Pam O’Connor & Jonathan O’Dougherty have been skating together since 1995. Last season they captured the British National title and went on to compete in their first European and World Championships where they finished 16th and 19th.
This season gave you an opportunity to skate at the European and World championships as well as winning your first national title. What do you think about your accomplishments?
We are both really suprised that the season progressed in the way that it did. We went into the season thinking that a silver medal at the national championships was probably the best that we could expect. So obviously we are extatic that we won our first senior national title. Then going into the European championships we were skating well and just hoped that we could perform in competition the way can in training. As it happened we were a bit nervous on the OD and Romantica, but we put that down to skating against so many top class couples. However the free dance was the best that we’ve performed it all season, so we were really pleased with that. Which coincided with us pulling up a place, double bonus!!!
How do your placements this season affect your training and focus for next season?
We’ve never allowed our rankings to effect the way we train or our focus, I suppose that is the answer to your question about how we’ve managed to stay together for so long. Each year we try and improve on the way we skated the previous year. Whether we better our competitive results or not, we are focussed bettering the performances we gave, which is obviously an easier task than finishing in ???th place at a competition. As long as we continue to believe that, we’ll continue competing.
How does working with Muriel Boucher-Zazoui influenced your skating? How often do you work with her?
Muriel is one of our coaches and as often as we can we go over to Lyon to work with her. We started going over back in 1999, and ever since then we have (in our minds) made progress. When we train in Lyon we always leave feeling like we’ve improved a great deal as well as learnt a great deal. There is a philosophy that I think that the skaters in Lyon are working on, and that is that if you work hard you get results.
Do you still maintain contact with your first coach, Karen Barber?
When we started the 2000/01 season Karen suggested that it may be time for us to move on. As it happens we didn’t leave straight away, but mid way through the season we moved over to Lyon where we stayed until the end of the season.
At this years national championships Karen was one of the first people to congratulate us, so although we don’t work with Karen now we still have a good relationship.
Early on in your career coaches and parents made the decisions, do you now take the lead role in this?
Before we started skating together I think it’s fair to say we were lead, as are most young skaters. Then when our parents made it possible for us to skate together in 1995 we discussed where we should go to have lessons, and from that point on we gained more and more independance. Today however we are more than happy to hand over some of our responsabilities to David Hicks, who made our last season possible. Between about 1998 and 2001 a large portion of the decision making was down to us. Which also added additional pressure, and since David’s become involved we have alot more time and energy to concentrate on whats important, improving!!
You have been together since 1995 which is a long partnership in todays standards with so many teams switching partners to continue progressing. To what do you attribute your ability to stay together?
I think that we have managed so many competitive seasons together because it was our decision to make a go of it. I left home to skate with Pam, then Pam left home to skate in Blackburn. So we both made sacrifices, which gave us a common footing. Normally one partner ends up eventually getting distracted by outside influences. But as we were training in an environment which was very disciplined, we learned very early on in our skating careers that you only get out what you put in.
What ice dancing team(s) past and present do you feel have influenced your style the most?
I didn’t realise we had a style??? Although it is on our list of things to do!! Thats a good question. I dont think either of us can say that we try to emulate one person or couple but rather aspects of their skating. Every year we watch a free dance that we might think is brilliant, but dont really like the original dance from that same couple. Equally we really admire the way that certain couples skate, but don’t overly like what they do.
What is your life like off the ice?
Well we’ve just spent the last week wafling through college assignments. But when we’re not doing that we spend our time teaching at Deeside. At the moment we have several skaters that want to compete in the National Solo Dance Championships, so we’re focussing our time on them at the moment. Aside from life outside the ice rink we enjoy spending time with friends, which is never simple as they are spread all over the UK.