Features, On-Campus Profiles, Profiles

An Eagle on Ice: Wiese Competes for Team USA as Synchronized Skater

Elyse Wiese’s days are currently jam-packed as she writes her senior thesis and conducts biochemistry research with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

But in her time in between, Wiese also competes for Team USA figure skating—following a rigorous practice routine alongside her already busy academic schedule. 

According to Wiese, the secret to her motivation is a simple love of competition. 

“For me, there’s nothing quite like competing,” Wiese, MCAS ’23, said. “There’s nothing quite like having hundreds or thousands of people watching you skate. They don’t care about anything else in the world, but they care about your performance right then.” 

Wiese began competitive synchronized skating in eighth grade while growing up in Crystal Lake, Ill. According to Wiese, her father and brothers were hockey players and her mother was a figure skater, so she grew up with skates on her feet. 

“My mom was like, ‘Okay, let’s throw skates on her,’” Wiese said. “‘She’s a little too chaotic off the ice.’”

From there, Wiese found success with her high school club, Starlights. Wiese said her team was chosen to represent Team USA during her sophomore year of high school, and then it had the opportunity to compete internationally. With that team, Wiese competed in Croatia, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and Germany. 

Arriving at Boston College, Wiese transferred to her current figure skating club, the Haydenettes. Five days a week, Wiese spends three hours on the ice with the Haydenettes at a skating rink in Norwood, Mass. At practice, the team either runs through their skating routines in gym shoes or has a weightlifting session. 

“We do a lot of mirror work,” Wiese said. “How does this arm look? How does everybody do it the same? Where do we differ in that? And that’s how we really narrow in the synchronicity of it.” 

The 2020 competitive season took Wiese to England and France and included a first-place finish in the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in February—before the COVID-19 pandemic paused all her skating competitions. 

Without any specific competitions to train for, Wiese said that her team had the time to return to the fundamentals of ice skating during her sophomore year at BC. According to Wiese, these small technical details can make a huge difference in your performance.

“How do you use and manipulate your blade to get the maximum speed when you take a step or you do a push, but you also maintain a very solid, calm upper body?” Wiese said. “In that year, we all learned more about our blade and how to use it than I possibly learned in the first twelve years of skating.” 

The extra training paid off, as the Haydenettes team came back and placed first again in the 2022 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships. 

Because the skaters spend so much time together at practice and competitions, Wiese said her team is a very close-knit group, like a family. 

“There’s not really any divisions in the team,” Wiese said. “It’s very much the mentality that we’re only stronger if we do it together. It’s not going to work well if we’re all like, well, I only like this person and I hate that person. It can’t be that way because at the end of the day, you’re 16 people on the ice, but the only way you get on the podium is if you skate like one person.”

Within the team, Wiese is a leader and strong presence, according to Laura Nicula, a teammate of Wiese and a junior at Babson College.

“I definitely say she’s a leader,” Nicula said. “She is not quiet and she’s always very much herself throughout. She doesn’t compromise herself or make herself smaller to fit inside the box of what everyone else wants her to be.” 

Nicula said Wiese also brings the same focused energy each day to practice. 

“[Wiese]’s very realistic, but also optimistic,” Nicula said. “She always says that a third of days are going to be the best days you’ve had in a week. Another third is going to be mediocre. And then a third of the days are not going to be the best of training days … she always looks at the positives of any situation and she tries to raise our morale as well.” 

Off the ice, Wiese maintains a busy academic schedule. She is pursuing a double major in biology and Islamic civilization and societies. According to Wiese, she likes to exist in two separate worlds—school and skating—that do not overlap at all. 

“Skating is so stressful at times and sometimes you just need a break,” She said. “And it’s really nice to go somewhere where you don’t have to worry about it and you’re just like, okay, I have school, I have exams. That has nothing to do with skating.”

Wiese said she began her biology major on the pre-med track, but after taking physics, she decided to change paths. Once she took a number of classes in immunology as a junior, Wiese started doing biochemistry research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute while also working on the pandemic response manual for the Greater Boston Food Bank. According to Wiese, her work at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute interested her most, so she plans to attend graduate school for biology. 

Beyond her interest in biology, Wiese said she decided to take Arabic during her freshman year. She ended up signing up for more and more classes, so she fell into the Islamic civilization and societies major as a secondary academic pursuit. 

“My favorite part about the major, and a lot of people hate it, is that you have to write a thesis,” Wiese said. “I went through every single class I had ever taken and compiled what I liked, what I didn’t like, and came up with a senior thesis that is about Syrian refugees in Turkey and how the pandemic disproportionately affected them.” 

Wiese said she has been accustomed to balancing a busy schedule of skating and academics since her first year as a competitive skater. One of the ways she keeps her work organized is by maintaining a detailed planner and spreadsheet to ensure she keeps track of everything. 

“My day is pretty much scheduled out for me,” Wiese said. “I don’t really have a lot of, ‘Oh, I can take a nap in the middle of the day.’ It’s just kind of a push through. But I guess I just time manage very efficiently and I get things done and I don’t procrastinate.”

In the past year, Wiese and the Haydenettes achieved many successes. In November of 2022, the team won first place at Synchro Fall Classic in Irvine, Calif., and the Boston Synchronized Skating Classic in Norwood, Mass. In January, the team placed second at the Mozart Cup in Salzburg, Austria, and fourth at the Leon Lurje Trophy in Gothenburg, Sweden. 

“We are now preparing for the 2023 Synchronized Skating Championships in Illinois and, if we qualify, the 2023 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Lake Placid, New York,” Wiese said. 

With graduation and the potential end of her skating career approaching, Wiese said her goal is to make the podium at the world championships. 

“If you feel like you’ve done everything you ever wanted to do in your career, then there’s not really much more keeping you in skating,” Wiese said. “Because the only way you make it so far is if you actually love to do it, and you love going to practice every day because it’s very draining on your body and yourself.”

March 1, 2023