music is something that I’ve worked really hard on.”
Team members come from different parts of the Twin Cities so on-ice time as a 20-person team is limited. Rose and Amira still do regular work on skills individually, as well as off-ice work, in between full-team gatherings.
“In the beginning, they definitely were telling us to make sure we’re working on like basic things like twizzles,” said Amira, a sophomore at Eden Prairie High School.
Amira had skated at Go4Gold Skating Academy at Shakopee Ice Arena prior to joining the Northernettes. It’s her second year on the team, joining in 2021 to spend more time with her sister, Alexa, a senior last year. Goldenberg, a senior at The Blake School, had skated for Lake Minnetonka Skating Club.
The last batch of practices have been on the Mariucci ice because of its size; the rink is 200 feet-by-100 feet, which for hockey purposes is considered “Olympic size.” It’s also the size of rink that is most common in Europe and the size of the sheet that they’ll be skating on in Poland. National Hockey League rinks as long, but only 85 feet wide.
“It’s nice to have a variety though because not all of the competitions are on Olympic-size rinks,” Rose said. “In preparation for Poland, we’ve been skating on a lot of Olympic rinks just because it’s different when you’re with a team with shapes (of formations). It’s so important to get used to it.”
That extra 15 feet of width can make a big difference as 16 skaters are zipping around the ice.
“For me, (the biggest adjustment) was definitely spatial awareness, making sure I wasn’t like going into other people’s areas and also just being able to do everything on time with each other,” Amira said. “It was a little bit of an adjustment to make sure that I was doing it at the same time as everyone else.”
A family affair
Any sport done at a high enough level requires a certain amount of buy-in from the family. But skating, due often to rink availability, is notorious for early morning or late evening practices. For the Goldenbergs and the Davids, it’s no different.
“Having Amira skating so much to keep up her individual and synchronized skating is definitely a family commitment,” said Sarina David, Amria’s mom. “Amira does online schooling so that she can have the time to do her skating, but she knows if she doesn’t keep up her schoolwork or get good grades, she won’t be able to skate as much.”
Sarina David is one of Amira’s individual coaches, so she usually drives her to Shakopee for her individual skating work, which is 5-6 days per week, approximately two hours per day. The Northernettes practices are three or four times a week, up to 3 ½ hours each session.
“Not unlike any other sports or extracurricular activity, figure skating is also a big commitment- which of course has included hundreds or maybe thousands of rides to and from the rink,” Rose’s mom Debbie Goldenberg said. “There were not many days where Rose was not at the rink. It was truly a passion.”
Amira and her sister were part of a silver medal-winning team at the Neuchâtel Trophy in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, last season.
“It was such a proud and emotional moment for us watching the two of them representing Team USA on international ice, and it was so exciting when they won the silver medal,” Sarina David said. “For my girls, skating together last year and traveling to all the competitions had really brought the two of them so much closer together. They have made memories that they will cherish the rest of their lives and I am so thankful for that.”
Alexa will be in the stands this time cheering on her sister and former teammates, along with Sarina and Yosef – Amira’s father. Debbie and Chad Goldenberg are also in Poland.
“Watching her compete on Friday and Saturday representing Team USA will be incredibly memorable,” Debbie Goldenberg said. “We can’t wait.”