Tell us about how you started skating together.
We were both competing in Juniors in 2004 with previous partners and training at the same rink. Our partners were a couple off the ice and after the British nationals that year (Louise 1st, Owen 4th), our partners decided that they no longer wanted to skate with us and they would skate together. Immediately after our respective splits, we both did our own thing–having tryouts, etc. In June 2006, we were both in the same place at the same time, looking for partners and thought, “O.K, well we could give it a try and see what happens,” and it worked!
What is it like to train in Lyon?
Lyon is a great place to train for us. We have a great team behind us who support and believe in us 100%, both on and off the ice. Back in the UK both of us had so much travelling to do, in order to be able to work with the people we felt we needed to see. In addition, we would work and study, and we lived pretty much out of a suitcase in the back of the car 7 days a week. We were just always on the go. It all got to be a little too much and was not efficient in order for us to become top athletes, however, it did help to give us a great work ethic and the determination to succeed. In Lyon, everything is under one roof for us–dance, fitness, on-ice, off-ice, etc. We get more time to rest, which is a significant factor. We also train alongside other high-level teams, which is very motivating.
Of course, we do miss our families and friends. We would not be where we are without their help and support. We keep in regular contact through SMS, email, and telephone. We are not home in the UK too often as our schedule is very busy, but they understand and visit us when they can. We try and take some time off for quality time with them at Christmas and usually for a few weeks in June. It makes the occasions at home all the more special when they do not happen very often.
Do you have any input into your programs or do your coaches take the reigns?
Our programs are a joint collaboration between us and our team of coaches. Usually we find the types of music that we want to skate to and then we work through it with our on-ice team until we find something that clicks for us all. This year after the initial choreography with Diana Ribas for the short dance and Romain Haguenauer for the free dance, we then sourced other professionals that we wanted to work with to take the direction we wanted, whether that was ballroom, theatre, etc. Everything is a team effort, which we feel is important to inspire our team as coaches and us as performers.
You have had a busy competitive season. How has this helped you with your progress as a team?
This season has been incredibly busy for us, but we have to admit that it was our choice. I think many people thought we were crazy to do as many competitions as we have done so far this season, it is something like 9 in the space of 12 weeks (including national and international events). However, we felt after last season in particular, we really needed the experience in performing under pressure. A skater can train all year for potentially only a handful of events, if that, and before you know it, your season is finished. It has been good for us to really work on our consistency, deal with different types of stress, and build our confidence. Obviously, a schedule like this meant that we had to be ready to compete very early on this year and there was no real time to iron out issues or make changes to our programs – it all had to be right the first time around! We have to admit, at times it has been beyond tiring, but we have really enjoyed it. We have just had to believe in our work and go for it!
How did it feel to win your first international gold – at Ice Challenge?
We were delighted with our first international gold in Graz. As many athletes, we really have had our highs and lows and at times we have wondered if it would come good or not. We have had to keep believing in ourselves and not lose sight of our goals and ambitions.
We then won our second international gold in Lyon. Two competitions in a row is just unbelievable and we now need pinching! We performed very well at both events and achieved both seasons and personal bests, which is equally important to us.
The gold medals are overwhelming and extremely rewarding for both ourselves and our support network. We consider ourselves as two ordinary, dedicated people with a passion, striving to achieve our ambitions. Without question, there is more than just the two of us that can take credit for any success we achieve.
We want to be competing for many years to come so we have enjoyed the recent moments of success. We have tried to stay grounded and keep the perspective that there is a lot more to work on, improve on, and achieve in the future. We hope this is just the beginning for us!
What do you think about the short dance?
We actually really like the short dance. We feel that, unfortunately, as Ice Dance needed to lose one of its three segments, it is a good compromise. We still have the format of an original dance, but it allows a skater to adapt and personalize the compulsory dance. Rather than the spectator seeing numerous Golden Waltzes for example, all done exactly the same way, there is more variety though music choice and interpretation, etc. From the short dances we have seen, in our opinion, it is a good comparison for technique and expression. Not everyone necessarily has a great pattern dance or great transitions, but it is really nice when you see a couple that has both.
We did like the compulsory dances and we respected their importance, so we do miss them to a point, but the short dance is a new challenge. It seems this way is moving forward for ice dance, so we have to embrace the changes and work with them as creatively as possible to keep the sport interesting. We would be very disappointed to lose the compulsory dance patterns altogether, though.
If you could contribute one idea to improve the sport, what would it be?
We feel there is a lot of lost talent based on the financial status of the athletes. Neither of us have particularly wealthy backgrounds, but we are we are ambitious and determined individuals, who are lucky that we have families who have made sacrifices for us to follow our careers. As many other athletes, we have also had to take on work where possible, to pay for our skating due to lack of funding which prevents or delays efficient training situations.
Understanding this, we have recently set up our own business, Ice Inc, in order to help fund our own training and competitive costs. This is a company which aims to make everything the skater needs accessible. Over the past twelve months we have been working on this project alongside our own training and competing. Initially, this is to help subsidize our own training and competition expenses, but ultimately, as we understand we are not alone, we plan to help fund and contribute to other talented athletes worldwide.
We are looking to launch Ice Inc in January 2011, beginning with our online store www.iceinc-store.com
This is a very exciting venture for us, and we hope that over time, people will support the cause and that we may be able to make a difference to other skaters and help give them a chance to succeed.
Who are your role models on the ice?
Anissina & Peizerat, Grishuk & Platov, Torvill & Dean, Krylova & Ovsiannikov, Delobel & Schoenfelder, Dubreuil & Lauzon, and Bourne & Kraatz.
What piece of music have you not skated to in the past that you would like to? Why?
Hmmmm, tricky! There isn’t anything we can think of off the top of our heads. We would like to think of something very original, that no one has used before, that would make an impact. We would like to be remembered as being unique, a little bit different, entertaining, and perhaps not mainstream, but without being outrageous, of course. That seems an awful lot for one piece of music, so perhaps we better get searching!!!
How do you feel about winning the British national title this year?
We are both delighted to be British Senior Ice Dance Champions at long last. We have worked very hard, for a very long time, to have a season like we have had so far this year. We are excited about what the new year brings and means for us. It has been difficult to process what we have achieved recently, but that is partly as the competitions have happened so quickly and we have had to use every spare day to stay in condition for the next event. It is slowly sinking in, but we have spent the last few weeks asking, “Did that just happen?” and right now is no exception. One thing is for sure, despite being a little shell-shocked, we are enjoying every minute and using every experience and achievement to inspire the next goal.