Alex Shiffler: Synchronized skating worldwide


Credit: Courtesy of Alex Shiffler

Junior Alex Shiffler (center row, fourth from left) smiles with her synchronized skating team, the Lexettes after winning the Spring Cup. The Spring Cup is a figure skating competition that took place in Milan, Italy. During the competition, the Lexettes won first place with a cumulative score of 188.5 points for its short and free programs.

Aimee Smith

For some people, the winter months mean bundling up in a warm blanket at home. However, junior Alex Shiffler has spent a significant part of the past few months on a freezing ice rink, figure skating with her team, the Lexettes.

Beginning in January, Shiffler and the rest of the Lexettes competed in several international synchronized skating competitions. Their success in the competitions culminated in Shiffler’s team qualifying for the World Junior Figure Skating Championships (World Juniors) competition from March 7 to March 12.

“No one on my team expected [to make it to World Juniors],” Shiffler said. “Everyone was crying when our coach told us [we qualified].”

The Lexettes found out they qualified for the World Juniors for the first time in five years at the Spring Cup in Milan, Italy, a competition from Feb. 14 to Feb. 20, where Shiffler and her team placed first. At Worlds, Shiffler and her teammates placed sixth overall due to the culmination of the points they earned during their short program and free skate.

Shiffler herself skated in the short program to the song “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson and was an alternate for the free program to music from the French musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” According to Shiffler, the most challenging move in either of the programs was a lift during the free program.

“We had two very different programs,” Shiffler said. “Most teams’ programs are either two slow or two fast tempo programs, but we had one fast and one slow. That’s what a lot of people said set our team apart from the others, its variety.”

Before the Spring Cup, the skaters were in Salzburg, Austria, for the Mozart Cup from Jan. 17 to Jan. 22. Since this past season was Shiffler’s first year on a Junior level figure skating team, the Mozart Cup was her first time traveling outside the country for competition.

“Often, we’d get off the plane and go straight to the rink and skate on four hours of sleep in a completely different time zone,” Shiffler said. “My coach said that’s what we had to do to get our legs underneath us, and it was definitely really hard at first.”

Before Worlds, Shiffler and her team returned to compete in the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships from Feb. 28 to March 5. Nationals took place in Peoria, Illinois, and although the team placed third, Shiffler expected them to do better. During the competition, one of Shiffler’s teammates had an asthma attack and had to be replaced by an alternate. The Lexettes have 24 total skaters, but six of them are alternates.

Junior Alex Shiffler stretches out her arm as she skates in her 2021-2022 figure skating program. Shiffler has done competitive synchronized skating for the past nine years, but she started learning to skate at a rink in Acton, Massachusetts with her brother. (Credit: Courtesy of Alex Shiffler)

According to Shiffler, she was nervous because it was her first year on the team, and she felt like she had to compete to earn a spot in one of the programs. However, as the season progressed, Shiffler believes her nerves lessened as the team spent more time together and they all bonded.

“I loved going to practice,” Shiffler said. “As much as it was so hard and so tiring, I loved seeing my teammates. They’re my closest friends. That sounds so cliche, but it’s true.”

While Shiffler was at competitions with her teammates, she missed her family and schoolwork. According to Shiffler, time zone differences made it difficult to call family members from Europe because she’d already be in bed by the time her family got home from work.

“It’s definitely a lot [to miss], but it was all worth it when I was there,” Shiffler said. “Sometimes it was hard to tell myself that I needed to focus on my skating and didn’t have to worry about [catching up]. I was in France, I should go out and have fun, not do my math homework.”

While in Europe, Shiffler and her teammates used their free time between competitions and practice to do some sightseeing. For example, when they were in Milan, Italy, Shiffler and her teammates visited Duomo de Milano, a famous cathedral. However, while in France, Shiffler did not explore much because of the importance of the competition, as well as ongoing work strikes.

“[In France,] we wanted to stay in our bubble. We didn’t want to go all about because World Juniors was something no one on my team had been to before,” Shiffler said.

Although everyone at World Juniors was competing against each other, Shiffler found that the community of skaters was welcoming. While abroad, Shiffler saw some foreign friends, including a girl from Spain who used to skate on her club team before moving back.

“I love seeing people from all over the world who love the sport that I do,” Shiffler said. “We’d be sitting in the stands, and people would come up and say, ‘do you want to trade this,’ and it would be a little stuffed koala from Australia. I loved seeing how people would interact with each other and hearing different languages.”

Because of her team’s success this season, Shiffler says that her tryouts for the upcoming season were filled with lots of new faces from all over the country. Although competing internationally is a lot of work, Shiffler is passionate about figure skating and loves working with her team.

“When you get onto the ice for a competition, you skate around a bit before you get into your opening post, and one of my teammates would always say, ‘no matter what, I love you,’ and I knew she meant it,” Shiffler said. “Whatever happens, happens, but we’ll all still love each other.”