Sam Paris: International Synchronized Skating Star

Balance is crucial in synchronized skating.

With 16 people performing challenging formations and step sequences, it’s vital to be aware of everything going on all around you, and always be in control.

Sam Paris knows a lot about balance — on the ice, and off.

The Staples High School senior just returned from an international competition in Switzerland. Coming up: competitions in Italy and the US.

Sam Paris, representing the US.

With practices in Stamford Monday through Thursday beginning at 5:30 a.m. — you read that right — plus 16 hours on the ice Friday through Sunday — that doesn’t leave a lot of time for schoolwork.

Yet Sam gets it done (in classes like Engineering and Applied Physics, and Anatomy and Physiology). And — somehow — she finds time to compete in the Sikorsky STEM Challenge for aspiring engineers. And work with 4 or 5 students a week, as a Top Hat tutor.

Sam makes it all seem as easy as gliding along the ice. Yet as anyone who has ever laced up skates knows, there are many ways to fall.

From her first lessons at Terry Conners Rink in Stamford, Sam has enjoyed skating. She fell in love with the demands and satisfactions of the synchronized sport,  and at 12 joined the Skyliners juvenile team. Based in New York, they’re one of the top clubs in the country.

Sam worked on her skills: basic skating, and more difficult crossovers and turns. She learned to bring her foot over her head while moving.

Sam Paris and the Skyliners, in action.

In 2018 she qualified for the national tournament, in Portland, Oregon. She thought she was on her way to big things.

But the next year she did not make the intermediate team. “I started late,” she says — age 10 — “and was playing catch-up.”

She did individual training to improve. In 2020 she qualified for nationals, and placed 5th.

The next year she made the novice squad, but COVID prevented training. In ’22, on the novice team, she finished second at nationals in Colorado.

By then her dream to represent the US internationally seemed audacious, but reachable. She continued to practice and train hard.

Yet after  tryouts for the junior team, she got a rejection letter — “just like from college,” she says.

“I’d given it everything. I curled into a cocoon, and let myself be sad.”

Then the Skyliners’ senior coach called. He liked her fight, and asked if she wanted to take a chance at the adult level.

Last spring, she got a “trainer” spot on the squad. By the beginning of August, she was on the roster. Sam is one of only two high school students on the senior team. All the others are in college — or older.

Skyliners’ synchronized skating squad. Sam Paris is in the front row, 3rd from right.

“I love the flow of the sport. It’s so creative,” she says.

She loves her team too. “We all push each other. We all feel the same pressure. We really understand each other. There’s so much collaboration: 16 people, all working together to succeed.”

So those 4:45 wake-ups for 5:30 practices at Chelsea Piers, and long weekends on the ice, don’t faze her.

Remember: It’s all about balance.

“I’ve learned to budget my time,” she explains. “I know how to decompress and relax.”

All those hours paid off. The Skyliners finished third earlier this month in Neuchâtel, Switzerland — Sam’s first international event. She looks forward to Milan on February 14, followed by nationals in Peoria, and the world championships at Lake Placid in April.

Her friends and teachers appreciate all she does. They are learning about the sport — “it’s a niche discipline,” Sam admits — and teachers understand her commitments.

Representing her country is wonderful. But you can’t make a living as a synchronized skater.

As Sam looks at colleges, she hopes to continue competing. Those teams perform at a lower level than the Skyliners. But she’ll miss a lot less school.

Though — knowing Sam Paris — she may still be balancing many activities.

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