The Sheffield Synchronized Skating Academy was formed in 2008 through the vision of coach Amanda Hembrow-Jones.
Learning to skate at the age of 9, Mandy progressed quickly through all the levels and skated in her first solo competition when she was 10. Later that same year, she joined a synchro team at her home rink, Solihull, which back then was called ‘precision team skating’ in the UK.
Moving up to Senior Level in their second season, the team travelled to Zurich, Switzerland, for their first international competition. Mandy has fond memories of that trip:
“We practiced on an outdoor rink up a mountain, skating around twigs and leaves – and it was so bright, we had to get extra boot laces to tie on our sunglasses!”
The coach always made sure the team was able to take in the local culture when travelling, so the trips away were educational too. Mandy was able to grow and learn, and feels she owes a lot to those days:
“Synchronized skating helped me to come out of my shell and develop the confidence I badly needed. I made lots of friends outside of the normal school environment, and we shared so many exciting experiences together – many remain lifelong friends.”
Meeting skater Edmund Jones at the age of 12 meant Mandy was able to compete in ice dance pairs competitions for three seasons, whilst continuing to skate with the synchronized skating team.
However, exams and distance driving them apart, Mandy and Ed didn't see each other for 10 years.
During that time, Mandy continued to compete in both solo and synchro competitions and completed a degree at Sheffield Hallam University in Sports Development and Coaching, alongside completing her coaching qualifications whilst training and coaching at the Queens Road ice rink in Sheffield. Ed, meanwhile, had various try-outs with potential dance partners, continuing to skate both solo and in a showteam that won medals all over the UK.
Mandy and Ed met up at a social event and knew there was still a spark between them. They started training together again – and also dating.
They trained with the NIC ice dance academy and worked towards competing in the Senior Championships.
They then moved their training to iceSheffield in 2006, when Mandy returned to coaching full time. Ed joined later, firstly as part for the Learn to Skate programme, and then full-time as a resident coach.
Mandy and Ed both continue to teach ice dance, singles and ice dance disciplines as well as coaching the Sheffield Synchronized Skating Academy.
How Sheffield Synchro began
“I had great memories of my synchro days and wanted to start a team in Sheffield – I saw so many skaters who lacked confidence, found it hard to make new friends and struggled with integration, just as I had. I knew being part of a team with a shared goal had done wonders for me, and I wanted to share that experience with as many skaters as possible. However, people kept telling me it couldn’t be done.”
In January 2008, with nothing but determination and enthusiasm, Mandy contacted everyone she knew, handed out flyers, stuck up posters at the rink... and was amazed when 62 skaters turned up to try out!
With two teams picked out (which were named Unum and Perpetuum) and with just seven weeks to get ready for the RJS National Open & British Championships in March, Mandy created programme choreography in super-fast time. She and her assistant coaches, Ed Jones and John Horne worked hard to get the skaters ready, sourcing costumes and preparing them for their first competition.
The British Championships
The two teams did amazingly well in their first competition, smashing all expectations and coming in 5th place and 10th place out of 15 teams in the Elementary section.
The British Championships were undergoing a change, so the next event was held in January 2009. The Academy was able to enter three teams this time – and all three teams won podium positions!
• Juvenile – Unum - second place
• Intermediate – Ignis – second place
• Preliminary – Perpetuum – third place
Since then, the Academy has gone from strength to strength. Four teams compete at different levels, along with a development team for skaters new to synchro. All skaters progress together as they train and develop their skills, and compete at levels appropriate for their ages, Field Move levels and skills.
Coached by Mandy and Ed, the teams work hard and enjoy a rich social life outside the rink, attending fundraising events and team activities such as cinema nights. At the end of each season, skaters’ team and individual achievements are recognised at a Presentation Evening, giving them an opportunity to dress up and celebrate together.
Mandy and Ed’s story doesn’t stop there, however – they got married in 2017 and have a daughter Bella, who you’ll no doubt see around the rink – and who was simply born to skate!
BSc(Hons) Sport Development & Coaching
NISA Level 3 Licensed Coach, Ice dance, Singles & Synchro
Community Sports Leaders Award
ISU National Technical Specialist Synchronized Skating
BSc(Hons) Information Management & Computing
NISA Level 2 Licensed Coach, Ice dance, Singles & Synchro
NISA National Results operator (ISU calc system)