Emily Rose Brown and James Hernandez: The next Torvill and Dean?
PUBLISHED: 14:47 29 April 2016 | UPDATED: 14:47 29 April 2016
They're just 14 years old - but we could well have the next Torvill and Dean living in our counties, editor Jan Raycroft believes
While most of us are still in bed, Emily Rose Brown and her ice dance partner James Hernandez are already practising the graceful, intricate moves that could very well lift them to international stardom and Olympic gold.
This is what it takes – apart from huge talent, and they definitely have that – to make it to the top. So five days a week the teenagers (she lives in Wokingham, he comes from Amersham) set alarms for 4.30am to make sure they are on the ice at the Slough arena by 6am.
Dig in to how ice dancing works, and the torturous route to Olympic medals, and you quickly realise how special Emily and James are. They are already the 2016 British Advanced Novice ice dancing champions and what is really remarkable about this is that they had only been together five months when storming to the title.
It’s creating waves and excitement in the ice dancing world well beyond our island. Far longer established ‘big guns’ from the likes of Russia and the USA are looking over their shoulders, or even having to accept that this new British pair are swiftly overtaking them in the rankings – they finished fourth, just outside the medals in a prestigious international competition, The Bavarian Open, in February and won plaudits from many experts present, who predict a big future.
Journey to success
While it’s clear that these youngsters have exceptional talent and dedication, behind the scenes there are more tales to tell, none more extraordinary than that the whole Brown family upped sticks from Lancashire and moved 220 miles south to Berkshire just so that Emily and James could pursue their dream.
Emily’s mum Esther takes up the story: “Before Emily linked up with James, my husband Ray and I were already doing one and half hour trips to Sheffield so she could be on the ice there four times a week. Then Emily and James had a try out together, clicked, and got on like a house on fire. But it seemed impossible because to us James was ‘in London’, while we lived in a small Lancashire town. It might as well be a different country.”
Even so, the Browns began sharing 2am starts three times a week to get to Berkshire where noted Windsor-born coach Phillip Poole quickly realised the pair were very special: “Philip has been wonderful with them as a pair, with his fabulous choreography and being an expert in showing their talents,” says Esther.
“It was also a terrible wrench for Emily leaving her previous coach, Mark Hanretty (up north), but she recognised that this painful decision was part of her skating journey. If she wanted to stand a chance then she had to go for it. This sport is full of tough decisions.”
It was tough for the grown ups as well – Esther admits that the long journeys south and back were taking their toll on everyone. Ray worked from home, which helped, but there were also the needs of Harvey, Emily’s younger brother to consider. And this is very much a family affair – Esther’s mother makes all the beautiful costumes Emily wears on the ice.
“We got to know James’s mother, Stephanie, during the visits and she offered to have Emily stay at their home during training. This in itself was a big decision, but we had to give Emily her chance, and by then she was describing James as her ‘skating soulmate’. So we took up the offer of the Hernandez family and they treated her like a princess. It became her second home – they get on like a brother and sister and are just as daft together as siblings can be when they are not on the ice.”
A prive to pay
As the skating pair developed into serious contenders (it’s very difficult to find the right matching physique and chemistry, but they undoubtedly had) the Brown family began to consider moving south. Esther reveals: “In Lancashire we thought we had our ‘forever home’. When we started looking at a move, at first the house prices around here, renting or buying, seemed horrendous by comparison – we though it just could not be managed.”
But they were also spending £600 a month on petrol so when Emily, down here with her father during a training trip, announced they had found somewhere in Wokingham where the rent might be affordable, decisions had to be made.
“Things seemed to just fall into place,” says Esther. “I’m a teacher, and a maternity cover role came up in Bracknell for acting head of drama – and I got it. Ray’s company was relocating south and he was given the chance to manage it. It was a bit like winning the lottery, and so obviously supposed to happen.”
They finally moved here on 21 December, with James’s dad, another Ray, helping Esther’s husband deliver their belongings in vans. Esther describes it as the ‘strangest Christmas ever – but we had arrived’.
However, this ‘lottery’ comes with strings attached – the cost of keeping Emily and James at the top of the ice dance board is colossal, particularly now they are moving up the ranks and more international competition beckons. The couple really need sponsorship to accelerate their dream.
“We use every penny that we get on this,” admits Esther. “There are the daily travel and training costs, and the minute you go abroad the money needed really mounts up.”
For instance, in April they will represent Great Britain at an International Skating Union 10 day camp in Germany where the best in the world will be in attendance, and there is the possibility of training in the USA during the summer.
Here at Berkshire & Buckinghamshire Life we are hoping that our readers, perhaps a business or individual, would like to help make this dream come true. It’s a realistic one because we are talking about exceptional and unusual talent.
You can see them on the ice on YouTube – just enter Emily Rose Brown James Hernandez. Let’s put our counties on the ice dancing world map. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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