O’Connor and O’Dougherty Reign as British Dance Champions
- Published: September 11, 2003
After six years of effort, Scotland’s Pamela O’Connor and Wales’ Jonathon O’Dougherty finally won the British senior ice dancing championship in 2002. They had moved up one place in senior dance every year since 1999, finally taking the gold medal and earning trips to the European Championships, where they finished 16th and Worlds, where they finished 19th.
O’Dougherty began skating when he was 12. “My grandmother took me skating for my birthday,” he remembered. “The next week, my mom saw an ad and took me to skating classes. My first coach was a dance coach so I started dance the first year, got a good partner, and just kept going.” His younger brother also skates and finished second at Nationals in junior men last year.
O’Connor began when she was four. “My parents took me to the rink and I just kept going back,” she said. “I started dancing when I was 12.” O’Connor won the Scotland junior ladies championship in singles before joining with O’Dougherty when she was 15. “I enjoyed dancing more than singles,” she said. “It’s more theatrical, not just technical. And there’s not as many dancers so there’s a getter chance of success.” They began skating together nine years ago. They had known each other from being in the same competitions and his mother suggested that they team up.
The dancers train at Deeside in Great Britain with David Hicks and Lyon in France with Muriel Boucher-Zazoui. They train for 3-5 hours a day five days a week in Deeside and six days a week if they’re in Lyon. “We train even more in Lyon in the summer if we can,” O’Dougherty stated. Off ice, they take ballet and conditioning classes. She has also taken ballroom dancing and gymnastics while he has worked on the trampoline and in the gym. O’Connor actually competed in ballroom dancing when she was between seven and ten.
Their choreographers include Pasquale Camerlengo, Tatiana Wood, and Roman Haguenauer. They used Radetzky March, Op. 228 by Johann Strauss for the original dance, Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend for the free dance, and Thanksgiving by George Winston for shows. “We get a lot of input from a lot of people,” O’Dougherty said. “David picked the music for both programs last season. The free dance music seemed to have a theme we could identify with. We like to try something different every year so we can try and find our own style.” O’Dougherty likes Latin dances like the rhumba and O’Connor enjoys the tango romantica. “I liked the original dance this year too,” she said. “It was easy to act out on ice.” Off ice, O’Dougherty said he had diverse tastes in music, while O’Connor said she listens to anything, but enjoys Michael Jackson. She plays keyboard while he plays the guitar.
To relax, he also likes to watch movies and ride his motorbike. “That keeps me sane,” he said. O’Connor likes shopping and playing with her two cats. She also enjoys reading magazines, while he goes through a couple of books a trip when traveling to skating events. His favorite trip was to Colorado Springs, where he enjoyed the mountains and landscape, while she also enjoyed Rome and Venice. The skaters have their own website at www.icedancers.uk.org which they keep updated themselves. They’ve also done a pop video for Robbie Williams She’s the One, a British hit. O’Connor also appeared in a short film.
The dancers are in their second year studying sports science at South-Nottingham College and plan to be coaches. They both coach younger dancers now. For now though, they’ll keep competing. “Our goals are to keep progressing and be the best that we can be,” O’Dougherty said. “We’d like to get a respectable world ranking. Dancers have a long competitive career.”