British Ice dance has quite a history. Think Torvill and Dean. That, in and of itself, is a lot to live up to. In the last installment of the off season’s Summer Spotlight series, I’ll introduce you to a young couple trying to do just that.
This past season, the team set a whirlwind schedule of roughly 10 events in 12 weeks time. The goal? Earn points towards their first international ranking. A fifth place finish in Nice and gold at both Ice Challenge in Austria as well as the International Trophy event in Lyon.
While the rest of the world had eyes on seven-time British champs Sinead and John Kerr (who were battling injury most of the season but hoping, of course, to be ready for Nationals and Worlds), Walden and Edwards pressed on, aiming to improve on their 5th place finish at Nationals the year before.
Sinead and John didn’t skate at Nationals.
Louise and Owen did … and in the absence of the reigning champs, they moved solidly into the British ice dance spotlight, snagging the title on the way.
“It is a culmination of so many years hard work and effort, which finally feels like it comes to fruition,” they recalled in an email interview earlier this month. “To have your name on a trophy next to other skating greats like Torvill and Dean is truly a marvelous thing.”
Despite winning their first National title, the World Championship berth belonged to the Kerrs, should they be physically able to perform.
As far as Walden and Edwards were concerned, their season was over, and they began to look toward next season. New music was in the works, and bits and pieces of choreography were starting to come together.
Now, normally when you talk about skaters being flexible, it is in order to tangle themselves into seemingly impossible positions in lifts and spins. For the new British Champions, though, it took on a whole new meaning when, just one week before the scheduled start of Worlds, they got a phone call. The Kerrs were out, Louise and Owen were in.
Back to the drawing board.
“We had been spending some time in the UK when we got the call … and obviously decided to go back to France immediately and resume our training,” they told me.
But that wasn’t all.
“We were on our way in the car when we received the news about Tokyo,” the duo recalled. “However at this point no one knew what it meant for the Championships and so we carried on as normal.”
Of course, we all know the tragedy that left Tokyo — and the whole of Japan — in utter disarray. The devastation was far more life-changing than any World Championships could ever be. Still, skaters were stuck in a terribly difficult situation. Like the others left hanging in the balance, Walden and Edwards ached for the people of Japan, but still clung to the hope of competing at their first World Championships.
For this couple, though, there was another wrinkle: would the extra time until Nationals (especially if postponed until October as was initially suggested) give Sinead Kerr time enough to heal and be ready to go, instead of the young alternates?
“The constant stress was immense, not only willing ourselves to push through training which may or may not be necessary but also feeling like we were trying to regain lost time on some of our competitors who would be at the event,” the couple said.
Ultimately, the work paid off, the Championships were held, and the Kerrs remained out. Louise and Owen were officially on their first Worlds team, and the support from home was visible — literally. Their fans made a “Good luck at Worlds” video for the rising stars!
That support didn’t go unappreciated.
“Our fans are part of our team as far as we are concerned,” Louise and Owen said.
Worlds was a whole new ballgame for Britain’s champions. Their performances were good enough to finish 20th overall. Not too shabby for their debut. More important than the placement, however, were the lessons learned and the experience gained.
“It was an absolutely fabulous experience which has only changed us for the better,” the two said. “The atmosphere and the crowd was amazing let alone to be competing in an arena of that size. We learned a lot, both about what was required from us to improve on our performance, but also where we wanted to go with our own skating.”
Their partnership is still young, but their unified determination makes them a force in the volatile world of ice dance. Their secret? They focus on how they compliment one another — Louise the organizer, Owen the entertainer, for example.
Plus, they simply get along.
“We get on really well in each other’s company and can chat for ages,” they said. “We would say that the love of our sport keeps us together, [as does] our common ambition of being the best! Over the years there have been endless trials for the pair of us, both on and off the ice but we have stood by each other.”
This year, the duo will skate to music from Gloria Estefan for the Latin short dance. No specifics just yet on the particular songs, though — wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise! For the free dance, they’ll interpret music from Burlesque. Both pieces, they say, are intentionally different from previous programs.
This year is about growth. The out-side-the-box programs are just the start. With one National title under their belts, Walden and Edwards want this season to simply be a step in the right direction — the direction of Torvill and Dean before them.
Find out more about Louise and Owen HERE.