New Team Series: Athena Roberts & Eric Alis

Athena Faith Roberts (17) and Eric Alis (20) represent Spain and started skating together last season. They finished 26th at the World Junior Championships. 

Tell us about your individual skating journeys, including any early special memories.
Athena Roberts (AR): I started skating when I was 5 years old in Jacksonville Florida.

Eric Alis (EA): I started skating at 7 with a few friends from school and started competing right away as a single skater. At the age if 12 i won my first nationals in novice. At 16, I moved to Vancouver, Canada to continue my studies and started skating as a single skater again after a bad hip injury. After a couple years, I found out there was an ice dance academy and I gave it a shot with no hopes to get in, but after trying out, my current coaches seemed interested and cheered me up to keep up to eventually finding my current partner!

What drew you to ice dance?
AR: When I was competing in singles skating there was a lot of pressure especially with my jumps, and slowly I started to lose interest in skating. But at the same time I was doing ice dance for fun and it helped me regain my drive for skating, and I realized I would rather compete in something that is fun and entertaining.

EA: I always loved skating more than jumping, but in Spain there wasn’t any kind of Ice Dance school. After my injury I knew I was done with jumping since it was the main reason of my injury. When I got accepted into the ice Dance academy in Vancouver I realized day after day how much I enjoy it and since I was able to find a partner I enjoy it even more.

Tell us how your partnership started (Partner Search, training mate, etc.) Describe the tryout.
AR: Both of our coaches had gotten in contact with each other and we scheduled a tryout within three days. The tryout lasted for one week and on day one we had gotten along really well so we knew that there was a high possibility of this partnership working out, and by the end of the week I had found a place to stay and move to Vancouver.

EA: We found each other in a quite unexpected way! I found a partner from Canada but after a few days of training and her moving here from Montreal things didn’t work out. Then my coach, Aaron Lowe spoke to one of his friends mentioning that she had a girl, and within 4 days Athena arrived here in Vancouver to do a tryout. I think we connected pretty quick, and after a week of tryout we talked and decided to continue together for at least one season, with no compromise, in case we didn’t see things coming together. But lucky us we had a blast and we’ll keep things going!

What is it that you already like most about dancing with your new partner?
AR: The thing I like most about skating with a partner is that we are doing it all together. I find it is a lot more fun dancing with a partner because you can encourage one another and trust that they have you while skating. I think that creates an understanding and great friendship which makes skating together even better.

EA: What I like the most about skating with Athena is that we laugh a lot. We have gotten really close with such short time and makes all trainings very enjoyable. As well as we trust each when trying new things. It makes it easier to learn and have fun with it as well.

What experiences do each of you bring to the partnership? (International competitions, training, etc.)
AR: The most experiences I have is training and competing in several world championships in the aerial arts and pole sport discipline.

EA: The thing I can bring into the partnership is all the previous years of training in the figure skating field.

What has been the biggest adjustment for each of you so far in the partnership?
AR: The biggest adjustment for myself was getting used to the new environment I was in. Since I had to move from Florida to Vancouver, not only was I getting used to skating with Eric, but also getting to know new coaches and their work ethic, new teammates, and learning about the city.

EA: For me the biggest adjustment has been having to combine all my training with university so far, since unfortunately here in Vancouver, universities aren’t flexible with sport

Tell us about your training site. (Location, facilities, dance mates, classes, etc.)
We train at the 8rinks Scotia Barn in Burnaby, BC. It’s a facility with 7 rinks and a soccer field. To me it is amazing to be able to train here since in Spain there’s a total of 7-8 rinks where you can skate all year long. So in some way, we always have ice to be able to practice. In the same facility we also have a gym and a room in which we do our off-ice dance lessons, usually 3-4 times a week.

Who are your coaches? 
Our main coaches are Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe, ex Olympian ice dancers representing Canada. Both originally from Vancouver.

Who is choreographing your programs. Is someone else arranging your music? If so, please share those experiences.
Both, Megan and Aaron, are the ones who choreograph our programs with the help of our off-ice coaches who are specialized in ball-room and contemporary dance, both with an extent background of other types of dancing.

If you could have a lesson with any ice dancer past/present, who would it be? Why?
AR: I would want to have a lesson from Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Their 2010 Olympic performance was the first time I had acknowledged ice dance and it instantly captured my attention, so getting a lesson from the people who inspired ice dance for me would be amazing.

EA: I would like to be able to train with Adrian Diaz, the recently retired Olympian ice dancer from Spain since he was my very first contact into ice dance and with Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron to do some choreography and refinement of edge quality.

What is each of you looking forward to most this skating season? What will be your biggest challenge(s)?
AR: What I am looking forward to this season is being able to show how much we’ve improved along with all the new tricks and choreography we have for the new season.

EA: For this upcoming season I am really looking forward to our first 2 Junior Grand Prix! And really looking forward to improve our world ranking including Junior Worlds bringing a bunch of new elements that we are working on.

What is your debut competition this season?
Our debut competition this year will be in Ottawa, Canada and our international debut will be in our first Junior Grand Prix in Linz, Austria.