16 year-old twins Clare & Tom Whalley are junior ice dancers who represent Great Britain. They train at iceSheffield and are coached by David Hartley. They took a few minutes to answer some questions from ice-dance.com as part of the Skating Siblings series.
IDC: When and how were you introduced to skating?
CLARE & TOM: We were nearly 9 and I was looking for a hobby as Tom had his football. We had tried lots of things from ballet to pony riding but nothing really appealed to me, then we started a Skate UK course and I loved it! Tom gave up when we reached Skate UK Level 5 after we had skating together in our first Christmas Show and I carried on. It was only when our little sister wanted to start skating that he came back – he doesn’t do watching very well!
IDC: How did you choose ice dance?
CLARE & TOM: Our first rink was Altrincham and we were inspired by the skating heritage in ice dance at Altrincham and watched in awe if Joan Slater MBE came in with a couple. However, we did free skating to start with because the rink doesn’t have a strong ice dance presence anymore. We competed as a beginner pairs couple for a couple of seasons before one of the test organizers asked our coach if she would enter us for an ice dance competition she was organizing in Bradford. This coincided with us moving house and our nearest rink became iceSheffield, which focused heavily on ice dance and as we felt it was more us we chose to move disciplines.
This coincided with the 2012 European Ice Skating Championships in Sheffield we enjoyed the ice dance best and loved taking part in the opening ceremony alongside Sinead & John Kerr.
Ironically, we went back to have lessons from Joan Slater MBE before she retired last season.
IDC: What do you like most about ice dance?
CLARE & TOM: We both enjoy the technical detail of the edges.
IDC: What is the best thing about skating with your sibling?
CLARE & TOM: One set of parents – which can also be the worst! Tom and I are twins which isn’t like being a sibling – Elena (our little sister) is my sibling. Tom is just Tom and has always been there! People think we bicker, but we’re not it’s just how we interact with each other normally.
IDC: Do you think there are obstacles sibling teams face that others do not?
CLARE & TOM: Yes! A non-sibling team will be on their best behavior especially as they don’t want to let each other down and they try hard to be the best they can be to maintain the partnership. We never have that ‘honeymoon’ as we have always been together so getting it wrong or upsetting each other isn’t a problem for us because we will always be twins. This is hardest on the coach really as this level of familiarity isn’t usual in young ice dancers and can be hard to deal with – it takes a strong person to manage this.
A non-sibling team has time apart – we don’t. We travel to and from the rink together, eat dinner together and go on holiday together so it is hard sometimes to leave skating at the rink.
We have also grown at different rates – Tom was too small for me for two seasons which impacts on how the UK judges feel about us.
Money is the biggest obstacle: our parents shoulder the whole expense where other teams share the cost between two sets of parents.
IDC: Tell us about a typical training day.
CLARE & TOM: We have two types of training day: a school day and a non-school day. If we are at school then we can only train from 6am until 8am on ice. If we are off, then providing the rink hasn’t taken the patch sessions away, we go in for 8am until 10am, go to the gym and then come back for the elite training ice for another 2 hours.
Our coaching team is headed up by David Hartley and includes Andrew Smykowski and Kelly Buddery and we train at iceSheffield in the UK.
IDC: How do you come up with your programs each season? Tell us about your choices for the 2016-17 season?
CLARE & TOM: We work with our coach to find the right tracks. He usually gives us a brief and we have to go away to find ideas that reflect this. Invariably, our search leads him to pick tracks that he feels would give us the best chance of success based on the feedback for the previous season.
This year we have a blues and swing for our short dance: he chose to start the dance with the swing which is very lively (“Big & Bad” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy) and then move into the blues which we chose together and is a track Sinead & John Kerr skated to (“Lover Lies” by The Atomic Fireflies) before we had even started skating.
Our free dance this year had to show connection and be powerful with light and shade. It was hard to choose this, but we are very happy with the final choice which is two versions of the same track, “Who Wants to Live Forever” (originally by Queen). It starts with The Tenors featuring Linsey Stirling, which is classical with and then moves to the electric guitar from the show leading into a duet.
IDC: What has been your favorite skating memory in your career so far?
CLARE & TOM: Going to the ISU Ice Dance Development Camp in Torun was jointly our favorite skating memory. Working with the coaches, alongside the other international skaters and being in Poland. The only thing that wasn’t our favorite thing was the food!
IDC: How do you like to spend your off-ice time?
CLARE & TOM: Tom plays football; he loves it and would love to move into semi-professional football if he ever gets the opportunity. He has a part time job now in a local restaurant and this has totally changed how he sees food! I enjoy spending time with my non-skating friends and I love playing netball and hockey and working on my sports leaders’ qualifications.
IDC: What are your goals for this season?
CLARE & TOM: Our main aim this season is to get international experience. We have only ever competed in the UK and as there are only 3 competitions a season here our competition experience is limited. We want to achieve personal bests in both our short and free dance both technically and on components. We are striving to achieve the UK performance team scores so that we can move up from the UK talent Potential Squad to the Performance Squad next season.
Editor’s note: The Whalley siblings will be competing internationally at the Volvo Cup in Riga, Latvia, and the Open D’Andorra in Canillo, Andorra in addition to the Autumn Cup in Streatham and the British Championships. All four events are within a short period of time. If you would like to support Clare & Tom Whalley financially, please visit their GoFundMe page. The team also has a Facebook page where you can keep on top of the team’s updates and results.