British senior men’s champion Neil Wilson has competed sporadically at the World Championships since 1996, finishing 20th that year, 33rd in 1999, and 26th in 2001. He has finished in the top twenty three times at Europeans, with his best finish 13th in 1999. But for several years, Wilson struggled with the consistency of his jumps, which resulted in only three British titles, each three years apart. But in June of 2001, Wilson found an answer to his problems when he moved from Northern Ireland to train with Joanne McLeod in Vancouver, Canada.
“This feels like a new beginning,” Wilson stated. “It’s quite exciting. I visited Vancouver on holiday in 1996 and told my parents that I wanted to live there. I’d also worked with Joanne and saw how she works and what she’s done with Emanuel (Sandhu). I liked her techniques and knew I’d be happy to live and train there. Emanuel’s been a nice friend, very supportive and inspiring to watch.”
“Before I came to Canada, I didn’t enjoy jumps,” he continued. “It was just a chore. Now I love it all. There’s no aspect we leave out in practice. It’s like theatre on ice. We’re trying to have a complete package, one that people will like to watch.” Wilson trains for 12-15 hours a week on ice. His off ice program includes personal training twice a week, dry land jump training twice a week, and ballet, pilates, and plyometrics once a week each. “I had a great ballet teacher in Scotland and I work quite hard at it,” he said. In the summer, he also takes hip hop and other dance classes.
Wilson does a full run-through of both his short and long program every day, one in one session and one in the other. “I go top to bottom with no stopping,” he said. “So I feel trained and fit. I’ve also started going to spin class again and doing more spins. I don’t want people to get ahead of me on that.” Wilson is in the Guinness Book of World Records for doing 60 rotations without stopping or changing feet in a forward scratch spin.
Coincidence brought Wilson into skating. “They built an ice rink two minutes from my house and it was the thing to do in our town,” he said. “I first started when I was eight, then I got hooked, and just kept on. I didn’t play other sports and got out of physical education for skating.” He landed his first triple, a salchow, when he was 14, then landed a triple toe loop two days later and a triple loop two days after that.
His goal for last season was just to get his triple Axel and triple-triple combinations consistent, then skate at competitions as well as he skates in practice, completing a clean program. He has achieved a consistent triple Axel, which he landed in both programs at British Nationals and noted that in a week of run-throughs, he landed 15 of 16. In his short, he uses a triple flip/triple toe, and a triple Axel/double toe in the long. He has been practicing both a triple Axel/triple toe and a triple loop/triple loop, but has not yet added them to his program. He’s also tried some three jump combinations in practice, triple toe/triple toe/double loop and triple flip/triple toe/double loop, and triple loop/triple loop/double loop. “I see Emanuel doing them and that inspires me and makes me think that it is possible for me to do it too,” he said. “I’ve improved a lot, but I think I can improve that much again. I’ve even been working on a quad. I know I can do that.”
McLeod manages his entire program. “She has a huge amount of music and is constantly looking for more,” he said. “She finds music for me, choreographs the program, and even designs my costumes.” Last season, Wilson used “Quixote” performed by Bond for his short program and “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E Minor” by Jules Conus for the long. “The short was a little different from what I used to do,” he said. “It was a little more complex. I didn’t want something too simple. It highlighted my spins and footwork. I like things that are a little different, not things that I’d enjoy listening to otherwise, but things that allow you to do something greater on ice.” “I have a huge CD collection,” he continued. “I listen to all sorts of music – hip hop, rap, top 40, easy listening, even classical. I like Eminem and Nora Jones. I have to have music playing all the time.”
For relaxation, Wilson likes going into Vancouver with friends, eating at all-you-can-eat sushi bars, watching movies, and playing commuter car racing games with friends. He also enjoys rollerblading, going to wave pools, and camping in the woods near Vancouver. “I’m just a big kid when I’m not skating,” he said. “I don’t like to be serious off ice. I play a lot of practical jokes. I’d love to go skiing, but I don’t dare.” He also likes acting and improvisation and hopes to get involved with a big improv group in Vancouver. For vacation, he hopes to go home to visit his family. He also wants to visit some “hot relaxing places” like Barbados or other places in the Caribbean.
For the future, he said, “I’d like to get high enough to do some pro-ams and good shows. Then I’ll probably go back to school in sports education. There are so many things you can do in the sport if you have a degree. I plan to compete until at least 2006, then I’d like to be a part of the system in our rink, possibly coaching.”